America: History of Our Nation

The United States in the Cold War (1945–1963)

Web Extra!

How did a fear of communism affect Americans during the Cold War era?

  1. During the Cold War era many Americans were afraid that communists were on the verge of taking over the U.S. government. Senator Joseph McCarthy was an ardent anti-communist who rose to national prominence in the 1950s. McCarthy and his committee accused thousands of Americans of being Communists. Such accusations did enormous harm to people's reputations and careers. Use a search engine such as Google or Yahoo! to identify at least five people who were accused of communism during McCarthy's reign.
  2. Work with a partner to learn why each person was accused, including anything about his or her background or career that led the government to make a connection with Communism. Also find out what happened to the person after the charges were made, including the impact the accusations had on his or her future career, relationships, and reputation.
  3. Use the Creative Commons Web site* to find an image for each person on your list. Then use the VoiceThread Web site** to create a thread about Senator McCarthy and McCarthyism. Create a screen in the thread for each of the people you researched. For each photo, record an explanation of why the person was accused and the consequences of that accusation. Also share your opinions on the impact McCarthyism had on American society as a whole.
  4. When you have finished creating your VoiceThread, use the Options menu to share your thread with classmates. Encourage them to leave comments throughout the thread about their feelings on the accusations described in your thread.

Extensions

  • Take turns describing each person in the thread with your partner. For example, one of you can provide background information on the person. The other person can then present what happened from the accused person's point of view.
  • As you learned from your textbook, many Americans lost confidence in Senator Joseph McCarthy once they saw him making outrageous accusations on television. Imagine that 24-hour television news and the Internet had existed during McCarthy's time. Might the senator's power have been weaker or stronger? Explain your answer in a one-page essay.

Alternative

During the Cold War era many Americans were afraid that communists were on the verge of taking over the U.S. government. Senator Joseph McCarthy was an ardent anti-communist who rose to national prominence in the 1950s. McCarthy and his committee accused thousands of Americans of being Communists. Such accusations did enormous harm to people's reputations and careers. Research one well-known American used of communism during this time, such as a politician, writer, or Hollywood celebrity. Use online or print resources to learn more about why he or she was accused, including anything about his or her background or career that led the government to make a connection with Communism. Then research what happened to the person after the charges were made, including the impact the accusations had on his or her future career, relationships, and reputation. Create a poster exhibit with your research findings, including a timeline and photographs. When everyone in the class has finished their posters, hold a "McCarthy Hall of Fame Day." Invite other classes to tour your posters, and give a brief oral presentation on your person to anyone who stops by your exhibit. Be sure to explain your feelings on how McCarthy affected U.S. society.


*Pearson only supports the use of material that has been copyrighted by the author under Creative Commons. For a discussion of Creative Commons and how to use the Creative Commons Web site, see the Creative Commons instructions.

**For instructions on how to sign up for and create a VoiceThread, see the VoiceThread instructions.