The House Committee on Un-American Activities, most commonly referred to as HUAC, was created as a permanent standing committee on January 3, 1945. Under H. Res. 5, 79th Congress, the committee was authorized to make investigations of:

 Subpoena for Alger Hiss to Appear before the Committee NAID: 595268

(1) the extent, character, and objects of un-American activities in the United States, (2) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin and attacks the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by our Constitution, and (3) all other questions in relation thereto that would aid Congress in any necessary remedial legislation.

In February 1969, under H. Res. 89, 91st Congress, the name of the committee was changed to the House Committee on Internal Security (HCIS). The Internal Security Committee was in operation until the beginning of the 94th Congress. When it was abolished in 1975, its jurisdiction, files, and staff transferred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

During its 30-year history, HUAC conducted a continuous program of investigation covering a wide range of activities, organizations, and individuals suspected to subversive activities. The finding aid to the records of this committee is available online through the House of Representatives' collection of preliminary inventories.

Letter to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) from Lillian Hellman Regarding Testimony (NAID: 24200384)

Early records include investigations into the activities of various trade union members, major figures in Hollywood (the Hollywood Blacklist), government employees (such as Alger Hiss), and others thought to be involved in the Communist Party. During the 1960s and 1970s the records include information on the Communist Party in the U.S., activities in the civil rights and antiwar movements, an investigation of the Ku Klux Klan, and subversive influence in riots. There are extensive investigative files on individuals and organizations, along with a set of index cards indexing the files.

Often linked in the popular imagination with Senator Joseph McCarthy, HUAC existed long before and long after Senator McCarthy alleged Communist influence in the federal government in the early 1950s. The Senator made his most prominent headlines as chairman of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) -- the chief investigative subcommittee of what was then the Senate Committee on Government Operations.

HUAC is also occasionally confused with the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, more commonly referred to as the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee or SISS. A Committee on the Judiciary subcommittee, SISS was authorized under S. Res. 366, 81st Congress to study and investigate internal security laws and subversive activities -- a similar enough mandate to HUAC that it is considered to be the Senate equivalent. The subcommittee was abolished in 1977. A finding aid for SISS records is available upon request.

Committee Hearings

HUAC held extensive hearings, most of which were printed. To find public hearing testimony, start with the two detailed indexes to the publications of the committee -- both of which are available online via the Internet Archive:

Most printed HUAC hearing transcripts are findable via HathiTrust, Google Books, and the Internet Archive. The best way to search for a hearing is by publication title, which you can learn using the indexes linked above. You can also find direct links to a large number of HUAC publications on the University of Pennsylvania's Online Books Page.

Similarly, SISS published it's own index to committee publications and reports. It's available online via HathiTrust. Note that it's split into two volumes: Volume 1 covers 'A-K' and Volume II covers 'L-Z'. Most printed SISS hearing transcripts are also findable online, and there is a University of Pennsylvania Online Books Page as well.

If you cannot find an individual listed in any of the above indexes, it's possible the testimony was taken in executive session. There is a series of unpublished executive session transcripts within HUAC records. A list of executive session witnesses, arranged both alphabetically by last name and by date of testimony, is available upon request.

Executive Session Testimony of D. Whittaker Chambers (NAID: 595447)

Predecessor Committees

HUAC has one direct predecessor committee, the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, created on May 26, 1938, pursuant to H. Res. 282, 75th Congress -- which authorized the Speaker to appoint a special committee to investigate un-American activities, domestic diffusion of propaganda, and all other questions relating thereto. This committee is commonly referred to as the Dies Committee, as it was chaired by Martin Dies Jr. (D-TX). The finding aid for the records of this committee is available online.

And although not direct predecessors, there are two earlier House special committees that dealt with similar subject matter:

  • the Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities, created in May 1930 pursuant to H. Res. 220, 71st Congress and known as the Fish Committee after its chair Hamilton Fish (R-NY); and
  • the Special Committee on Un-American Activities Authorized to Investigate Nazi-Propaganda Activities and Certain Other Propaganda Activities, created in April 1934 pursuant to H. Res. 198, 73rd Congress and known as the McCormack-Dickstein Committee, after its chair John McCormack (D-MA) and vice-chair Samuel Dickstein (D-NY).
Report on Ronald Reagan (NAID: 595089)

The finding aid to the records of the McCormack-Dickstein Committee is available online from the House website and the published hearings are available via HathiTrust.

There is no finding aid for records of the Fish Committee, as there is only one box of related material. However the final report was published as H.Rpt.71-2290 and the hearings are available online via HathiTrust.

For a thorough review of all the many small investigations conducted by select, special and subcommittees from 1918 to 1956 -- as well a the major investigation of both HUAC and SISS -- the Senate Committee on Government Operations compiled a summary-index and published it as S.Doc.84-148: Congressional Investigations of Communism and Subversive Activities.

If you have questions about the records of any of these committees, please email the Center for Legislative Archives at -- we'd love to help!


  1. Subpoena for Alger Hiss to Appear before the Committee, 1948 (NAID: 595268)
  2. Letter to HUAC from Lilliam Hellman Regarding Testimony, 1952 (NAID: 24200384)
  3. Executive Session Testimony of D. Whittaker Chambers, 1948 (NAID: 595447)
  4. Report on Ronald Reagan, 1947 (NAID: 595089)