Identification: Charitable organization to send former slaves to Africa
Date: Established in 1816; dissolved in 1964
Significance: The public and private funds raised by the American Colonization Society led to the settlement of approximately thirteen thousand African Americans in West Africa by 1867 and the establishment of the independent nation of Liberia. The organization’s guiding philosophy represented a middle ground between abolitionists and proslavery advocates.
Liberia College, which opened in Monrovia only two decades after the American Colonization Society helped establish the first settlement of African American emigrants in Liberia. In 1951, the college became the University of Liberia. (Library of Congress)
Although the American Colonization Society (ACS) was not formed until December, 1816, the desire to remove black slaves from the United States had long existed. The gradual elimination of slavery in the northern states created a concern for the inferior status of free blacks in society. Some slaveholders in the South grew uneasy about their human property, and many more feared free blacks. These motivations led to the creation of the ACS, but their diversity contributed to the organization’s modest success.
The organizers of the American Colonization Society were varied and well connected. Reverend Robert Finley, a Presbyterian minister from New Jersey, organized the first meeting, while Virginia politician Charles Fenton Mercer, Congressman Henry Clay of Kentucky, Francis Scott Key, and Congressman John Randolph of Virginia were among the early supporters. Supreme Court justice Bushrod Washington, a nephew of George Washington, was the society’s first president. After founding the society in Washington, D.C., the officers sought federal funds to carry out their mission. Former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison soon supported the cause, as did their successor, James Monroe, who used his influence to arrange public funding.
The goal of the ACS was to establish an African colony where free blacks and manumitted slaves would be sent. However, persuading northern free blacks to volunteer was difficult. Southerners were often eager to export free blacks but not their own slaves. Nevertheless, the first shipload of eighty-six emigrants sailed from New York on January 31, 1820. No one in Africa welcomed the settlers taking tribal lands, and the unfamiliar climate, disease, and lack of supplies ravaged the first wave of immigrants. In December, 1821, with the armed assistance of the U.S. Navy, the ACS purchased Cape Mesurado, the present site of Monrovia, Liberia. By 1833, more than thirty-one hundred African Americans had arrived. Ironically, the American Colonization Society’s mission was aided by southerners, who wanted to rid society of free blacks in the wake of Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831. Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Mississippi, and Louisiana created their own colonizing missions during the 1830’s. All were incorporated into the Liberia colony, and the ACS increasingly became a federation of state societies.
The most notable success was Liberia’s declaration of independence in 1847. This action was encouraged by the ACS, whose financial difficulties made it impossible for it to care for the colony properly. In the years between Liberian independence and the U.S. Civil War, almost six thousand African Americans emigrated. In the five years after the war, more than two thousand more went to Liberia, but with contributions down, the American Colonization Society was practically bankrupt. In the decades to come, it functioned as a Liberian aid society focusing on education and missionary work.
The ALS evoked a wide variety of reactions before the Civil War. Certainly tinged with a racist belief that blacks would never earn equal rights, many white northerners sincerely thought that colonization was the best solution. Beginning in the 1830’s, abolition societies portrayed the ACS as antirepublican and proslavery. White southerners were largely apathetic. Most free blacks identified their future with the United States rather than an uncertain fate in a remote colony. The lack of consensus about the status of African Americans undermined the organization’s efforts and reflected the bitter divisions in American society. The American Colonization Society was formally dissolved in 1964.
M. Philip Lucas
Burin, Eric. Slavery and the Peculiar Solution: A History of the American Colonization Society. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005.
Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865.NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1961.
See also: Abolitionist movement; African Americans and immigrants; African immigrants; Emigration; Garvey, Marcus; Liberia; Slave trade; Universal Negro Improvement Association.Read the full story
Definition: Amorphous movements that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries in response to the influx of non-English-speaking immigrants
Significance: At the turn of the twentieth century, non-English-speaking immigrants flooded American shores, setting off a wave of nativistic fears. In order to combat rising nativism, reformers constructed a number of programs aimed at absorbing immigrants into American civic life.
Patriotic poster issued during World War I to promote the idea of Americanization. (Library of Congress)
During the decades following the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), demands for the creation of a national culture emerged in response to increasing concerns that new non-English-speaking immigrants, if left to their own devices, would erode the moral and economic fabric of the United States. The assassination of PresidentWilliam McKinley in 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist son of a Polish immigrant, fueled fears of radicalism on the part of immigrants and galvanized the efforts of many Americans to assimilate immigrants in order to moderate their radicalism. Under the guise of combating neglect and exploitation, Progressives embraced the notion of Americanization and developed programs to promote immigrant acculturation.
Emerging social science programs in universities during the early twentieth century played a key role in fostering immigrant integration into American society. Progressive reformers believed that immigrants could be converted into valued American citizens. Settlement house programs in large cities offered immigrants respites from the crowded, dirty tenements as well as places to learn. This and other initiatives, such as the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), provided health services, vocational training, and civics and English classes.
