Witch Hunt: The Cold War, Joe McCarthy, and the Red Scare

Witch Hunt: The Cold War, Joe McCarthy, and the Red Scare
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
April 16, 2024
Buy This Book
A cutting-edge look into a pivotal moment in US history: McCarthy's infamous "witch hunt" for communists during the 1950's Red Scare.

At the cusp of the Cold War, Americans were so afraid of communists living among them that they began to hunt them like witches. As Senator Joe McCarthy took up this mantle to hunt down “communists” in the US, citizens grew terrified of being accused, so they turned on each other - pointing fingers at neighbors, friends, and even family.

Told through a unique and inviting screenplay-format, brought to life with dozens of illustrations by Tim Foley, and comprised almost entirely of quotes derived from primary sources, Witch Hunt recounts the political craze that gripped America during the Red Scare when McCarthyism forced people to go to extraordinary lengths to keep themselves and their families safe from persecution against their own government.

Editor review

1 review
McCarthy Era Primary Source Material
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
Balis and Levy employed their "fly on the wall style" in Bringing Down a President, and utilize again to tell the story of McCarthy era Communist "witch hunts" through short observations about particular occurrences, which are then supported by direct quotes. These come from a variety of sources and famous and not-so-famous people. There are presidential directives, interviews, Time Magazine and other news media snippets, and a lot of quotes from Josh, the son of Communist Party members that were especially interesting, since his father had to go into hiding in another state.

A wide range of situations were covered, from the investigations until Hollywood personnel that ruined hundreds of careers, to teachers, the Rosenberg spy case, to the discriminatory treatment of homosexuals. From cities to small towns, it seems like there was nowhere safe. This was fascinating for me to read, because in talking to friends and family members who lived through this time in Ohio, this was something that was in the news but not really on their doorsteps. Clearly, this was a widespread phenomenon, and the people I knew were very lucky not to have been affected!
Good Points
Foley's illustrations really make this book; their black and white outlines mimic the style of Mad Magazine, adding a bit of humor to a grim topic. To be fair, history has treated McCarthy as a bit of a buffoon. Even at the time, people such as Senator Lyndon Johnson, made comments that he was "the sorriest senator out there" but that you "don't get in a pissin' contest with a polecat", so this is yet another historical example of bad actors somehow capturing something within the popular psyche that allowed them to have more power than seems reasonable to us today.

There are not a lot of books about this time period, and McCarthy and society instilled a fear of communism in the US population that had long lasting implications. I loved that this started with the banning of the Robin Hood story; that's a nice tie in with all of the book banning that is going on today. What this lacked in narrative flow, it made up for in the variety of topics, even including the Berlin Air Lifts and Oppenheimer and the bomb. This would go right along with Marrin's A Time of Fear: America in the Era of Red Scares and Cold War or Brimner's Blacklisted.
Report this review Comments (0) | Was this review helpful? 0 0

User reviews

There are no user reviews for this listing.
Already have an account? or Create an account

Latest Additions