Born in the Ukraine, but raised in Brazil, Morris Schappes and his family were
en route back to his birthplace when WWI broke out and they were stranded in New
York where they remained.
When Morris got to the City College of New York, he
began his writing career which would span a lifetime by becoming a
sportswriter for the school newspaper before graduating in 1928. He
went on to earn a Masters degree from Columbia University, however it
was back at City College where he returned to teach English as a
tutor. He said of himself that he was the "conspicuous Red on
campus," and joined the Communist Party in 1934.
According to the May and June 1936 issues of New York
Teacher News, his unions paper, he had taught English for the
previous eight years, "had been granted annual increases of $200 seven
times," and had been asked to collaborate on a collection of
anthologies to be used by the college. Considered by his
colleagues as a "scholar and critic," he also contributed critical
essays and reviews to the Saturday Review, The Nation, Poetry,
the New York Post, American Literature, and others.
On the school front, his students hailed Morris with
testimonials to his "warm personality" and "stimulating teaching," and
was elected by the senior class as, "most popular teacher," "best
orator," and "most respected instructor."
There was an abrupt change when a new English Department chairman
arrived and Morris eventually met his Waterloo. By that time, there
was also reported "antagonism" between Morris and the College
President over his membership in the Anti-Fascist Association, his
organization of the Instructional Staff Association and his membership
in the College Section of the Teachers Union.
On April 23, 1936, after his eight-year commitment to
CCNY, and a penultimate communication from his Chairman inviting
Morris to act as his advisor in judging a literary prize contest,
there came a harrowing blow.
His chairman wrote that Morris appointment had been a
"temporary" one and addressed Morris, charging, "Your efficiency as a
teacher of English has not been sufficiently notable to justify me in
asking for your appointment as a permanent member of the college
Morris was handed his dismissal from the college and
the student protests began. The New York Times headlines became
familiar documents of the very public protest:
April 25, 1936
Dismissal of Teacher is Protested by 1,500
City College Students Call for Reappointment of Schappes by
Fifteen hundred City College students signed petitions yesterday
protesting the dismissal of Morris Schappes as a tutor of English at the end of
this semester. Protest meetings also were held yesterday by 200 members of the
college chapter of the American Students Union and 300 former students of Mr.
April 26, 1936
Schappes Charges Bias
Dismissed Teacher Says (CCNY President) Robinson
Is Antagonistic to Him
March 16, 1941
Schappes Is Ousted by City College As Leader of Campus
City College Ousts Schappes as a Red
As a result of disclosures by the Rapp-Coudert
committee investigating subversive activities in the city schools,
Acting President Harry N. Wright of City College yesterday ordered the
suspension, without pay, of Morris U. Schappes, self-confessed former
Communist who has been a tutor in English at the college since 1931.
March 17, 1941
Schappes Demands Right to Face Foe
City College Tutor, Suspended as Former Red,
Assails 'War Hysteria' of Investigators
SEES 'TRIAL BY THE PRESS' He Defends His Record as
a Teacher and Denies That He Gave False Testimony
Morris U. Schappes, who was suspended from
his position as a tutor of English at City College on Saturday as a
result of disclosures before the Rapp-Coudert committee that he had
been a member of the Communist party, issued a statement yesterday
denouncing the committee for "war hysteria," and demanding the right
to cross-examine his accusers.
March 19, 1941
Schappes Indicted, Held as Perjurer in School Inquiry
City College Tutor Accused on 4 Counts of Lying
About Campus Red Activities
Dewey Aides Act Swiftly
Teacher, Who Also Is Under Board Charges, Lodged
in Tombs Union Protests
Held as Perjurer
Indicted as Perjurer
Acting swiftly on a grand jury indictment on four counts of perjury in
the first degree, District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey's office arrested
yesterday Morris U. Schappes, suspended City College English tutor who
has admitted he formerly was a Communist party member.
July 4, 1942
Schappes Loses Appeal
Perjury Conviction of Ousted City College Man
The Appellate Division upheld unanimously yesterday
the conviction for perjury of Morris U. Schappes, ousted City College
instructor, whose indictment resulted from his testimony before the
Rapp-Coudert committee investigating subversive activities in the
public educational system.
The Decision and Aftermath
After a five-year court struggle, the battle was over.
Years later, an explanation of his perjury charge was given in
Professor Schappes New York Times obituary, (published June 9, 2004).
Under oath, Mr. Schappes told the panel
that he could name only three Communists at the college, two of them
dead and one known to be a party organizer. Because another history
instructor named about 50 employees as Communists, Mr. Schappes was
convicted of perjury.
Morris continued to publish books and magazine
articles and was editor of Jewish Currents for over the next
In 1981, the faculty senate of City College apologized
for firing Morris Schappes, and by then, approximately 50 other of his
college faculty colleagues.