Follow-up Activity

The Red Scare

Interpreting the Red Scare through Political Cartoons

All that Jazz: America in the 1920s
Gerald R. Ford Museum
High School

Michigan Content Standards nd Benchmarks

Social Studies
I. Historical Perspective
3. Analyzing and Interpreting the Past – H.S. #1

• Students will learn to interpret ideas as expressed through cartoons.
• Students will gain some knowledge as to the use of propaganda.


This is best done as a group activity. Students should be divided into groups and each group should be given a cartoon, the following information page, and copy of the Document Analysis Worksheet. They should work together to answer the questions on the worksheets. Each group may then present their conclusions to the entire class.



Interpreting Political Cartoons:
The Red Scare

The Red Scare took place in the U.S. from 1919 until 1921. It was a result of people’s fear that communism or Bolshevism would spread from Russia though Europe and unto America’s shores. Americans, and the government, also feared the spread of anarchism, which they associated with Bolshevism. As a result, the government conducted numerous raids, the most famous being the Palmer Raids, and arrested hundreds of people who were suspected of being “Reds.” Many were abused by authorities and later deported.

The Red Scare fed directly off mass hysteria. This hysteria was fed in a variety of ways, including cartoons that appeared in magazines and newspapers throughout the United States. These cartoons could be considered propaganda.

In this activity you will evaluate a political cartoon, complete the Document Analysis Worksheet provided by your teacher, and answer the questions on the worksheet below. As a final step you will make a judgment as to whether you find your cartoon to be propaganda or not. Be prepared to defend your answer.

Depending on which cartoon you receive and what is depicted in it, you may not be able to answer all the questions. In that case simply skip that question and go to the next.

Definition of propaganda: Ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause.
Definition from: Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition

1. What is depicted in the cartoon?

2. Who are the major characters?

3. How is America portrayed in this cartoon?

4. How are Russia, the Bolsheviks, or anarchists portrayed?

5. What is the overall tone of the cartoon?

6. What do you think is the message the cartoonist is trying to get across?

7. Do you find the cartoon to be positive or negative towards the Soviets/anarchism?

8. Do you think this cartoon could be considered propaganda? Why or why not?