Add news
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020September 2020October 2020November 2020December 2020January 2021February 2021March 2021
News Every Day |

How Annie Lee Moss Survived McCarthyism

Annie Lee Moss (1905–1996) became famous in March 1954, when Edward R. Murrow’s See It Now television show profiled her appearance before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Historian Andrea Friedman writes that Murrow’s broadcast “went a long way toward discrediting” the claims that Moss, a civilian Pentagon employee, was a national security threat. The broadcast also did serious damage to McCarthy’s reputation.

Yet Murrow’s version of Moss’s story came at great cost to her. Friedman shows that her portrayal as a “humble Negress,” a “poor old colored woman” mistaken for someone else, reduced her to a symbol that erased who she was and what she actually believed. As odd as it may seem, according to Friedman, Moss played a role in the making of that symbolism, out of a need for self-preservation.

Born in South Carolina to tenant-farmer parents, Annie Lee Crawford started her working life at the age of five. She married Ernest Moss when she was twenty-one and worked in tobacco factories, laundries, and cafeterias. The Mosses eventually made it to Washington, D.C., a rigorously segregated city, and she got a job as a clerk in the General Accounting Office in 1945. After her husband died in 1947, she was the primary breadwinner for her family.

Senator Joseph McCarthy talking to attorney Roy Cohn, c. 1954
Senator Joseph McCarthy talking to attorney Roy Cohn, c. 1954 Getty

Moss was also a union member, tenants’ rights advocate, and community organizer. A “spark-plug” of activism in her community, she was “deeply involved with the YMCA, Urban League, youth activities, and her church.” And, writes Friedman: “Most likely, Moss was a casual recruit to the [Communist Party]—attracted by its social and economic justice politics—who encountered party members in her workplace and neighborhood.” The Communist Party had, after all, made a major effort to appeal to African Americans in the thirties and forties.

Moss was subject to multiple loyalty investigations, transfers, and job suspensions as a government employee, an “unusual” degree of “official attention,” writes Friedman. J. Edgar Hoover seemed set against her. In the face of questions about African-American loyalty, the hysteria of the Red Scare, and McCarthy’s recklessness, Moss said that she didn’t know “just what Communism means” and seemed to draw a blank at the mention of Karl Marx. When she appeared before Congress, argues Friedman, “she found that her long history of activism on behalf of her family and community meant less to her vindication than her willingness to confirm white fantasies of black passivity.”

In Murrow’s program, Annie Lee Moss “was reduced to a hapless victim,” but the show won high ratings and became an effective tool in the defusing of McCarthy. Friedman calls Moss’s choice to “collude in her portrayal as an ignorant victim” an “effective act of self-preservation.” But it was also a “tragic” one, since it effectively brought Moss’s role as a community activist to an end.

Support JSTOR Daily! Join our new membership program on Patreon today.

The post How Annie Lee Moss Survived McCarthyism appeared first on JSTOR Daily.

Read also

Six Nations 2021 odds, betting offers and free bets as England collapse leaving France and Wales to scrap it out

Horror moment van smashes into cyclist tearing his bike in half… but police WON’T investigate

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao says his cryptocurrency exchange is seeing increased 'institutional adoption'

News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here
News Every Day

Hearn: Canelo was 30% what he is now against Mayweather, talks Top Rank feud