The United States is often described as a “melting pot” of ethnic groups or as a “nation of immigrants.” Though most of us could easily find references to the melting pot in popular culture today, few realize that the concept has a long and contested history. In this two-day seminar, we will explore primary sources from the past two centuries that describe the nation as a melting pot or as a “crucible” where the fusion of different national cultures will occur. Through close readings, we will consider how the meaning of the melting pot has changed over time and how it has informed debates about what it means to be an American. Even as we take a long view of the melting pot in American history, we will pay particular attention to the early twentieth century and to debates about restricting the flow of immigrants to the United States.
Seminar led by Daniel Greene, Newberry Library