South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State.
New York: Oxford UP, 1941.
 



 

Chapter Four: 

Un-American Guides and Pink Baedekers: The Red Scare of the Federal Writers' Project

 






Wordage, Poundage, Yardage: Inventing and Operating the American Baedeker Machine


Designing a Landscape of Words: Genre Negotiations, Composition Policies, and Stylistic Features of the Guides


Patchwork Quilt of These United States: The Rhetoric of Cultural Enthusiasm in Contemporary Reviews of the American Guides


Un-American Guides and Pink Baedekers: The Red Scare of the Federal Writers' Project


A Fabricated Nation: The Politics of Democratic National Portraiture


Vintage Snapshots from Alabama to Wyoming: Reflections of a Cultural Nation in State Profiles



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

      

Chapter four, "Un-American Guides and Pink Baedekers: The Red Scare of the Federal Writers' Project" investigates the American Guide Series' troubled relationship with anti-New Deal forces that repeatedly accused the FWP of being a Communist front organization which employed reds and fellow travelers to write leftist propaganda and circulate it in the nation under government imprint. This chapter chronicles several remarkable episodes of red-baiting, particularly the scandal that arose in Massachusetts over references to the Sacco and Vanzetti case in the state guide, the HUAC investigations under Martin Dies, and congressional investigations of WPA activities. Reading transcripts of the hearings I look for specific motives and strategies used by the FWP's political enemies to malign and vilify the American Guides. Any references in the guides indicating sympathy with the troubles of American labor or ethnic minorities were construed as attempts to "array class against class" and to cause a resurrection.

I argue in this chapter that the guide books were, in theory, particularly vulnerable to such attacks because they offered an apparently prescriptive vision of the nation. As "guides" they directed a mode of perspective and interpretation that these critics resented. The "Negro" and "labor" had no place in American travel guides, so their argument. The fact that the FWP survived the repeated congressional attacks (as opposed to the Federal Theatre Project whose "Living Newspapers" were under equally harsh attack) and was able to bring the American Guide Series to a successful completion stemmed, I contend in this chapter, from their obvious practical use as travel books and from their formlessness, a feature that safely hid some "objectionable" sentiment in the blurry tours section of the books. As an ironic turn of events, the American Guides would be recruited as patriotic instruments once America joined the war effort.

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