Daily Class OutlineDaily Class QuestionsDaily Class Web LinksDaily Class Notes

Question for Discussion: What were the major
challenges immigrants faced living
and working in America in the late

Reading: Hymowitz, pp. 192-217; Hoffman, pp. 68-72,
81-85; When Ethnic Studies are Un-American

Video: This is America!, I am an American

Daily Class Web Links

American Immigration Policy

Immigrants in 19th Century American

Daily Class Outline

1. What is an American?

2. Images of immigrants in America.

3. Immigrants' lives in Industrializing America

4. Immigrant Mothers and their daughters in

5. What are the major concerns Anglo-Americans
have about massive immigration into the United
States in the late 1800s?

6. What were the major causes of immigrant poverty, hardship, and cultural isolation in immigrant ghettoes?

7. Whose argument, Ross's or Andrew's do you
think is more persuasive?

8. Does American society Americanize immigrants while at the same time being transformed by these same immigrants?

Daily Class Questions

1. What were the major differences between immigrants
and their children in America in the 1800s?

2. What were the conditions immigrant families faced
during their first  years in America?

3. What kind of work did immigrant women do in the
teeming industrial cities they settled in?

4. What were the major factors forcing immigrants to
settle in ethnic ghettoes in these industrial cities?

5. What were the major conflicts between immigrant
mothers and their daughters in America?

6. How did becoming Americanized affect young
immigrant women in America?

7. According to Edward Ross, what are the major
"social effects" of  massive immigration to the United States?

8. According to Ross, why is poverty associated with immigrants?

9. Why does Ross believe that immigrants will threaten social progress and even cause social decline?

10. According to A. Piatt Andrew, what is the place
of immigrants in  American society?

11. Why does Andrew believe that immigrants can Americanize and  become "loyal, worthy American citizens"?

12. According to Andrew, why should Americans not
fear the coming of million of immigrants to America in the late 1800s?

13. What do you think are the major fears and concerns Americans have toward immigrants?

Daily Class Notes

The American population grew from 40
million in 1870 to 92 million in 1910
. Much
of this increased population came from
European immigrants. Thirty million 
immigrants came from Europe between
1860 and 1910
. Between 1840 and 1890,
4 million Germans and 3 million Irish
migrated to the United States. From 
1880 to 1920, 4 million Italians, 4 million
Austro-Hungarians, and 3 million
Russians came to the United States.
Most of these immigrants settled in the
 growing industrial cities and made up
a large proportion of America's industrial
workers. As a result of this explosion of
immigration and the industrialization,
between 1860 and 1920, the rural
population of America doubled and the
urban population grew by ten times.

Since the American Revolution, there
has been constant tension between
two competing definitions of America:

  1. America as a nation of immigrants

  2. America as one united people,
    descended from the same

Diversity and homogeneity are two rival, competing
mythologies. The idea of the Melting Pot helps
resolve this contradiction between diversity and unity.
Michel Crevecoeur in his 1782 essay, "What is an
American," was probably the first  to use the idea
of the Melting Pot:

"What then is the American, this new man? He is either a European or the descendent of a European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in on other country....He is an American, who leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced....Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men...."

But many Americans at the time Crevecoeur wrote did not want to accept America as a nation of immigrants. John Jay wrote in The Federalist Papers (1787) that:

"Americans are one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion,..., and very similar in their manners and customs."

"So in the very earliest days of the
English settlement,immigration began to be restricted, and Quakers and
Baptists, Episcopalians and Catholics, were banished and proscribed from
the Commonwealth on the grounds that American standards were apt to be
impaired by their admission. From that day to this the older immigrants and their descendants have tried to keep this country for those already here  and their kindred folk.  They have looked upon themselves as a kind of aristocracy, their supposed superiority being proportioned to the length of time that they and their ancestors
have lived upon this continent, and each successive generation of immigrants newly arrived has tended
with curious repetition to adopt the
same viewpoint, to believe that the
succeeding immigrants were 
inferior to the former in religion, habits, education, or what not, and ought to be kept out."

                   A. Piatt Andrew (1914)

In the 1800s, White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant American elites tried to create a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant
identity as the American identity. As a result, with the new
wave of immigration to America between 1880 and 1920 of immigrants
from Eastern and Southern Europe, many Americans feared that these 
new immigrants would never become Americans. One of the larger reasons for this fear is that the majority of
these immigrants were Catholics or Jews, religions which many
Americans saw as incompatible with 
American Protestant identity.

Between 1880 and 1920, Americans feared
these new immigrants:

  1. Strange customs and insistence on maintaining their cultures in crowded urban ghetto communities, such as the Polish ghetto, the Italian ghetto, the Russian ghetto, and the Jewish

  2. The massive influx of Catholics and Jews in crowded urban immigrant enclaves.

  3. That these immigrants were responsible for
    social problems in the exploding, industrial cities, problems such as crime, poverty, insanity, and immorality.

  4. Blamed immigrants for labor unrest and violence.

  5. That these unassimilated immigrants were a threat to American culture and society.  Feared that their ethnic enclaves threatened to undermine assimilation and the process of Americanization.

As a result of these growing American fears about immigration, the Federal Government passed the 1924 Immigration Act, which greatly limited immigration from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Supporters of Immigration Restriction argued that continued massive immigration threatened the American Melting Pot and the American balance between unity and diversity. So after 1924, the definition of an American swung away from "a nation of immigrants" to America as a "unified people of Anglo-Saxon stock." Only after the Federal Government passed the 1965 Immigration Act, which once again opened America's doors to immigration from throughout the world, did Americans begin to reconsider their definition of an American as a "unified, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant race." From 1965 to the present, Americans are arguing about whether the Melting Pot still works. Some Americans fear that the new wave of immigrants that flocked to America since 1965 were not assimilating, or melting in, and becoming Americans. But this massive new immigration, over 30 million immigrants since 1965, has led many Americans to begin to question their definition of what is an American.


© 2002 by Chris H.  Lewis, Ph.D.
Sewall Academic Program; University of Colorado at Boulder
Created 7 August 2002:  Last Modified: 18 Sept. 2002
E-mail: cclewis@spot.colorado.edu
URL:    http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/migrate.htm
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