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The Jewish Chicken Farmers of Petaluma: Why Remember?

Part One by Kenneth Kann   FIRST, ASTONISHMENT. Then outrage. Mine. I was viewing “California Dreaming,” a 2013 exhibit on Bay Area Jewish history at San Francisco’s eminent Contemporary Jewish Museum. The exhibit included the story of an extraordinary Jewish chicken ranching community in Petaluma, thirty-five miles north of San Francisco. This museum exhibit was false: […]

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The House Un-American Activities Committee

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was established on this date in 1938, chaired by Rep. Martin Dies, Jr. (D-TX, pictured above). Its early investigations of “subversive” and communist influence within government circles included Hallie Flanagan of the Federal Theatre Project, the American Youth Congress (a Communist affiliate), and Japanese Americans (the committee recommended their internment). In 1946, HUAC considered investigating the Ku Klux […]

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The Folk Music Manager

Harold Leventhal, music manager for The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Theodore Bikel, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Peter, Paul & Mary, Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie (shown with Leventhal above), and numerous other folk musicians, was born in Ellenville, New York on this date in 1919. Leventhal joined the American Communist movement as […]

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J. Edgar Hoover and the Jews

J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on this date in 1924, a post that he would hold for more than half a century, accumulating enormous power and prestige. The appointment came five years after Hoover had led the Palmer Raids, an unconstitutional roundup of over six thousand leftwing immigrant […]

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January 25: 400 Hours with Soviet Negotiators

Max Kampelman, a diplomat who spent World War II as a conscientious objector and then enlisted in the Marine Corps, shifting from a liberal to a neoconservative, died at 92 on this date in 2013. Kampelman co-founded the Committee of the Present Danger, which favored military build-up during the Reagan years, then led the negotiations […]

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January 20: The ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was founded on this date in 1920 by a committee that included Felix Frankfurter, who would become a Supreme Court justice nineteen years later, and Morris Ernst, who served as the organization’s general counsel for thirty years (1929-59). Ernst had, three years earlier, co-founded the National Civil Liberties Bureau, […]

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June 13: “Between Picture and Onlooker”

On this date in 1943, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Adolph Gottlieb responded to New York Times critic Edward Alden Jewell’s “befuddlement” about their artworks in the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors exhibition at the Wildenstein Gallery in New York. Invited to respond in Jewell’s column, the three declared that “explanation” of their works […]

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February 20: Walter Winchell

Radio and newspaper commentator Walter Winchell died at 74 on this date in 1972. Winchell was the first syndicated gossip columnist with “On-Broadway” in the New York Daily Mirror, which he parleyed into enormous cultural and political influence. He was an early anti-Nazi, a proponent of American intervention in World War II, and a staunch […]

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December 22: Philip Rahv and Partisan Review

Ukrainian-born critic and essayist Philip Rahv (Feivel Greenberg), the co-founder in 1933 of Partisan Review, died at 65 in Cambridge, Massachusetts on this date in 1973. The journal he launched was originally a Communist publication, but broke with the Party line within five years of its founding, in reaction to the 1937 Moscow Trials, and […]

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