Teach PA History
Palmer Raids: Reasonable Reaction or Hysterical Hype
What to Know
Teaching Time
2 50-minute sessions
Grade Level
High School
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • History
Historical Period
  • Development of the Industrial Pennsylvania - 1877-1900
American dissatisfaction with the end of the First World War, along with concerns about the labor unrest in Europe spilling over into the United States, resulted in a period of anti-immigration backlash known as the First Red Scare. Many Americans associated the concerns of workers with the radical beliefs of some Eastern European immigrants. The result was a brief period of violence in the country with immigrants from southern and eastern Europe as the principle targets. This lesson will introduce students to the causes of the anti-immigration sentiment that began in America in 1919. Students will analyze these causes in a series of political cartoons and period photographs to determine the underlying reasons that led to the First Red Scare. Students will then examine both Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's reaction to this period and the opinion of Emma Goldman regarding deportation through primary source writings. Finally students will make their own decisions about the legitimacy of the Red Scare by writing an editorial from the perspective of someone who lived in 1920.


Students will be able to:

  1. Analyze primary source documents for key content and bias regarding the First Red Scare.

  2. Explain the reaction of many Americans during the First Red Scare.

  3. Evaluate the reaction of the American public and federal government during the First Red Scare.

  4. Formulate and express a decision about the legitimacy of the public and governmental reaction to the First Red Scare through a newspaper editorial.

Standards Alignment

  • History

    8.1.12. A. Evaluate chronological thinking.
    8.1.12. B. Synthesize and evaluate historical sources.
    8.1.12. C. Evaluate historical interpretation of events.
    8.2.12. A. Evaluate the political and cultural contributions of individuals and groups to Pennsylvania history from 1890 to Present.
    8.2.12. B. Identify and evaluate primary documents, material artifacts, and historic sites important in Pennsylvania history from 1890 to Present.
    8.2.12. D. Identify and evaluate conflict and cooperation among social groups and organizations in Pennsylvania history.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.2.11. A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas.
    1.2.12. C. Examine the author’s explicit and implicit bias and assumptions, beliefs about a subject, use of fact and/or opinion, and/or the author’s argument or defense of a claim as related to essential and non-essential information
    1.2.12. D. Evaluate textual evidence to make subtle inferences and draw complex conclusions based on and related to an author’s implicit and explicit assumptions and beliefs about a subject.
    1.4.12.C. Write persuasive pieces.
    1.6.12. A. Listen critically and respond to others in small and large group situations.

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