Luella Mundel was the subject of a documentary by Helen Whitney called American Inquisition. The documentary examines how McCarthyism had affected the small town of Fairmont, West Virginia. Mundel was the head of the art department of Fairmont State College in Fairmont, West Virginia. In this political environment, the mere question of her personal beliefs led to her termination and blacklisting. She later attempted suicide.
In the documentary, the narrator said that in 1951 Mundel "was not a political activist, but had tastes, convictions about art, about religion, unfamiliar to these streets. And at a local American Legion seminar about subversives, she angrily stood to challenge what was being preached there. Her contract was dropped by the college. A state education official accused her of being a poor security risk. She then sued for slander, but in the trial that followed in Fairmont's courtroom, it was Luella Mundel and her right to speak freely, to be different, that wound up being tried."
Quotes about the Mundel affair
- "Fairmont State College art professor Luella Mundel fell victim to this anti-communism frenzy. In 1951, Mundel publicly challenged an American Legion assertion that colleges were havens for communists. Weeks later, Thelma Loudin, a member of the state school board from Fairmont, called Mundel a 'poor security risk' and the board refused to renew her contract. Mundel unsuccessfully sued Loudin for slander. The potential cost of being labeled a communist was so great that Loudin's lawyer, U.S. Senator Matthew Neely, a staunch defender of liberalism, denounced Mundel's political and religious beliefs during the trial to prove his patriotism". West Virginia State History Archive.
- On July 9, 2006, the Santa Maria, California art gallery The Cypress Gallery honored Mundel in an art show.
- Victor Lasky, a conservative journalist who rose to prominence during the McCarthy era had accused Mundel of being a Communist at an American Legion meeting in 1951. Lasky sued ABC over his depiction in the show. Lasky maintained that the program inaccurately reported that he had called Mundel a Communist. Lasky lost the case.
- Floyd Abrams, Speaking Freely, published by Viking Press (2005), Page 153-58
- Speaking Freely, Page 154
- West Virginia Arhive & History, West Virginia Division of Culture and History, February 9, 1950: U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy launches his anti-communism crusade in Wheeling, Time Trail West Virginia, via WVCulture.org.
- Calendar for Santa Maria, Santa Maria Sun, July 4, 2006, via a Google cache of SantaMariaSun.com.
- Geoffrey Stone, Supreme Court Tales From the Pleading Side of the Bench (book review), The New York Times, April 16, 2005, via Law.UChicago.edu.
- Edward Mason, Shining a spotlight into darkness
- The Anti-Communist Hysteria and the Academy: The Luella Mundel Affair
- John Corry, TV: ABC Offers The American Inquisition, The New York Times, June 23, 1983.