Immigration, 1865-1924

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Immigration, 1865-1924 Powered By Docstoc
  Freedom, Coercion, and
the Immigrant Experience
Major Issues/Questions
   Myths and realities of immigration
   Why did immigrants come? Stay?
   Attitudes towards immigrants in wider
   Freedom or coercion once here?
   Assimilation or ghettoization?
   Immigrant community-building
   Forms of collective power and resistance
   In-between people: immigrants and U.S.
    racial system
Immigration Figures, 1821-1940
   1821-1830 – 143,439 immigrants arrived
   1831-1840 – 599,125
   1841-1850 – 1,713,251
   1851-1860 – 2,598,214
   1861-1870 – 2,314,825
   1871-1880 – 2,812,191
   1881-1890 – 5,246,613
   1891-1900 – 3,687,564
   1901-1910 – 8,795,386           New Immigrants
   1911-1920 – 5,735,811
   1921-1930 – 4,107,209
   1931-1940 – 532,431 – --------why the drop off?
New Immigrants
   Majority of immigrants after 1890 came from new
    areas: southern and eastern Europe
       2 million EE Jews from 1881-1920
       2 million Italians from 1910-1920
   Different in many ways from previous immigrants:
    religions, languages, cultures, labor skills
       Jewish and Catholic
       Non-English speaking
       Unskilled or peasant laborers
Why Did They Come?
   Myth of Freedom – (powerful belief assumed
    to be true regardless of facts) – that
    immigrants came for freedom AND got it
    once here
   For these groups, political or social freedoms
    were paramount:
       Liberal Revolutionaries of 1848 from Germany
       Jews fleeing persecution, pogroms in Russia
       Radicals – democrats and socialists
Emma Lazarus Poem: The New Colossus,
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame              Myths:
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Economic Reasons
   Myth: typical story of immigrants: unknowing, w/o
    purpose, travel by sea, end up on U.S. coast
   Realities: most immigrants came for economic
   Made conscious decision, not “tossed” to U.S.
   Had belief in individual social mobility
   Pushed by bad economic circ. at home
   Pulled by economic growth in U.S.
   Immigration followed business cycles: rose during
    booms, fell during busts – strategic
Economic Reasons
   Most wanted to save $ and return home to buy land
    – high percentage actually went back, so did not
    give up attachment to home quickly or easily
   U.S. was only one alternative, among many
   Chain migration: from one village in Europe to
    neighborhood in U.S. city – much more controlled
    and purposeful than usually depicted
   Men came first, then women (1899-1910, 75% of
    SEE immigrants were adult men)
Community-building: Freedom of
Association vs. External Forces
   Formed tight ethnic neighborhoods/
   Formed ethnic-based organizations: mutual
    aid societies, fraternities, clubs, unions
   Fought for national-language churches
   Politically active and engaged
   Used political machines to gain services and
    political influence, measure of power
   All of these examples show agency –
    freedom to form bonds, but also resistance to
    external coercion
External Forces (Coercion?)
   Forces beyond immigrants’ control
   Limited job options – place in new industries = low-
    skilled, low-paid
   Competition with other groups for jobs
   Limited housing and neighborhood options
   English language pressures even though no formal
    U.S. language
   Religious pressures – how to maintain former beliefs
    in new society
   Lack of government assistance
   Anti-immigrant forces
Immigrants = In-between People
   Where did immigrants fit into American society?: up
    in the air where they would fit racially, religiously, in
    workplaces, their loyalty to country
   Social Darwinism and racial hierarchy – immigrants
    challenged racial hierarchy and system – in-between
   Eugenics movement
   Not-quite-white, but not black – didn’t quite fit
   Customs, religion, language, work, appearance held
    against them
   Associated with radicalism, anarchism, communism
   European-ness an advantage
   Similar to earlier Irish experience
Fears about immigrant
assimilation -

