NPR

In 'A Good American Family,' A Son Details How The Red Scare Upended His Father

Pulitzer prize-winning David Maraniss immerses himself in family records and interviews with relatives of others to piece together how his parents paid for supporting communism in their youth.

On Feb. 29, 1952, a gifted rewrite man at the Detroit Times named Elliott Maraniss received a subpoena from the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which was in town holding hearings on "Communism in the Detroit Area."

His newspaper summarily fired him.

Maraniss' appearance before the committee 12 days later was brief and one-sided. Maraniss refused to say whether he was a member of the Communist Party, citing his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. He brought a prepared statement defending his patriotism which the committee would not allow him to read.

It left Maraniss essentially unemployable. For five years, he moved his young family from city to city — in Madison, Wisconsin, a newspaper long critical of its U.S. senator.

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