Johnson and Krauss

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Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss, two authors of children’s books, continue to be read today even though their books are more than 60 years old.

In an article in the new issue of “The Horn Book,” these two authors, who were married, were profiled.  The article discussed their careers, but what was even more interesting than their literary works was the fact that in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Crockett Johnson was identified by the FBI as one of 400 concealed Communists.  They subsequently began to compile a file on him.  They also carefully watched the activities of Ruth Krauss.  They continued to be monitored until 1955.

Of course, this was the McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Community era. McCarthy and HUAC usually left children’s book authors alone.  There was no blacklist of authors in this field mainly because it was dominated by women who were “deemed not worth watching closely.”

Krauss and Johnson were both liberals in their political beliefs.  Johnson, as many of his generation, turned more left during the 1930s.  He did contribute to the Communist weekly “New Masses” and eventually became its art editor.  Both supported political causes of the time that would later cause the FBI to label them suspicious.

Seen through this mirror, Krauss’s little boy in “The Carrot Seed” and Johnson’s “Harold and the Purple Crayon” might be interpreted by some as political commentators of the time.  Or maybe they just conveyed simple messages of how the real world can be transformed by imagination.

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