About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
May 16, 2019 

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for today’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we hear from David Maraniss about his new book, A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father, I’d like to let you know about two other programs coming up soon.

Tonight at 7 p.m., in connection with our new exhibit Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, we will host a panel discussion called “Women and the Vote: The 19th Amendment, Power, Media, and the Making of a Movement.”

And tomorrow at noon, we will show part one of Ken Burns’s documentary Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony. Part two will be shown on May 24.

Check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Visit its website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about the Foundation and join online.

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The book A Good American Family opens at a hearing of the House Committee Un-American Activities. David Maraniss’s father, Elliott, is testifying and asks to read a prepared statement. He is denied that opportunity, but the typed statement eventually finds its way into the National Archives, among the records of the committee.

Every day in our research rooms across the country, people make discoveries in the records that answer questions for them—or perhaps lead to more questions. The discovery of this document in 2015 had deep resonance for David Maraniss. He writes in chapter 1: “It is invariably thrilling to discover an illuminating document during the research process of writing a book, but in this case that sensation was overtaken by pangs of a son’s regret.”

Even if most research discoveries don’t have this level of personal connection, the act of seeing and reading original documents often creates an instant connection to the historical authors and to a particular time in the past.

Among the billions of pages of documents and photographs in the National Archives are countless stories—sometimes of famous figures, more often of ordinary people trying to live their lives but often having to cope with disruptive circumstances. It’s part of our mission of access to help people find their stories.

Today we’re here to learn about the story of the Maraniss family during the Cold War and the Red Scare—a story with pieces found in archives, libraries, and memory.

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David Maraniss is a New York Times best-selling author, fellow of the Society of American Historians, and visiting distinguished professor at Vanderbilt University. He has been affiliated with the Washington Post for more than 40 years as an editor and writer. In 1993 he received the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his coverage of Bill Clinton, and in 2007 he was part of a team that won a Pulitzer for coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. He was also a Pulitzer finalist three other times, including for one of his books, They Marched Into Sunlight. He has won many other major writing awards, including the George Polk Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize, the Anthony Lukas Book Prize, and the Frankfurt eBook Award. A Good American Family is his 12th book.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome David Maraniss.