The Specter of Communism
The United States was in the grip of an on-again off-again Red Scare from 1917 until the fall of Soviet Union in 1990. Florida Governor LeRoy Collins' visit to the Soviet Union with a U.S. delegation in 1959, coupled with his moderate racial views, led many to consider him a traitor, or at least suspect. Citizens were made similarly uncomfortable by Khrushchev’s extended visit to the U.S. later that year. Anti-Communist propaganda in the U.S. had been so effective that diplomacy of any kind seemed fruitless or worse, duplicitous.
In Tampa, conservative public figure Sumter Lowry kept up a near-constant stream of denouncing integration and accusing moderate politicians of being Communists or “soft” on Communism. All the while, he networked with like-minded Floridians.
Cold Warriors thought that Communists must be to blame for America’s ills. Fringe newspapers such as the White Sentinel reinforced racist views and paranoid right-wing groups constantly accused the United Nations of somehow undermining U.S. sovereignty. In the imaginations of cold warriors, Civil Rights campaigns in the U.S. must have been planned and run by Moscow. Such beliefs made it easier for white southerners to accuse activists of subversion and treason.