Red Scare in the Green Mountains:
Vermont in the McCarthy Era, 1948-1960
What happened in Vermont when the anti-Communist fear known as the “Red Scare” swept the country? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Rick Winston explores some forgotten history as we see how a small, rural “rock-ribbed Republican” state with a historically libertarian streak handled the hysteria of the time. Far from the klieg lights of Washington D.C., Hollywood, and New York City, the Green Mountain state challenged the national narrative with its own fascinating stories.
Here are nine of the most gripping dramas played out in Vermont during "scoundrel time," including a high-profile academic firing, controversies involving left-leaning summer residents, courageous newspaper editors who spoke out against McCarthy’s tactics, and a conservative senator who helped take down Joseph McCarthy. Now, as our country again experiences a political atmosphere charged with intolerance, condemnation, and widespread falsehoods, this book could not be more timely.
Praise for Red Scare in the Green Mountains
"...The author’s prose is not only clear and elegant, but also impressively objective in tone; he relates the stories in great detail and then permits the reader to largely draw his or her own conclusions. The stories themselves are powerful examples of how anxiety can lead to the curtailment of intellectual freedom—a predicament that the author detects in the American political atmosphere of today..."
- Kirkus Reviews [read the entire review here]
“Gracefully written, full of wonderful, well-chosen details, Red Scare in the Green Mountains paints a vivid picture of a state torn between rock-ribbed conservatism and deep respect for civil liberties ‹ a state that produced its own Red-baiting demagogue but also resisted loyalty oaths and book censorship, and nurtured a young Bernie Sanders in his early activist days. Focusing on the witch hunt era in one state, with just enough national background to put the stories in context, Winston depicts the politics of demagoguery and resistance -- a topic that couldn't be more timely for all Americans today.”
- Marjorie Heins, author of Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge
"Well-written and thoroughly researched, Rick Winston's Red Scare in the Green Mountains shines a penetrating light on and compellingly recreates the little-known story of how valiant Vermonters rallied to withstand the pressures and distortions of the McCarthy Era. Strikingly relevant for our own era."
- Tony Hiss, author of The View from Alger's Window
"Rick Winston's book sheds a new light on a dark chapter in American history. We are introduced to leaders who deserve their place in history, such as Congressman William Meyer and professor Andrew Nuquist. His book paints a well-researched picture of Vermont in the McCarthy era"
- Madeleine Kunin, former Vermont governor, author of The New Feminist Agenda
“A fascinating and highly readable history that shines a light on how Vermont wrestled with one of the most important American political episodes of the 20th century. ...reveals the remarkable intersections of Vermont and national politics as each influenced the other in the spiraling rise and precipitous fall of McCarthyism. ...shatters the illusion of a bucolic state immune to the Red Scare and offers important lessons for our times.”
- Prof. Woden Teachout, author of Capture the Flag: A Political History of American Patriots
“Rick Winston has written a highly informative book that expanded my knowledge of Vermont during the 1950s and during the McCarthy years. It is well-written and immediately drew me in. I recommend the book to all those interested in the Vermont experience, McCarthyism, or our efforts to protect our rights in challenging times.”
- Gregory Sanford, former Vermont State Archivist
"Red Scare in the Green Mountains" is an important story about how hate and fear preached by national figures impacts people living in small towns across America. To understand how a demagogue can lie, scapegoat and bully his way to power, it is enlightening to revisit how residents and leaders of the small state of Vermont both collaborated with and fiercely resisted the anti-communist witch hunts of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. This book is essential reading for those who want to ensure that we learn from the past, so that we don't repeat it.
- David Goodman, author and host, The Vermont Conversation
"Rick Winston’s Red Scare in the Green Mountains is a fascinating exploration of the way McCarthyism and related right-wing fear-mongering played out in a state that is commonly thought of as uncommonly liberal. The reality, as Winston shows convincingly, is that intolerance, xenophobia and fear of ‘un-American’ ideas are ugly stains on the history of all America — even the state that produced Bernie Sanders.”
