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USA - A Divided Union 1941-80

Key Question:

What were the effects of the

McCarthy Witch-hunts in the 1950s?

What can you know about…

McCarthyism and the ‘Red Scare’


When the Cold War broke out between the US and the USSR after 1945, there was an intense fear and hatred of Communism by many Americans. “ Better dead than Red” was a popular slogan. Americans looked abroad after 1945 and saw Communism taking over in East Europe (1945- 48), China (1949), Korea (1950). For many it was simple. Communism was taking over the world.

Free speech under threat

President Truman went along with an anti-Communism policy that was popular with US voters. He introduced the Federal Employee Loyalty Program (FELP) in 1947 aimed at combating security ‘risks’ (Communists) from working for the Federal Government. Every person taking on a new job in the civil service or government would be investigated.

Congress set up the House Committee on UN- American Activities (HUAC) that investigated ‘ Communist’ involvement in the film industry, education, unions and the government. Witnesses were supposed to prove their loyalty by naming former Communists they had known, if they didn’t they could face a jail sentence and be ‘blacklisted’ so they couldn’t get a job.

The Hysteria Continues

Anti- Communism became hysterical in 1948 when the Russians ‘Blockaded’ West Berlin in Germany.

The Alger Hiss case.

In 1948, Alger Hiss, a former official of the US State Department (Foreign Affairs) was accused by a former Communist of handing over 200 secret state documents to him


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