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An excerpt from FBI files on Ralph Ellison’s communist activities, 1950-1964.

FBI Files on Ralph Ellison. In the twentieth century the Federal Bureau of Investigation monitored and targeted many artists, and prominent African American writers in particular, for communist beliefs, revolutionary sympathies, and/or other left-wing activity. This information was used by the House Un-American Activities Committee, created in 1938 to investigate people and organizations suspected of communist ties. HUAC became notorious for its “red-baiting” techniques, using Congressional powers to force innocent citizens and organizations to be questioned and pressured into (often falsely) identifying other potential targets.