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American Writers: a journey through history is a permanent archive for educators, researchers and every one interested in the writers featured in the  C‑SPAN series.


VII





Born: April 1, 1901 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: July 9, 1961 - Westminster, Maryland

Chambers's family suffered severe financial privation in his early years. In 1925, after attending Columbia University, Chambers was inspired by Lenin's writings to join
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Whittaker Chambers, Witness
C-SPAN's Video Library: Whittaker Chambers
the Communist Party, and he subsequently worked as an editor of the New Masses and the Daily Worker. In 1932 he was recruited as a spy by the Soviet Union. In the late 1930s, disillusioned with Stalin's purges, he underwent a radical change in ideology, becoming fervently right-wing, and joined the staff of Time magazine. In 1948, before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he identified Alger Hiss, a distinguished diplomat and administrator, as a fellow member of his spy ring in Washington, D.C., during the 1930s. He produced copies of State Department documents typed on Hiss's typewriter, and led federal agents to the "pumpkin papers"—microfilms of government documents, allegedly supplied by Hiss, hidden in a pumpkin on Chambers's Maryland farm. Hiss's subsequent investigation and trials were among the most sensational of the century and brought Richard Nixon to national prominence.

Works by Whittaker Chambers
Witness (1952)
Chambers's autobiography, Witness (1952), became a best-seller. Intense in tone and extreme in its opinions, it resonated strongly with the anticommunist fervor sweeping the country. In his last years Chambers largely abandoned his conservative ideology.

Web sites about Whittaker Chambers
Whittaker Chambers: A Biography
New York Times on the Web: Review by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. of Sam Tanenhaus's The Truest Believer


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