The Cold War was sparked by the immediate aftermath of World War II. The Allied Forces were divided by ideology and quickly separated into two camps: the Western democracies, led by the United States, and the Communist nations, dominated by the Soviet Union. This alignment served as the basic framework of the Cold War over the next fifty years, from 1947-1991. As America positioned itself in opposition to totalitarian regimes, American citizens were forced to confront realities of what "freedom" meant, or should mean.
The Red Scare was a period during the 1940s-50s when Americans became anxious that Communists had infiltrated the home front. The public backlash against communism led Senator Joseph McCarthy to spearhead a series of public restrictions and trials on charges of treason. Groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, condemned McCarthy's campaign as an attempt to unjustly restrict civil liberties and free speech.
This lesson will foster class discussion of the American definition of freedom and the appropriateness of governments in restricting civil liberties in the pursuit of peace and stability. Students will be asked to connect these larger themes to past events, such as the Salem witch trials and the WWII Japanese internment camps, as well as contemporary events, such as the post-9/11 response to American Muslims.