Date of Award
Master of Arts
The onset of the Depression Era in the United States re-energized the Communist Party. Communists gained new support from the unemployed and indigent, as well as from various institutionally repressed social groups. That new energy was met by a resurgence of ardent anticommunism from establishment leaders indicative of the Red Scare following the First World War. The debate over communism quickly engulfed the nation. It played out, sometimes violently, in cities and towns across the United States. This thesis examines that debate at the local level. Using one Midwestern industrial center, East St. Louis, Illinois as the case study, it attempts to complicate the larger narrative of communism and anticommunism in the United States, and strives to provide new context for both the methods and motivations of the Communist Party and its supporters, as well as opposing establishment figures. This framework, though innovative, is not unprecedented. Historians have examined communism at the grassroots level in the United States for the past few decades. However, these case studies differ in that they overwhelming tend to focus on large metropolises that posses a unique history for the national party and its leaders. By exploring the debate over communism in a smaller urban center that lacked a CP presence before the Depression, this thesis seeks to provide new depth into both the history of communism and anticommunism in the United States, and the actions and motivations of many everyday Americans whose lives had been radically changed after the economic crash.
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