Books on Trial: Red Scare in the Heartland

Shirley A. Wiegand, Author, Wayne A. Wiegand, Author . Univ. of Oklahoma $24.95 (286p) ISBN 978-0-8061-3868-8

On August 17, 1940, Oklahoma City police raided the Progressive Book Store, seized thousands of books and pamphlets, and arrested the owner, Bob Wood, his wife and a dozen others who happened to be in the store, under state laws against distributing materials aimed at “effecting industrial or political revolution.” Shirley Wiegand and Wayne Wiegand, professors, respectively, of law and American studies, examine the social, legal and cultural currents surrounding the arrest, conviction and eventual vindication of Wood and the three other alleged Community Party members who were eventually tried. The case became a national cause célèbre; Lillian Hellman, Richard Wright and Clifford Odets were among those who spoke out for the defendants. This is a sedulously researched book, and the details of the trials expose prosecutor John Eberle as driven by rank ambition and rabid racism and anti-Semitism as much as by anticommunism. The authors show that local media and politicians failed to foresee the national outrage the prosecutions would generate. Particularly interesting is how they show the effect of external events, such as the U.S. entry into WWII and fascism’s impact on the domestic atmosphere. The Wiegands conclude on a cautionary note, linking present-day antiterrorism fears to the anticommunist hysteria of 1940. B&w illus. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 06/18/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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