Although the US and Soviet Union had been allies in WWII, tensions between them, and between capitalism and communism*, led to a "Cold War" by the late 1940s. Inside the US, encouraged by histrionic politicians like Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), the Cold War spawned a widespread fear of Soviet spies that widened by the 1950s into a culture of hysterical anticommunism. People who had been in the Communist Party, signed its petitions, or even had ideas that were perceived as "different," including support for labor unions and civil/women's/gay rights or opposition to war, drew suspicion.
In the South, conservative politicians began claiming that all civil rights activism was "communistic." This allegation was aimed especially at white supporters, who were often seen as traitors to their race. That mindset led to the sensationalized notion that the Wade purchase had been merely a communist plot, undertaken by scheming whites who duped Wade into going along. Such accusations robbed African Americans of any agency in their own struggle for freedom and suggested to whites that conformity was the safest route to a good life.
The charge against the Bradens was sedition, but the crime, it seemed, was housing desegregation. Part of what gave the Wade-Braden case national notoriety was its perfect framing of the struggle against racism as "communistic." The Shively Newsweek, weekly newspaper of the Wades' new neighborhood, capitalized on the Red Scare gripping the country by suggesting that the Bradens were communists and the shots fired into the Wade home on their first night in the house were an “inside job.” [Scan of Shively Newsweek] At Carl Braden’s trial, paid FBI informants who claimed to be former Communist Party members were witnesses for the prosecution. They claimed that Communists did in fact have a plan “to take land from whites to set up separate ‘Negro states’ in the South” and to ‘incite racial trouble whenever possible.’”
Within a decade, the upsurge of civil rights dissent could no longer be contained by anticommunist fears. In fact, the Cold War gave the movement added energy because racial discrimination undermined the US image in the eyes of the world.
Civil Rights Support + White Skin = Communist
The Other Defendants
I.O. Ford, a former Communist Party activist from Ohio. He had no connection to the Wades.