Root, E. Merrill (Edward Merrill), 1895-1973

Alternative names
Birth 1895-01-04
Death 1973-10-26

Biographical notes:

American poet and college professor E. Merrill Root (1895-1973) was a conservative and anti-communist activist who wrote articles and books on communist and Marxist propoganda in the American educational system. The son of a Congregational minister, Root was a devout Quaker and pacifist and went to France in World War I under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. After the war Root studied at Andover Theological Seminary and, in 1920, joined the faculty of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, where he remained until his retirement in 1960. In the late 1930s Root became a right-wing activist and anti-communist. He wrote articles and books warning of the "polio of collectivism" rampant on college campuses. In his book Brainwashing in the High Schools, Root proclaimed the U.S. was losing the Cold War due to slanted school history textbooks. His anti-communist writings were vitriolic, but his poetry met with a measure of critical acclaim.

From the description of E. Merrill Root papers, 1917-1967. (University of Oregon Libraries). WorldCat record id: 67840452

E. Merrill Root (1895-1973) dedicated his life to crafting poetry, teaching college English, and rooting out Communists and Marxist propaganda from the American educational system.

The son of a Congregational minister, Root was brought up in the Providence, Rhode Island area. He graduated, in 1917, from Amherst College where he studied under Robert Frost, a poet he admired tremendously. During World War I. Root was a conscientious objector, and went to France under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. Upon his return from France, Root studied at Andover Theological Seminary. In 1920 he joined the faculty of Earlham College, a small Quaker institution in Richmond, Indiana, where he taught until his retirement in 1960.

In the late 1930s E. Merrill Root metamorphosed from a devout Quaker and pacifist to an active rightist. He claimed that "my education occurred, when I found... that modern liberalism was coming to mean liberal government, not liberal man." Root first exploded into political print with "Darkness at Noon in American Colleges" ( Human Events, July 30, 1952), an article in which he warned parents that their sons and daughters were catching the "polio of collectivism" at college. Apparently the parents failed to listen because in 1954 Root sought to drive his theme home with Collectivism on the Campus, a book in which he proclaimed that communism was rampant in American institutions of higher learning. While Root's new book did not do very well, it brought his name to the attention of Ira E. Westbrook, a conservative attorney and member of the Evanston, Illinois High School Board. Westbrook asked Root to check high school history books for "un-American" thoughts. In Brainwashing in the High Schools Merrill Root proclaimed that the United States was losing the cold war and that the blame rested with history textbooks, which brainwashed students by distorting the truth and indoctrinating them with collectivist ideas. This book rocketed Root to fame in conservative circles, and launched him on the lecture circuit and into state legislative hearings as an "expert" on communism in education. Root also became a member of the Textbook Evaluation Committee of Operation Textbook, an activity sponsored by America's Future under the direction of Lucille Cardin Crain, the former editor of the Educational Reviewer .

As well as his vitriolic writings on subversion in education, Merrill Root published several books of poetry that met with a measure of critical acclaim; amongst his admirers was Robert Frost. Root also wrote a non-critical biography of the notorious Frank Harris.

E. Merrill Root died in 1973 at Kennebunkport, Maine.

From the guide to the E. Merrill Root papers, 1917-1967, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)


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  • Moving Images
  • Poets, American--20th century
  • Conservative literature
  • Communism in education--United States
  • Anti-communist movements
  • Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Right-wing extremists--United States--Correspondence
  • Literature
  • Anti-communist movements--United States
  • American poetry--20th century
  • Conservatives--Correspondence
  • Conservatism
  • Political Campaigns
  • Conservative literature--United States
  • Communism in education
  • Conservatives--United States--Correspondence
  • Right-wing extremists--Correspondence
  • Conservatism--United States
  • Text-books--Censorship


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