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Statement by Jesús Colón to the Walter Commission on Un-American Activities, 1959

Press release - Statement by Jesús Colón to the Walter Committee on Un-American Activities

Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY, CEN_JC_B14F5_1084
 
Document Description
Press release with statement given by Jesús Colón to the Walter Committee on Un-American Activities, held at Foley Square, New York, NY, November 16, 1959. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), 1934-1975, was initiated to investigate suspected threats to the United States government and the spread of subversive propaganda within the country. Colón was called to testify before the committee as a result of his political affiliation with the Communist Party.
 
Questions
In the first paragraph, what groups does Mr. Colón say that the House Un-American Activities Committee has not investigated? 
In the fifth paragraph, how does Mr. Colón describe the U.S. takeover of Puerto Rico in 1898? How does he describe the new invasion by the House Un-American Activities Committee?
In paragraph 12, Colón references the committee hearings and says that they show the need for what political change for Puerto Rico? Why?
What is Mr. Colón’s feeling toward the Cuban Revolution?
Why is the House Un-American Activities Committee targeting Puerto Ricans?
When and where did Mr. Colón give this speech?
 
Historical Challenges
Research the term "one-crop agricultural economy," and give an oral report on the historical consequences of the sugar-based economy in Puerto Rico.
Research the movement for Puerto Rican independence. What are the costs and benefits of cutting its special relationship with the United States?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Mr. Colón was a writer, one of the leaders of the Nuyorican Movement of Puerto Rican intellectuals and artists. Investigate the writings of Colón and other members of the movement, such as Esmerelda Santiago, Miguel Piñero, Pedro Pietri, and Piri Thomas.
Foreign Language: Translate the Spanish statements at the end of the speech into English.
 
Resources
http://www.pr-secretfiles.net (FBI Files on Puerto Ricans)
http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/reference/hisref.htm (New York State Library. "Selected Hispanic and Latino Websites.")
Colón, Jesús. 1982. A Puerto Rican in New York, 2nd ed. New York: International Publishers, 1982.
De Wagenheim, Olga Jimenez, and Kal Wagenheim, eds. 2002. The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History. Princeton: Markus Wiener, 2002.
Kihss, Peter. “10 Evade Queries on Reds’ Activity.” New York Times, November 17, 1959.
Morris, Richard B. 1982. Encyclopedia of American History, 6th ed. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1982.
Santiago, Esmeralda. 1993. When I was Puerto Rican. Boston: Addison Wesley, 1993.
 

 

Historical Context
After World War II, the United States engaged in what was termed the Cold War. This war had more to do with political ideas than it did with actual combat. As communism spread throughout Europe and the Far East, Americans became increasingly fearful of attacks on democracy in the U.S. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC, established in 1938) searched for communist sympathizers who were believed to be a security risk for the United States and conducted hearings during which people were interrogated regarding their connections to communist organizations or individuals. During these hearings, individuals were asked to "name names" of others who were suspected of being communists.  

Congressman Francis Walter and Senator Paul McCarran worked together in 1950 to write the McCarran-Walter Act (also called the Internal Security Act). The act assigned strict immigration quotas from countries that had large communist populations but also denied entry to anyone who could be accused of voicing the "wrong" political opinion. Individuals already living in the U.S. who were found to be supporters of communism could be deported immediately. Though President Truman vetoed the act, and stated to Congress that it "would make a mockery of the Bill of Rights and of our claims to stand for freedom in the world," the legislation was passed in 1952 by 89 percent of Congress. The Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security was created to administer and enforce the provisions of the security law.

Anti-communist investigations and hearings continued in both houses of Congress even after Senator Joseph McCarthy’s "Red Scare" tactics were discredited by the U.S. Senate in 1954. During the 1960s, the House and Senate committees focused their attention on social activism among minority populations. The FBI assisted in the investigation and intimidation of "communist subversives."

In November of 1959, Congressman Walter, chairman of HUAC, investigated Puerto Ricans in San Juan and New York who were suspected of being communists. The hearings were considered by many to be a form of discrimination because they were aimed specifically at the Puerto Rican population.

Jesús Colón was an African American Puerto Rican who immigrated to New York City in 1917 and lived there for the remainder of his life. He wrote about the discrimination that he encountered in books like "A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches." Colón was an active socialist and communist. He ran for comptroller of New York City on the Communist Party ticket in 1969, but lost. Jesús Colón died in 1974.
 
Essential Question
How do immigrant populations influence politics?
 
Check for Understanding
Identify the purpose of this statement and evaluate the significance of this document in encouraging civic participation by new immigrants.