Mar. 13: "Becoming American"

America as a "Melting Pot"
Crevecoeur (1782)
-Impurities would be melted off; all old world traits would be abandoned
-Fusion of all men would create a new American (like a new alloy); the end result would be better together than the separate components on their own
-"New American" reflected confidence in the power of the 18th-19th century American environment to "transform" a "new race of men"
-Conformity is key
-Racially exclusive; Non-whites are not included in this vision

Israel Zangwill (1908)
-U.S. = "American symphony" that is free from prejudice and hatred
-Immigrants must let go of old-world hatreds and customs and conform
-Pot melts European immigrants, even southern and eastern Europeans

Henry Ford (1910s)
-The Ford English School (est. 1914) taught the company's immigrant workers how to speak English, American culture, history, and values (thriftiness, cleanliness, good manners, timeliness) in order to foster "good" workers and "good" Americans

Assimilation (Anglo-Conformity, 1910s-1960s)
-Promoted subordination of immigrant cultural values and customs, American holidays, civic rituals, and the English language
-Emphasized the rejection of ethnic customs, native language, etc.
-Goal was to emulate the cultural traits of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS)
-Took the form of heavy-handed Americanization campaigns

-Pres. Teddy Roosevelt: "No hyphenated Americans" (1910s)

"Cultural Pluralism"
-Dominant theory today, with roots in early 20th century
-Celebrates the coexistence of many cultures, without any one culture dominating the region.
-Philosopher Horace Kallen's (1882-1974) idea of "nation of nations" (1910s) - each ethnic and cultural group in the United States had a unique contribution to make to the variety and richness of American culture

The End of Formal Racism, 1960s
-The Civil Rights laws (Civil Rights Act of 1965, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Immigration Act of 1965) ended formal discrimination in the United States

How do we understand race today?
-Do we live in a "post-racial" society?
-Race is not biological or inherent, but race still matters. [Michael Omi and Howard Winant study how ideas about race became constructed and formed; "the socio-historical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed"]

Immigration and the meaning of "American" in recent U.S. history
-1972 - President Richard Nixon give speech at the Statue of Liberty to dedicate the new American Museum of Immigration (appeal to white ethnics against backdrop of antiwar protests & African American demands for civil rights)
-1992 - "On the Pulse of Morning," Poem by Maya Angelou, 1992 Inauguration of President Bill Clinton
-2013 Pres. Barack Obama's inaugural address - immigration reform as a fulfillment of equality and civil rights

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This page contains a single entry by erikalee published on March 12, 2013 9:39 PM.

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