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UNH Professor Awarded $500,000 NEH Grant for Documentary on American Radicalism

Release Date:
4/16/2013 12:00 AM
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Richard Wormser, features Richard Wormser

WEST HAVEN, CONN. -- Richard Wormser, an adjunct professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven, has received a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to produce a two-hour documentary film on American radicalism.

Wormser’s project, “American Reds: The Failed Revolution,” is a two-hour documentary film intended for public television. It will tell the story of American radicalism between 1930 and 1960.

The program also received a $20, 000 from the Cal Humanities, the California humanities council. It will examine the paradoxical efforts of the radical movement’s attempt to transform America according to a utopian vision of a better society while at the same time many radicals were aligning themselves with the tyrannical dystopia of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Wormser said.  

This is the 16th grant Wormser has received from the NEH during his career.  He has written, produced and directed more than 40 programs for public television, foundations and educational institutions. His programs have received over 30 awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award and four Emmy nominations.

The heyday of the radical movement came in the 1930s, when it played a major role in organizing labor unions and massive demonstrations against Hitler and fascism, fighting for the civil rights of African American and supporting the arts. Its collapse came during the Cold War when radicals refused to disassociate themselves from Stalin.  That led to the arrests, trials and convictions of the movement’s leadership.  The greatest blow came following the revelations of Stalin’s crimes by the Nikita Khrushchev in 1956. Within four years, over 90 percent of the Communist party’s members had quit.

In awarding the grant, the NEH said evaluators applauded the way the application "captures the drama of the popular front" and chronicles the history of the Communist Party within broader contexts of the Great Depression and the New Deal.

Evaluators noted the proposal's "balance" and "complexity" in dealing with the political history of American communism, suggesting that the script does not assign simple "heroes" and "villains."

The NEH also noted that the team of advisers on the project is impressive because it "includes some of the very best American historians working in the United States today."

The NEH last year awarded Wormser, who also teaches at Fordham University, a $75,000 grant to develop the script for “American Reds.”

The University of New Haven is a private, top-tier comprehensive institution recognized as a national leader in experiential education. Founded in 1920 on the campus of Yale University in cooperation with Northeastern University, UNH moved to its current West Haven campus in 1960. The University operates a satellite campus in Tuscany, Italy, and offers programs at several locations throughout Connecticut and in New Mexico and California. UNH provides its students with a unique combination of a solid liberal arts education and real-world, hands-on career and research opportunities. The University enrolls approximately 6,400 students, including nearly 1,800 graduate students and more than 4,600 undergraduates – the majority of whom reside in University housing. Through its College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, Tagliatela College of Engineering, and College of Lifelong & eLearning, UNH offers 75 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. UNH students have access to more than 50 study abroad programs worldwide and its student-athletes compete in 16 varsity sports in the NCAA Division II’s highly competitive Northeast-10 Conference.