Will immigrants melt?
New Immigrants assumed to be radicals, anarchists, and trouble-makers
Madison Grant “The Passing
of the Great Race”
   “We Americans must realize that the altruistic
    ideals which have controlled our social
    development during the past century, and the
    maudlin sentimentalism that has made
    America ‘an asylum for the oppressed,’ are
    sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss.
Madison Grant, continued
   “If the Melting Pot is allowed to boil without
    control, and we continue to follow our
    national motto and deliberately blind
    ourselves to all ‘distinctions of race, creed, or
    color,’ the type of native American of Colonial
    descent will become as extinct as the
    Athenian of the age of Pericles, and the
    Viking of the days of Rollo” (Immigration
    Docs, pg. 141)
Eugenicists believed that a
person’s intelligence correlated
with the measured size of the
skull = brain size.

Anglo-Saxons supposedly had
larger skulls and brains, thus
they must be more intelligent.

In reality, average skull and
brain size are the same across
ethnic lines.
Chart on “Inventiveness
by Racial Stock in the
United States 1927”

Who’s the most
Inventive? – French,
Swedish, Dutch,

The least = Polish,
Belgian, Latin Am.,
Winners of the Fitter Family Contest, Kansas State Fair, 1920
Eugenics Movement
focused on urban
immigrant commun-
ities, neighborhoods,
and tenements as
“degenerate” and
States with Eugenic Sterilization Laws, 1935
Power of Racial Ideology
   During late-19th and early 20th-c., racial
    hierarchies were intensifying, not weakening
   Jim Crow, lynchings, blacks lost ground in
   Status of new immigrants was up in the air,
    had to choose
   Fed. actions cemented hierarchy: cut off
    Chinese immigration, Japanese, and New
   Those Europeans in U.S. had choice to make
racial hierarchy –
not much difference
between Italians and
Efforts to Limit Immigration
and Naturalization
   1870 Naturalization Act limits American citizenship to
    "white persons and persons of African descent," barring
    Asians from U.S. citizenship
   1882 Chinese Exclusion Act
   1907 Expatriation Act declares that an American woman
    who marries a foreign national loses her citizenship
   1907 Gentleman’s Agreement cuts off Japanese
    immigration to continental U.S. (only Hawaii allowed)
   1923 In the landmark case of United States v. Bhaghat
    Singh Thind, the Supreme Court rules that Indians from
    the Asian subcontinent could not become naturalized
    U.S. citizens
Efforts to Limit Immigration
   Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 cut
    immigration to 2% of 1890 pop. – Why?
   Immigration Figures
Average Annual Inflow of
                                    Other Immigrants
Immigrants from Northern
and Western Europe                  (New Immigrants)

   1907-1914 = 176,983          1907-1914 = 685,531
   Quotas under 1921            Quotas under 1921 Act =
    Act 198,082                   158,367
   Quotas under 1924 Act =      Quotas under 1924 Act =
    140,999                       20,847
New Immigrants –
Choosing Whiteness
   Started with “black” jobs, but allowed to move up
   Eventual access to whiteness (politics, unions,
    social mobility, armed forces)
   Had a choice to make: become white, embrace
    “Americanism,” leave, or fight system
   Many chose “Americanization” strategy: English
    language, exclude blacks and newer immigrants,
    nationalism and patriotism
   Forced to choose: unite with or exclude others:
       During wars
       In institutions – unions, politics
       Neighborhoods
Patronizing, but at least
they are allowed to join.
Major Themes & Conclusions
   New Immigration
   Myths and Realities: Some Freedom, but also
    Forces of Coercion
   Immigrants fit into new industrial labor
    hierarchy – unskilled labor caste
   Racial ideology a major force on immigrants
   In-between people
   Had to choose where to fit
   Result: access to social mobility and political
    rights for immigrants; hardening racial
    prejudice and discrimination against blacks
   What does The Godfather tell us about the
    immigrant experience?
   (Relate film to history)

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