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The compelling story of a teenage girl caught up in the throes of the McCarthy era Margaret Fuchs was thirteen in June 1955 when she learned that her parents had been Communists while working for the US government in the 1930s and '40s This book chronicles the years during which her parents were exposed and her father was subpoenaed before the House Un American Activities Committee Eventually he named names and subsequently lost his job as a law professor at American University and was blacklisted from teaching ever again Legacy of a False Promise also details the author's quest as an adult to learn whether or not her parents ever spied for the Soviet Union Based on eight years of research using family records FBI files American University archives personal interviews and the recently declassified Venona cables Legacy of a False Promise offers unique insights into the McCarthy Era Most red diaper babies who have written on the subject had parents who refused to give in to HUAC's demands Singer's work instead recounts the shame and series of betrayals that her father's decision to name names brought to her family Further it explores the campaign of the liberal anti Communist movement to publicize its political position while defending a fired ex Communist professor the nature and activities of secret Communist underground cells and the motivation of New Deal government workers who spied for the Soviets This is a poignant meditation on family secrets father daughter relationships in times of crisis teenage loneliness in the midst of trauma and the effects of parents' actions on the lives of their children It also serves as a timely reminder of the dangers of sacrificing civil liberties in the name of national security

10 thoughts on “Legacy of a False Promise

  1. says:

    Margaret Fuchs Singer was thirteen years old when her college law professor father was asked to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee regarding Communists working in the federal government She did not know that both her parents used to be members of the Communist partyLegacy of a False Promise A Daughter's Reckoning is her recounting of that period of her life Sometimes books such as this tend to be not so well written and a bit dry but Fuchs writes a powerful interesting story of her search for the truth about her parentsFuchs' parents worked in the federal government in the 1930s and 1940s while members of the Communist party While they believed in their cause they still kept their politics hidden from their employers something that I found intriguing Singer writesMy father did not see in his Party membership a conflict of loyalties or a threat to the United States but instead a way to participate in the nation's economic and social recoveryp 117That seems to me like a rationalization If you believe you are truly doing good you wouldn't have to hide your beliefsThe Fuchs attended meetings recruited other Communist Party members as federal employees and reported back to a man higher up in the Party When they became discouraged by events in Russia they left the party While they thought they had left it behind when the government held hearings before Congress in the 1950s Herbert Fuchs was called as a witnessThe government wanted Fuchs to name other Communists who worked in the federal government but he did not want to betray his former friends His employer American University promised him that he could keep his job if he cooperated He was told that his wife would be called to testify if he did not cooperateWith the memory of the execution of accused Russian spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg fresh in his mind Fuchs reluctantly appeared before the Committee and gave them the information they asked for to protect his wife his children and his job He agonized over the decision but felt he had no choiceThe dean of American University reneged on his promise and forced Fuchs out of his job Many people felt that Fuchs was a traitor to his country and others felt that he betrayed his friends by naming names It was a no win situation for FuchsSinger vividly brings to life that time period in our history through her family's story Her description of what it felt like as teenage girl so confused by what was going on her relationships with her family and the fallout from her father's decision are heartfeltAs an adult Singer works to find out the truth about her parents seeking out documents and people who can help her She is conflicted about this even fearful about what she may find but can't come to terms with what happened to her family until the truth is known Legacy of a Promise will appeal to many different readers fans of history and politics as well as those who like personal stories about family and a search for identity

  2. says:

    I have read this book twice and highly recommend it It is suspenseful even when read the second time starting with the first paragraphs where the author's father discloses that he and her mother had been members of the Communist Party in the '30s and '40s and because of this he has been subpoenaed to testify in front of the House Un American Activities Committee HUAC He and her mother could be taken away incarcerated or worse Most difficult of all this 13 year old is admonished that there may be publicity and not to discuss this with anyone On another level this is a story about a teenage girl and her relationships with her family members Adolescence is complicated under the best of circumstances but the fear and shame that came with her father's disclosure made life much complex for this girl Ms Singer does a great job of sharing her thoughts as a teenager and how she and her family coped with their new world In the second half of the book when as an adult she decides to write this story we learn how past emotions and family dynamics are again stirred up Finally this is an interesting work about a time in our nation's history about which we should all know For those who are already familiar with the HUAC era this book adds another less heard story of an individual who did decide to name names and his reasons for doing this This is a well written very readable and entertaining book I would enjoy talking with others about this work