By the dawn of the twentieth century, the United States was regularly described as a “melting pot” of ethnic groups or as a “nation of immigrants.” Yet this description of the nation was contested vigorously during the Progressive Era. Amid World War I and ongoing movements to restrict immigration during the 1910s and 1920s, the role of immigrants in shaping politics and culture took center stage in American discourse. In this seminar, we will explore primary sources from this period that raised questions about the boundaries and limits of immigrants’ inclusion in the American polity. Through close readings, we will consider how the Progressive Era debates about immigration shaped national identity. During the seminar meeting we also will view popular visual representations of this debate drawn from the Newberry Library’s holdings.
Seminar led by Daniel Greene, Newberry Library