A Comparative Study of the Red Scare and the McCarthy Era

Ms. Martinetti/ Ms. Silverman

Evander Childs High School




A Comparative Study of the Red Scare in the 1920s with the McCarthy

Era of the 1950s and the lessons we can apply to the war on terrorism.



Webquest project for American History 2






The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the hegemonic communist worldwide agenda that ensued known as the Comintern instilled fear in the United States government. By the 1920s the Red Scare would lead to suspicion and the targeting of specific groups such as labor leaders, anarchists, socialists and foreign nationals. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer led raids on


Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer (Sacco & Vanzetti)


suspected criminals and the sensational Sacco and Vanzetti Court case increased hostility toward non-English speaking foreigners. During the Roaring 20s there were also race riots, bombings and strikes in the United States. By the 1950s, the Cold War had mapped out a different world order in which two Superpowers, the United States and the former U.S.S.R. competed for control of the world. At home Senator Joseph McCarthy used the House Un-American Activities Committee which was set up in 1938 to blacklist and bring to trial suspected communists in the government and in the entertainment industry. The Rosenberg and Hiss cases were examples of the measures taken to expose spying. Today we are faced with new domestic threats from an unseen enemy called terrorism in the wake of the New World Order with the collapse of communism in Russia. The 9/11 terrorist bombings on U.S. soil marks a turning point in American history. What lessons can we learn from history and how can we apply those lessons to the threat of Islamic Fundamentalism and terrorism at home?





1.     Students will write about the similarities and differences between the Red Scare and McCarthyism. Students will also apply the lessons learned from this time period to the present war on terrorism.


2.     Students will be assigned the due date for the project in class.



3.     Students are required to research and type a 5 page paper using the internet.


4.     Students will examine the reasons there was fear about the spread of communism in the 1920s and during the McCarthy era.


5.     Students will examine the response by the U.S. government to this domestic threat during the Red Scare of the 1920s and during the McCarthy era.


6.     Students will make an oral presentation in the class no longer than 10 minutes in duration.


7.     Students will use the PPA method and complete all worksheets so that you will be able to gather background information for this task.





1.     You will be divided into groups of 3 or 4. Students will be given a group grade and an individual grade for the work. Students will clearly identify what each individual contributed to the project.


2.     To do your search follow the public policy steps found at the TIPS website.


3.     You can also use other sources such as newspapers, videos, documentaries, books and worksheets.


4.     Identify the problem (s) in the United States during the Red Scare and the McCarthy era.


5.     Gather the evidence for the problem (s).


6.     Find the causes for the problems in the United States during the Red Scare and the McCarthy era.



7.     Evaluate the public policies of the Attorney General Palmer and Senator J. McCarthy.


8.     Answer the worksheets, starting with Defining the Problem using complete sentences.




Use the following general websites:







Specific sites




http://newman.barach.cuny.edu/digital/red scare/default.htm


www.vw.vccs.edu/vwhansd/ HIS122/Palmer.jpg

www.evesmag.com/ winchell.htm

www.hofstra.edu/images/ cul_sv.jpg






The following Rubric will be used to judge your project:




Exceeds Expectations

Meets Expectations

Does Not Meet Expectations



Points Earned



1 or 0



Factual Information

All information correct

Most information correct

Little or no information correct



Variety of Sources

Excellent variety of sources; excellent use of relevant materials

Adequate number of sources; adequate use of relevant materials

Inadequate number of sources; inadequate use of relevant materials




Excellent discussion/detail

Adequate discussion/detail

Vague/shallow discussion/detail



Depth of Insight/Analysis

Impressive depth of insight/analysis

Adequate depth of insight/analysis

Unexceptional insight/analysis



Form and Style

Effective introduction

Adequate introduction

Weak or missing introduction




Effective conclusion

Adequate conclusion

Weak or missing conclusion




Clear organization

Adequate organization

Confusing or weak organization




Smooth transitions

Adequate transitions

Awkward or missing transitions



Spelling and Grammar


Correct grammar; no spelling mistakes

Incorrect grammar; many spelling mistakes



References in Footnotes and Bibliography


Correctly credits references

Incorrectly credits references or credits missing











After you are done with this power point, you will be able to see the reasons why the United States responded to the spread of communism during the Red Scare and the McCarthy era in the manner in which the government did. You should now realize the importance of studying public policy in terms of American history. How can we learn to fight terrorism and the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism today in the U.S. by applying the lessons learned from the struggles against the spread of communism?





Standard 2


Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.


Standard 4


Students should develop the skills of historical analysis which include the ability to investigate differing and competing interpretations of the theories of history, hypothesize about why interpretations change over time, explain the importance of historical evidence, and understand the concepts of change and continuity over time.




New York State English Language Arts Standards


1. Students will read and write for information and understanding

2. Students will read and write for literary response and expression.

3. Students will read and write for critical analysis and evaluation.

4. Students will speak and listen for social interaction.