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The McCarthy Era of 1945 – 1960


The McCarthy Era was between 1945-1960. The McCarthy Era was when there were many widespread accusations and investigations of suspected Communist activities in the United States. McCarthyism was the act accusations were called McCarthyism. The word “McCarthy” comes from the name of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy who was born on May 2, 1909. Joseph McCarthy, an American politician and a U.S. senator from Wisconsin made many charges on army officials, members of the media, and public figures accusing them of being Communists or cooperating with Communists usually with little or no evidence.

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McCarthyism developed during the Cold War, which was a time of great hostility between the Communist and non-Communist nations. In the late 1940s and the 1950s, a number of events related to this struggle alarmed and frustrated many Americans. For example, Communists took over Czechoslovakia and China. The Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb and equipped the North Korean Communist forces that invaded South Korea. This invasion touched off the Korean War (1950-1953).

As Communism appeared more and more threatening, the federal government began to search for secret Communists among its employees. In 1947, President Harry S. Truman established agencies called “loyalty boards” to investigate federal workers. Truman ordered the dismissal of any government employee whose loyalty appeared questionable. That same year, the U.S. attorney general established a list of organizations that the Department of Justice considered disloyal. Government agencies used the list as a guide to help determine the loyalty of employees and of people seeking jobs.

McCarthy first gained national attention in 1950, when he charged that Communists dominated the State Department. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigated the department but found no Communists or Communist sympathizers there. Despite the investigation, McCarthy still made many additional accusations and gained many followers. He and other conservatives blamed many of the nation’s problems on the assumption of a secret presence of Communists in the government.

In 1950, the United States was concerned with the threat of communism. Hatred of communist influences within the country increased as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover announced that there were 55,000 party members and 500,000 sympathizers active within the U.S. the Senate appointed a special committee to investigate charges of communist activity in the State Department that had been brought by Senator Joseph McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin.

In 1953 McCarthy started and conducted a militant anti-Communist campaign. His campaign spread to Eastern Europe and China. In 1954, he brought charges of subversion against the U.S. Army. When the Army responded by charging Senator McCarthy with improper conduct, his breathtaking tactics were revealed on national television during a thirty-six-day hearing.

Now with McCarthy’s new campaign, the accusations and investigations spread quickly and affected thousands of people. Librarians, college professors, entertainers, journalists, clergy, and others came under suspicion. Some firms blacklisted (refused to hire) people accused of Communist associations. Many employees, to keep their jobs, were required to take oaths of loyalty to the government.

By 1954, McCarthyism had already started to decline. Some of the factors that contributed to its decline were the end of the Korean War in 1953 and the condemnation of McCarthy by the Senate for conduct unbecoming a senator in 1954. Also, from 1955 to 1958, the Supreme Court of the United States made a series of decisions that helped protect the rights of anybody who was accused of sympathizing with Communists.

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The McCarthy Era of 1945 - 1960. (2021, Feb 11). Retrieved August 4, 2021, from