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Guide to the Investigation Files of the Rapp-Coudert Committee TAM 533

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
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Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Tamiment Staff

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on June 15, 2018
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical/Biographical Note

The Joint Legislative Committee of the State Education System, chaired by Assemblyman Herbert A. Rapp, was created by concurrent resolution of the New York State Senate and Assembly on March 29, 1940. The Committee was given broad authority to investigate the administration and financing of education in the state, and to study "the extent, if any, to which subversive activities may have been permitted to exist in the schools and colleges of the public educational system of the City of New York" (1942 report). Because of the wide scope of its charge, a special subcommittee, chaired by Senator Frederick R. Coudert, was assigned to investigate whether left- and/or right-wing movements -- Communism, Fascism and Nazism -- had penetrated New York City public schools and colleges.

By the conclusion of its investigation, the "Rapp-Coudert Committee" had interviewed almost 700 people and interrogated some 500 witnesses in a series of open and closed hearings on the extent of "subversive activities" in New York City education, resulting in the removal of teachers, professors, and college administrators from their positions. At the City College of New York, the Rapp-Coudert investigations resulted in the termination of over fifty faculty and staff, including Professor Jack Foner, a historian who was accused of injecting left-wing thought into the classroom and devoting excessive attention to the importance of African Americans in the curriculum.

According to its final report, the Rapp-Coudert Committee found no significant body of evidence showing a Nazi or Fascist "conspiracy against the schools," but it did uncover substantial evidence on the part of the Communist Party to penetrate into the public school and higher education systems. In particular, the Committee identifed three organizations -- the Teachers Union, College Teachers Union and American Student Union -- through which the Communist Party was supposedly working (1942 report). The Rapp-Coudert Committee was disbanded in 1942, even though the Joint Legislative Committee on the State Education System, which developed a plan for school district reorganization across New York State, existed until 1947.

Source: New York State Archives finding aid for this collection.