Date of Award

5-13-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. Chara H. Bohan

Second Advisor

Dr. Joseph Feinberg

Third Advisor

Dr. H. Robert Baker

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Wendy Venet

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Yali Zhao

Abstract

The overall objective of the research presented in this dissertation is to establish ways in which the Red Scare and Cold War eras impacted social studies education in Georgia from the 1930s through the 1960s. My position is that the decision by the Communist Party’s international leadership to support African Americans in the southern United States through legal defense and the organization of sharecroppers’ unions impacted white segregationists’ interpretation of subversive activity as being inclusive of racially liberal ideas. Social studies education in Georgia was affected by the policies and curriculum decisions made in the context of Red Scare and Cold War influences.

An analysis of the historiography of communism in the United States reflects the changing tenor of uncertainty and fear that gripped Americans when it came to radical ideas contrary to the democratic capitalist tradition. Historians tend to agree that the Party’s efforts in the African American community had minimal impact. However, the calibration used by scholars to measure “impact” should be adjusted to look beyond changes in Communist membership numbers and whether the lives of blacks in the South improved. My focus in this study is the peripheral impact the efforts of the Communist Party had on southern white segregationists who began to equate racially liberal actions with subversive activity.

Chapters in this dissertation focus on the formation of the Communist Party’s Black Belt Self-Determination Thesis and how it was carried out in the American South, national efforts to combat communist infiltration through loyalty oaths and textbook reviews, and the evolution of civic and democratic education initiatives in social studies. Georgia’s scandalous episode of the early 1940s involving Eugene Talmadge’s manipulation of the state’s educational system is presented as an example of how the concepts of subversion and racial liberalism were equated in an effort to maintain segregation in the state. These chapters provide evidence of the Red Scare and Cold War eras’ impact on social studies education in Georgia from the 1930s through the 1960s.

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