Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Amy Alemu

Reader 2

Jessica Christian

Reader 3

Diana Selig

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© 2023 Helen A. Landau


In the decade following World War II, movements for social change and Cold War paranoia grew simultaneously and were both reflected in popular culture. However, as the United States attempted to combat Soviet propaganda and present a very specific image of Americanism to the world, federal scrutiny focused on minority groups and individuals whose work drew attention to the complexities and inequalities within American society. In the shadow of the threat of communism, containment measures within the United States attempted to hinder flourishing new movements for social change and solidified a restrictive definition of Americanism. Frances Stonor Saunders explored the international sphere of the “cultural Cold War” in her 2000 book of the same name, and my thesis expands on this concept to focus on the domestic front of this conflict over cultural production. Beginning with the Hollywood Blacklist and House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in 1947, I analyze declassified FBI documents, organizational files and correspondence from the NAACP, ADL, and AJC, and political pamphlets to construct a narrative of how this federal cultural construction targeted Black and Jewish Americans in both similar and different ways. I look at how and why radicalism became synonymous with communism in the American imagination, and how the aforementioned minority affinity organizations worked to survive red-baiting and being labeled as communist fronts. Furthermore, I argue that the federal labeling of calls for equality as “subversive” and the subsequent surveillance and censorship of these two communities defined Black and Jewish American citizenships as “un-American” in ways that have lasting impacts.

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