Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Nicole Sackley


As Americans worked to construct a national creed in the early nineteenth century, xenophobia and cultural exceptionalism were in constant tension with conceptions of free speech and personal liberty. The emergence of deportation as the solution to America's "radical problem" was built upon representations of the political subversive that had little grounding in reality. The differing ideologies and organizations of the anarchist and communist movements in America were constantly being reshaped, yet ... the press and political rhetoric blurred distinctions between parties, assuming that both philosophies were elements of the same menace that sought violent overthrow of the government. Reducing radical ideology to a single strain, opponents of dissent built a constricted and sometimes contradictory portrait of the causes of radicalism. While some argued that radicalism resulted from the failure of American institutions to "Americanize" its immigrants, others argued that it was a social movement transplanted from Europe. Radicalism was portrayed as a biological and physical trait that was not only outside the boundaries of what it meant to be American, but an imminent threat to American values and beliefs. In order to preserve both the American state and the American way of life, it became clear that the racial, sexual, and political contagion of radicalism had to be excised from the body politic. A strategy of deportation arose once radicalism was connected to allegedly inherent racial characteristics that could never be "Americanized."

Emma Goldman, the leading lady of the American anarchist movement and largely viewed as the movement's most dangerous partisan, was among the deportees put aboard the U.S.S. Buford which left New York harbor early in the morning of December 21, 1919 bound for Soviet Russia. Though Goldman never personally advocated violence as a means to realize her anarchist vision, her association with individuals who committed violent acts against elites and governmental figures under the banner of anarchism rendered her culpable of sowing the seeds of violence in the eyes of many. Government officials hoped that her deportation, in its dramatic fashion, would strike a blow against dissenting political ideologies, sending a message that American citizenship was dependent not only on residence or marriage, but also upon adherence to a specific set of "American" values and political ideologies. Defining Goldman as politically corrupt, sexually immoral, and above all, unpatriotic served to reassert a conception of American identity as politically and sexually moral, linking patriotism with the unconditional support of governmental policy.

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