Head shot of Professor Kenyon Zimmer

Global Afterlives of America’s First Red Scare: Political Deportees and Transnational Radicalism between the World Wars

A Guest Lecture by Professor Kenyon Zimmer, Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington

Between 1917 and 1925, the United States deported more than 1,000 foreign-born leftwing radicals in the largest expulsion of political dissidents in US history. This presentation places this event in global perspective by tracing the transnational experiences, networks, and impacts of these deportees. Like deportees today, many were separated from families and communities, exposed to persecution and violence in their native countries, or transformed into refugees and exiles. But their trajectories reveal other, unanticipated consequences: "repatriated" radicals—most of whom had acquired or evolved their political views in the United States—influenced labor and revolutionary movements abroad, often in ways contrary to American foreign policy objectives. Deportation supplied leaders as well as rank-and-file members to anarchist, syndicalist, socialist, and Communist movements in a long list of countries, including Russia, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Canada, Cuba, and Argentina. A handful of deportees even returned clandestinely to the United States under false names and resumed their activities on American soil. The forced migrations of the First Red Scare, in other words, contributed to leftwing radicalism on a global scale by expanding and forging new links in transnational radical networks.