Thursday, September 29, 2016

Red Scare 1920s

They were misunderstood from the beginning. The newcomers had large families, were Catholic or Orthodox, had come from regions in eastern Europe and Russia that were riddled with anarchists, and didn't speak English. Were the Volga Deutsche German? Or Russian? Why was Holy Transfiguration Church topped with a gold onion dome? Who are the Carpatho-Rusyns? 

Immigrants in Globeville had been recruited by smelters, railroads and the beet industry during the economic boom of the 1880s to supply cheap, abundant labor. After the economic downturn in 1893, they were not welcome and retreated to their enclaves, worshiping in old-world churches, socializing with people from the same region of Europe, and congregating in their ethnic saloons, which increased suspicion and misunderstanding.

The devastation of World War I and Spanish Influenza caused Americans and Coloradans to pull back from foreign entanglements. The war had not made the world "safe for democracy" - Europe was still in turmoil - and the Bolshevik's revolt in Russia resulted in civil war, famine and Communist rule. Anything and anyone associated with Bolsheviks, anarchists, foreign agitators, or radical labor unions were considered dangerous.

In the mind of the public, unions were linked with violence, anarchy and Communism. People remembered that smelter workers in Globeville, members of the Mill and Smeltermen, (a subsidiary of the Western Federation of Miners) had participated in the violent strikes in 1903. Labor unrest after World War I, supposedly incited by Bolsheviks spurred the Colorado legislature to pass a law in 1919 forbidding the display of the “red flag” in public. The headquarters of the International Workers of the World in Pueblo were raided and suspected radicals rounded up; and in Denver an ordinance was passed forbidding any person from speaking in a manner that could incite “rebellion.” The most dramatic example of the “red scare” occurred in the summer of 1920, when unionized employees of the Denver Tramway Company went on strike to protest wage cuts. When the company imported strikebreakers, violence erupted, cars were overturned and burned in downtown Denver. In the public's opinion, unions were violent and dangerous.
Residents of Globeville took notice of public opinion. Fraternal organizations displayed large American flags during their gatherings, and many business hung American flags in their windows. Some people left Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Church, while others

“Americanized” their names - Staresinich was shortened to “Star,” Snidersich changed to “Snyder,” Yakin became “Jackson.” 

Gradually the “red scare” subsided, but the negative attitudes toward immigrants remained. Bowing to the growing fear that people from eastern Europe threatened the nation's very existence, Congress passed a law in 1924* that effectively ended immigration from eastern Europe.

* The Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants allowed into the United States through a national origins quota. The quota provided immigration visas to two percent of the total number of people of each nationality in the United States as of the 1890 national census. It completely excluded immigrants from Asia. 

1921 Convention WSA, Pueblo
Photo used with written permission from Joseph Skrabec

Sjedinjenih "One for All" Orthodox Lodge
used with written permission from Steve Machuga

Polish Constitution Day Parade, 1940
used with written permission from Jan Gisewski Garland