Monday, April 20

The Red Menace + McCarthyism unit study

During the Cold War, Americans believed that communism was attempting to infiltrate every aspect of their lives. Senator Joseph McCarthy led the search to ferret out Communists in America.  If he were alive today, which cause do you think he'd champion?

The fear of communist activity was known as The Red Scare, and Joseph McCarthy helped to instigate and prolong the country's unease.  McCarthy was a Republican senator from Wisconsin and was the leader behind the ethos of McCarthyism.  The term was created in 1950 by a writer at the Washington Post.  McCarthyism was the practice of accusing and detaining suspects deemed to be a security threat or disloyal to the United States, thus minimizing the threat of communism.  

Investigations ranged from the federal government to Hollywood to American citizens in general.  No one was safe because McCarthy was the judge, jury, and executioner.  His insidious campaign of identifying and eliminating suspected communists last from 1950 to 1954.
"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men--not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular." ~Edward R. Murrow\
It wasn't until many years after the Cold War ended, and his death, that McCarthy was looked upon in a new light.  He was a crusader against communism, and he did help to ferret out some anti-American activity, but his legacy is one of being a bully who violated civil liberties.  Historians hope that McCarthy will serve as an example for future politicians.

  • The Red Menace
    • If thirteen-year-old Marty Rafner had his way, he'd spend the summer of 1953 warming the bench for his baseball team, listening to Yankees games on the radio, and avoiding preparations for his bar mitzvah. Instead, he has to deal with FBI agents staking out his house because his parents—professors at the local college—are suspected communist sympathizers. Marty knows what happens to communists, or Reds, as his friends call them: They lose their jobs, get deported...or worse. Two people he's actually met, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, have been convicted of being communist spies, and they're slated to be executed in two months.  Marty just wants everything to go back to normal, but that's impossible thanks to the rumors that his parents are traitors. As his friends and teammates turn on him and federal agents track his every move, Marty isn't sure what to believe. Is his family really part of a Red Menace working against the United States? And even if they're simply patriotic Americans who refuse to be bullied by the government, what will it cost them?  As the countdown to the Rosenbergs' execution date continues, it may be up to Marty to make sure his family survives.
  • Suspect Red
  • The Cold War Explained
Make / Do
  • McCarthy Today - If McCarthy were to time travel to today, what issue(s) might he take a similar stance on?  What evidence would he use to support his position?  Use audio/visual media to respond to one issue from multiple sides.
  • Political Cartoons - Choose one cartoon from this page and answer the following questions.
    • Why is the time and place of the cartoon important?
    • What is the general topic of this cartoon? 
    • Identify any symbols and what they mean. 
    • Identify distortions, stereotypes, and caricatures within the cartoon and what they represent. 
    • Using the evidence from the cartoon, a. Identify the perspective of the artist; and b. Evaluate the impact of the historical context on that perspective
  • Print out this free packet for further study.
Cold War Timeline
Create a timeline showing the order of events.  Write one sentence about how the event was significant.
  • Atomic Bomb 
  • Marshall Plan 
  • Molotov Plan 
  • NATO established 
  • Warsaw Pact formed 
  • Truman Doctrine 
  • Berlin airlift 
  • Korean War 
  • USSR gets atomic bomb 
  • Hungary (Rebellion) 
  • Cuba (Missile Crisis) 
  • Beginning of troops in Vietnam 
  • End of troops in Vietnam 
  • Suez Canal Crisis 
  • Fall of the Berlin Wall  
  • Coup in Guatemala 
  • Sandinistas rise up in Nicaragua 
  • War in El Salvador 
  • Communists win China 
  • China explodes atomic bomb 
  • Iran Contra Affair 
  • Fall of the USSR 
  • Sputnik
  • Evil Empire Speech 
  • Coup in Chile 
  • Soviets invade Afghanistan
  • Did McCarthy strengthen or weaken anticommunism efforts in postwar America?
  • In what ways did Joseph McCarthy violate American values in his search for communists?

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  1. This book looks great! I think I'll have my 14 year old son read it this summer. It looks like something he would enjoy.

    1. I'd say let him draw some parallels - as my 15yo could - but let's let them stay kids instead. :)