1919 June 2

Anarchist Bombs in D.C. Provoke the Red Scare


Bombs planted by anarchists exploded in Washington, D.C. on this day, on the doorsteps of several prominent government officials. One exploded at the doorstep of the home of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. Another exploded across the street at the home of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, future president of the United State.

The bombings, together with a series of major strikes in the summer of 1919, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in November 1917, and the emergence of an American Communist Party in 1919, were major factors in provoking the Post-World War I Red Scare. In particular, the bombs convinced Attorney General Palmer that the U.S. was on the verge of revolution, and he organized the infamous “Palmer Raids,” which indiscriminately rounded up thousands of alleged radicals, first on November 7, 1919, and then in larger raids that began on January 2, 1920.

The summer of 1919 also saw a wave or urban race riots that enhanced fears if a collapse of law and order, In Washington, DC (July 19, 1919), Chicago (July 27, 1919), and Omaha, Nebraska (September 28, 1919), along with other cities.

Read about the Red Scare:  Christopher M. Finan, From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America (2007)

Learn more: Cameron McWhirter, Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America (2011)

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