Bill de Blasio Is Not Afraid of Red Scare Ghosts

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: New York City, Bill de Blaiso

Landon R.Y. Storrs is an associate professor of history at the University of Iowa.

As a young adult, Warren Wilhelm Jr. became so alienated from his moody, alcoholic father that he adopted his childhood nickname, Bill, and his mother’s surname, de Blasio. The recent discovery that Warren Wilhelm Sr.’s government career was truncated in the 1950s by allegations of disloyalty to the United States may help de Blasio come to terms with his troubled family history. More significant for us, de Blasio’s candidacy for New York City mayor presents an opportunity for Americans to confront the enduring legacy of the Red Scare—and to consider the possibility of escaping its shadow.

Warren Wilhelm met Maria de Blasio in 1939 when both were on the editorial staff at Time. Recent graduates of Yale and Smith, they had grown up in Depression-era New York City and became active with the American Newspaper Guild, a CIO-affiliated union of journalists. During the war, she edited Italian-language propaganda for the Office of War Information (OWI). He served in the Pacific and lost a lower leg in the Battle of Okinawa. After the war, they married and started a family in Washington, DC, where Wilhelm found a job as an economist in the Bureau of the Budget....

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