On Thursday, April 5, New York University’s new Center for the United States and the Cold War will host an all-day conference entitled “Alger Hiss and History.” Co-sponsored by NYU’s Tamiment Library, the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, and the Harvard Law School, the conference takes place at the university’s King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, 53 Washington Square South. It is free and open to the public; for further information call 212.998.2428 or visit www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/tam/programs.html.
The 1948 Alger Hiss case was a major moment in post-World War II America that reinforced Cold War ideology and accelerated America’s late-1940’s turn to the right. When Hiss, one of the nation’s more visible New Dealers, was accused of spying for the Soviet Union and convicted of perjury, his case was seen as one of the most significant trials of the 20th century, helping to discredit the New Deal, legitimize the red scare, and set the stage for the rise of Joseph McCarthy.
As scholars have gained access to the archives in the former Soviet Union and more U.S. documents have been declassified, there has been renewed debate about the Hiss case itself and the larger issues of repression, civil liberties, and internal security that many believe speak to current public policy and discussions.
Keynoting the conference at 9:30 a.m. is Victor Navasky, publisher emeritus of The Nation. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, will make the closing remarks. Topics to be discussed throughout the day include: “Alger Hiss: Public and Private;” “The Case as History;” “Repression, Espionage, and the Red Scare;” and “Hiss in History.”
Participants include: Kai Bird, co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer; Amy Knight, author of How the Cold War Began; Timothy Naftali, co-author of Khrushchev’s Cold War; G. Edward White, author of Alger Hiss’s Looking-Glass Wars; Norman Dorsen, NYU Law professor and former president of the ACLU; Alger Hiss’ two sons, Tony Hiss and Timothy Hobson (who has not previously discussed the case in public); David Oshinsky, University of Texas; and Bruce Craig, University of Prince Edward Island.