Red is the Scariest Color: Propaganda during the Red Scare

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Target Audience: The target audience for this lesson is a modern world history class or a 10th grade US History class when it gets to the modern era. Students can have a background on propaganda or not, but I feel this lesson can be delivered more effectively if students do not have a background in propaganda of the time. It is expected that students have some background knowledge about what was going on in terms of the Cold War in the US and the USSR.

Content: For this lesson, students will be looking at several propaganda pieces to see what motifs are present and how aspects of the poster/music/movie are used to convey a certain theme. With this data, students will be asked to explain how they would have felt if they were in the time and seeing media like this. From these posters, students will try to construct a narrative about what is going on in the US at the time based on the evidence in these posters. This can segue into how propaganda is being used today and in what ways mainstream media is trying to dominate a narrative.

Process: The process behind this activity will be to break the students into pairs to analyze aspects of 2 types of media. These two primary sources can be political cartoons, propaganda posters, songs, clips from film or radio broadcasts. After giving the students time to figure out what each source is saying and how people at the time would have felt consuming these media narratives, we will join back and attempt to construct a narrative of how the people at the time might have understood the communist situation going on in the US.

Resources: The resources for this lesson would primarily be political cartoons, propaganda posters, as well as different types of media from the time. It may also be helpful to create a graphic organizer for students to have a place to take notes and write out their feelings.

Delivery Considerations: This lesson can be delivered remotely by using Zoom groups and a main group meeting to discuss and hash out a narrative of what people thought the communist situation was at the time. As a group students can be led into thinking about how the narrative shown through media is not exactly the same as what was going on in the world and how propaganda is still used today.

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