This brief letter and enclosure were addressed to Georgia Representative John Wood
, the chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The letter, signed by “An American,” included an ad written by Oscar-winning actress Gale Sondergaard to the trade union to which she belonged, the Screen Actors Guild, and published in Variety
magazine. For years, HUAC investigators hunted for alleged communist conspiracies in all corners of American society, but with particular vigor in Hollywood’s motion picture industry. The committee required actors, including Sondergaard, to testify. Sondergaard announced in the ad that she would invoke her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination when she testified before HUAC. She also pleaded with the Guild to support her and the other actors by publicly opposing a blacklist of the entertainment industry and by denouncing HUAC’s tactics. Sondergaard appeared before the committee on March 21, 1951, and refused to answer questions about her political affiliations or those of other Guild members. The episode cut short her acting career.