The rise of McCarthyism after World War II coincided with America’s newly stoked fear of Communism, often called the Red Scare. Fueled by events like the espionage trials of Alger Hiss and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the Red Scare was a reaction to the creation of the so-called Iron Curtain around Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union's first nuclear weapons test. In 1953, absurd claims swirling in the United States included an attempt by a member of the Indiana Textbook Commission to remove the story of Robin Hood from state schools because the character “robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.” That was, she claimed, a philosophy straight out of basic communist doctrine.
Communists around every corner:
- Censorship was an important element of the Red Scare. Writers, screenwriters, and film directors were investigated and blacklisted for their alleged communist beliefs.
- Loyalty oaths from teachers were required in more than 39 states to make sure they would not teach communist-leaning lessons to students.
- Many famous works were censored on college campuses in the 1950s, including Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau, and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.