NYU Hiss Conference (2007)

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On April 5, 2007, New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War, which had recently been established to create an international community of scholars interested in re-examining the Cold War and its ongoing impact on American life, hosted its inaugural conference, “Alger Hiss and History.”

“When Hiss was accused of spying for the Soviet Union and convicted of perjury,” said the conference’s sponsors, this “helped discredit the New Deal, legitimize the Red Scare, and set the stage for the rise of Joseph McCarthy. During the past decade there has been a renewed debate about the Hiss case itself and the larger issues of repression, civil liberties and internal security that many believe speak to current public policy discussions.”

This day-long forum, the first 21st century scholarly reappraisal of Alger Hiss and the Hiss case, included presentations by 16 speakers. Open to the public, an audience of hundreds of people attended, and the event also attracted widespread media coverage.

We present here a complete written transcript of the conference, in five parts. The first has welcoming remarks by Carol Mandel, NYU’s Dean of Libraries; Michael Nash, then Director of NYU’s Tamiment Library; and David Warrington, Harvard Law School Library; and a keynote address by Victor Navasky, publisher emeritus of The Nation.

Part two includes “Alger Hiss: Public and Private,” a panel discussion with presentations by Bruce Craig, Tony Hiss and Timothy Hobson.

“The Case in History,” the panel discussion included in part three, has talks by David Oshinsky (University of Texas), the author Kai Bird, Svetlana Chervonnaya, a Russian researcher, and John Prados from the National Security Archives.

“Repression, Espionage and the Red Scare,” the panel discussion featured in part four, has comments by three historians – Ellen Schrecker, Corey Robin and Landon Storrs – and two independent researchers and authors, Amy Knight and Jeff Kisseloff.

Part five has the day’s final panel discussion, “Hiss and History,” with presentations by three scholars (G. Edward White, Timothy Naftali and David Greenberg), and a closing address by Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.