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Immigrants in the United States Dr. Marni Davis Assistant Professor of History Georgia State University
“Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history.” - Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted (1951)
1870s – 1920s: • Approximately 23.5 million immigrants arrived in the United States • Primarily from Southern Europe (Italian Catholics) and Eastern Europe (Russian and Polish Jews) • And: Germans, Austro-Hungarians, British, Irish, Scandinavians, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese • The Making of Modern America: • industrialization • urbanization • consumer capitalism
Framing the issue… • Why did immigrants come to the United States? • What was their arrival like? • Once they got here, what did they do? • What did other Americans think of immigrants? • How did they become “American”?
1. Why did immigrants come to the United States? • An era of worldwide population movement • The PUSH and the PULL • PUSH: cataclysm in home country • PULL: attraction of destination country • Economic Opportunity
2. What was their arrival like? Castle Garden Immigrant Landing and Processing Depot, NYC (1866)
Ship Manifest of Immigrant Passengers(available at www.ellisisland.org)
Inspecting and Testing Immigrants Angel Island, CA Ellis Island, NY
3. Once they got here, what did they do? A) They went where the jobs were … • Agriculture (both permanent and seasonal) • Central Europeans and Scandinavians in Midwest • Asians and Mexicans on West Coast • Chinese and Italians in South • Railroad • Chinese immigrants in the West • Irish immigrants in the East • Industrial labor • Slavic immigrants and Northern Europeans in heavy industry (coal, steel) • Eastern European Jews in garment industry • Chinese and Japanese in western fish industry
3. Once they got here, what did they do? B) They went where their people were … • ETHNIC ENCLAVES A great teaching tool: The New York Times INTERACTIVE IMMIGRATION MAP: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/03/10/us/20090310-immigration-explorer.html
4. What did other Americans think of immigrants? November 22, 1869
Naturalization Act of 1790 “… Any Alien being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof ...” BUT: Who is “White?” “the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small ... in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth.” -- Benjamin Franklin, 1751
On the “Chinese Question” Harper’s Weekly, July 16, 1870 Lithograph, San Francisco, late 1860s
On the “Chinese Question” Harper’s Weekly, June 12. 1869
European Immigration as a Threat “The Stranger at Our Gate,” Our Day (1896) Puck Magazine, June 7, 1882
Urbanization and Reform Settlement House in Chicago, early twentieth century Garment workers’ strike, NYC, 1909
The closing of the gates … • 1924: Johnson-Reed Act: Permanent immigration quota law established a preference quota system by national origin. • Border Patrol also established. • 1929: Annual quotas of the 1924 Act were made permanent. • Quota law remains in place until 1965
5. “Becoming” “American” • Assimilation: • The conversion of nutriments into living tissue. • The process whereby a minority group adopts the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture. • Acculturation: • the adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture; socialization. • Adaptation: • Change in behavior of a person or group in response to new or modified surroundings.
How did these immigrants become “American?” Factors that affected “Americanization”: • Continued pull of transnational networks • Ethnic community as circumscribing force • Gender / Generation • Economic status • Popular culture / Sports • Passage of time / Changing attitudes toward particular immigrant groups