- Mark Potok, expert on the radical right and former Senior Fellow of the Southern Poverty Law Center
“Red Scare in the Green Mountains: The McCarthy Era in Vermont 1946-1960 is a nonfiction historical work written by Rick Winston. Winston is a long-time resident of the Green Mountain state who, while volunteering to do research for a 1988 conference on the McCarthy Era, which he also helped organize, became enthralled in the actual events that happened and stories of the people whose lives were disrupted by the climate of fear and paranoia that gripped the country. His parents had their own stories to share about being called up by the HUAC. Winston’s book contains nine chapters which focus on different people, aspects and events which were a part of Vermont’s Red Scare history during the McCarthy Era. He begins with Richard O. Hathaway’s historical overview, written for the Conference’s program guide, and Winston also provides a timeline for the progress of the Red Scare in Vermont and the U.S.
Like most Americans, I suspect, I had little more than a passing knowledge about the Red Scare and the impact McCarthy had on the political climate in this country. Most of us are familiar with the impact it had in Hollywood and the movie industry. Lists of blacklisted actors, directors, writers and composers can be easily found on the internet, but the actual stories of the people and communities impacted are rather more difficult to find, as evidenced by the author’s discussion of his forays into the microfiche sections of his library. Each chapter in this book is fascinating and helped me to gain insights into the mindsets of Vermonters during that time, and the motivations of those who sought to demonize their neighbors out of fear of the Communists. Winston’s book is filled with front pages of newspapers, photographs and archival documents that bring his topic to life. His presentation is flawless, and his writing provides a seamless transition from one chapter’s events to the next. I also found his presentation of the politics of the mid-twentieth century enlightening, especially in light of current events. Red Scare in the Green Mountains: The McCarthy Era in Vermont 1946-1960 is most highly recommended.” Jack Magnus for Reader’s Favorite 5 Star Review
My interest in the Red Scare began in the early 1960s, when I was a teenager growing up in Yonkers, New York. I was dimly aware that my parents, as New York City schoolteachers, were affected by the McCarthy Era, and my curiosity about their experiences was sharpened on getting to know the children of blacklisted actors, writers, and musicians at summer camp (Buck’s Rock in New Milford, Connecticut). I now had some questions for my parents about the years when their jobs were threatened, and they openly shared their memories of those years.
Curiosity about my parents’ experiences coincided with the blossoming of what turned out to be my lifelong passion for films and film history, and I discovered that studying the Hollywood Blacklist gave me a framework to understand what my parents had lived through. A friend jokingly commented that while my classmates could rattle off the starting lineup of the New York Yankees, I could name all the members of the “Hollywood Ten.”
I had become hooked watching old films on TV at a young age. I went to Columbia College and University of California, Berkeley, where there were many opportunities to catch up on films while putting off writing English Literature papers. I moved to Vermont in 1970 and shortly afterward founded the Lightning Ridge Film Society, which morphed into the Savoy Theater in 1981. I was one of the founders of Montpelier’s Green Mountain Film Festival and was its Programming Director until 2012.
I arrived in Vermont shortly after the end of the Phil Hoff years, when Vermont had finally become a two-party state. The Liberty Union had just been founded by Bernie Sanders, William H. Meyer and others, in response to the Democratic Party’s tepid response to the Vietnam War. It didn’t take me long to start wondering what had transpired here during the late 40s and early 50s. Eventually I met two others who shared my interest: Michael Sherman, who arrived in the mid 1980s to head the Vermont Historical Society, and Richard Hathaway, a history instructor first at Goddard College and then at Vermont College’s Adult Degree Program. The three of us organized the 1988 conference, “Vermont in the McCarthy Era,” which (of course) had a film component: “Point of Order,” “The Front,” and “Hollywood on Trial.” It was this conference that planted the seeds for this book.
My wife Andrea Serota and I sold the Savoy Theater in 2009, and since then, I have been been teaching film at Burlington College, Community College of Vermont (Montpelier), and the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, while speaking on film subjects for the Vermont Humanities Council. Some of my other interests are music (playing traditional music of all kinds on the accordion), constructing twice-monthly “double crostic” puzzles for the Times Argus/Rutland Herald, and the renovation of the Adamant Community Club, a former one-room schoolhouse just down the road from where we live in Calais.