Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms

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In 1952, the Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms (CCPAF) was formed to oppose the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). CCPAF argued that HUAC violated the First Amendment rights of the citizens who were called before it to testify about their political beliefs and associations. To further the work of the organization, CCPAF held rallies, placed newspaper ads, distributed pamphlets, initiated letter writing campaigns and put on fundraising events.

Frank Wilkinson, who helped found CCPAF after losing his job with the City of Los Angeles Housing authority because he refused to take a loyalty oath, served as CCPAF secretary. Chair of the organization was Dorothy Marshall and subsequently Reverend A.A. Heist.

In March of 1954, the CCPAF formed a coalition with the National Council of the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (ECLC). It was as a representative of ECLC that Wilkinson was subpoened by HUAC in 1958 to appear before the HUAC hearings in Atlanta, Georgia; Wilkinson was ultimately cited for contempt of Congress and was sentenced to a year in prison.

By 1956, strategies were being developed to abolish HUAC or at least stop appropriations to sustain it. In 1957, the CCPAF and ECLC initiated a campaign to abolish it. Previously, the organizations had supported the victims of the hearings, opposed its activities and questioned the legality of its existence, while not necessarily focusing on its abolition.

In November 1956, 66 subpoenas were served on the West Coast with 31 going to Los Angeles. Most of these were served to the Los Angeles Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born. Others went to the secretaries of the National Lawyers Guild, the Jewish Information Service and the CCPAF, as well as to the former secretaries of the Civil Rights Congress and the Negro Labor Council. Reverend Stephen Fritchman of the First Unitarian Church was also subpoenaed. The hearings were scheduled for December 6 and 7, 1956. CCPAF intervened by raising legal fees, providing collective legal briefing, distributing leaflets and publicizing the hearings through press releases, radio, television and newspaper ads urging the public to attend.

CCPAF continued as an organization until 1966 when the executive board dissolved it and joined forces with the National Committee Against the House Un-American Activities (NCAHUAC), CCPAF then became known as Southern Californians to Abolish HUAC with officers Dorothy Marshall (chair), Bernice Belton (executive secretary) and Betty Rottger (treasurer). Frank Wilkinson, who had been secretary of the CCPAF continued in his position as Field Representative/Executive Director of NCAHUAC, a post he had held since 1960.

When, in 1969, HUAC's name was changed to House Committee on Internal Security (HISC), NCAHUAC became NACHUAC/HISC. In 1970, the name was changed to National Committe Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL) as the organization recognized the need to broaden its work beyond the abolition of HUAC/HISC. The Congressional committee had not held a major hearing since 1965. Frank Wilkinson, based in Los Angeles, continued to be its Field Representative/Executive Director, working with affiliates in San Francisco, Mountain View, California, Seattle, Washington, DC., Cambridge, Memphis, Louisville and Chicago.

HUAC/HISC was abolished in 1975. NCARL has continued its work against legislative violations of the Constitution. A major project in the late 1970s was the campaign against passage of the Criminal Code Reform bill which contained several sections NCARL believed to be in violation of the First Amendment.

From the guide to the Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms Records, 1947-1971, (Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Bernard, John T. (John Toussaint), 1893-1983. John Toussaint Bernard papers, 1934-1973. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Van Sickle, Leftist Pamphlet Collection, 1900-1993 Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida Libraries,
creatorOf Citizens' Committee to Preserve American Freedoms. Voices of resistance [sound recording], ca. 1950-1959(?) Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms Records, 1947-1971 Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research.
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States

Corporate Body

Active 1950

Active 1959



Ark ID: w6fv3vrt

SNAC ID: 7013677