Sidney Dickstein ’47 visited campus March 20 and shared his experiences practicing law in the McCarthy era with Van Gosse’s, associate professor of history, “History of the United States” class.
During the 1950s, Dickstein was an attorney who defended persons accused of disloyalty or subversive activities by government loyalty boards during the era of McCarthyism, so-named for Joseph McCarthy, senator, who claimed people were communists or communist sympathizers; such an accusation could tarnish someone’s reputation and, in some cases, destroy his life. Dickstein discussed his experiences as a young lawyer during the McCarthy era, who successfully defended suspects of disloyalty.
Dickstein was brought to campus after Stefanie Valar, director of gift planning, suggested that Gosse contact him because she knew that Gosse was interested in mid-twentieth century American history, especially some of the experiences described in Dickstein’s memoir, Adventures in the Law, 1947-2000. Gosse enthusiastically reached out to Dickstein and was able to bring him to campus for the lecture.
Gosse was happy to bring Dickstein to campus so his students could hear directly from someone who lived through the period of history he focuses on in his class. He elaborated on the importance of witness testimony and primary sources on teaching and understanding history.
“The entire focus of history is engaging with primary sources,” said Gosse. “My class has a very strong emphasis on that.”
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