Other efforts focused on motherhood as a key to assimilation. The domestic science movement published information and research on diet, nutrition, health and cleanliness. Programs sought to limit the sizes of families on the premise that unrestricted population growth ought to be abandoned in modern industrial societies. Many of these programs aimed at giving immigrant women tools to work outside their homes as housemaids, seamstresses, and laundresses.
Many industrialists designed worker education programs to influence the behavior of their immigrant workers and to reduce the growing problem of labor turnover. For example, in 1913, Ford Motor Company instituted what it called its "Five Dollar a Day” program. To receive that level of wages, workers had to be certified by Ford’s sociological department that they were thrifty, sober, and diligent. The emerging theories of scientific management assisted industries by creating a structure of strict organization of production combined with pay incentives. Other companies opened libraries and offered classes aimed at fostering acceptance of American ways, as defined by the employers. Management argued that speaking English was fundamental to unifying the workforce and creating industrial prosperity.
Company medical staffs taught oral and physical hygiene in both the workplace and the home. They also offered married women instruction on household finances and child care. One railroad company used a boxcar converted to reflect its image of the model American home to transport Americanization instructors. The state of California created a Commission of Immigration and Housing to investigate work and living conditions and to teach English and good health practices to immigrants. The state commission recruited religious leaders, social workers, and government bureaucrats to design and implement Americanization programs.
During the late nineteenth century, many efforts to Americanize adult immigrants did not provide the desired results. Employers and reformers recognized that they might reach immigrant parents more effectively through their children, reasoning that children were potentially easier to shape into responsible citizens. Accordingly, companies established kindergarten programs for the children of its immigrant workers, while progressives shifted their focus to creating a system of compulsory public education. Schools in urban settings became vehicles for maintaining social order and inculcating American values. The schools afforded vocational training and English-language classes, taught the value of good citizenship and respect for authority, and provided programs in health and grooming. By the 1890’s, most states with increasing immigrant populations had passed laws mandating compulsory schooling from the ages of eight to fourteen. Historian Richard Hofstadter noted that the intent of public education was to forge a nation, make it literate, and foster civic competence.
Progressives were convinced of the need to mold immigrants into "100 percent Americans” and to create a national culture to promote loyalty to American civic ideals. Many patriotic expressions that Americans would embrace during the twenty-first century were developed in response to fears that non-English-speaking immigrants would erode the national identity. For example, the schoolhouse flag movement required public schools to fly the American flag and conduct daily flag-salute ceremonies. In 1891, Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance to promote national unity and civic patriotism by honoring the American flag.
Public education emphasized the importance of civic service and duty to country. Patriotic programs emphasized the sacrifices made by past citizens to preserve the union. Laws were passed requiring public schools to observe President Abraham Lincoln’s and President George Washington’s birthdays, and to participate in Memorial Day and Flag Day activities. The invention of the idea of Betsy Ross as maker of the first American flag, patriotic pageants, pictures of national heroes, and teaching of citizenship were all part of the public school Americanization programs.
Progressive teachers advanced ideas of civic patriotism, while Theodore Roosevelt and members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) advanced programs of martial patriotism. Martial patriotism was infused with heroic images of soldiers, wars, and the honor of dying for one’s country. Stories of military adventures written for schoolchildren abounded. Symbols of soldiers and war cropped up in public parks, newspapers, and literature across the nation.
Bodnar, John. The Transplanted. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. Major work on the experience of immigrants in transitioning to American capitalism.
Fitzpatrick, Ellen. Endless Crusade: Women Social Scientists and Progressive Reform. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Examination of the lives of four progressive women who played a crucial role in the establishment of settlement houses and social reform.
Higham, John. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2002. Significant scholarly study of the history of nativism in America.
O’Leary, Cecilia Elizabeth. To Die For: The Paradox of American Patriotism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999. Important work on the construction of American patriotic culture and the struggle to solidify a distinctly American identity.
Sánchez, George J. Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Examination of programs in California designed to assimilate Mexican immigrants.
See also: Anglo-conformity; Assimilation theories; Citizenship; Education; English-only and official English movements; History of immigration after 1891; Hull-House; Nativism; Progressivism; Settlement houses.Read the full story
Identification: Federal government’s main immigrant processing and detention center on the West Coast
Date: Operated from 1910 until 1940
Location: California’s San Francisco Bay
Significance: Angel Island served as the West Coast port of entry for Pacific Rim immigrants arriving in the United States between 1910 and 1940. The station also functioned as an interrogation and detention center during the height of national hostility toward Chinese and other Asians seeking new lives in the United States.
Angel Island immigration reception center in 1915. (Library of Congress)
Sometimes called the Ellis Island of the West, the Angel Island immigration station was not precisely a West Coast counterpart of the East Coast’s main immigrant processing center. In fact, owing to the anti-Asian immigration laws in force during the center’s years of operation, Angel Island officials often devoted themselves to keeping newcomers out of the United States, rather than welcoming them in.
The largest island in California’s San Francisco Bay, Angel Island is a natural land mass of 1.2 square miles located about one mile from the mainland of Marin County, north of San Francisco. In sharp contrast to the much smaller and mostly flat Ellis Island, Angel Island is dominated by an 800-foot-high peak. After serving for thousands of years as hunting and fishing territory for the coastal Miwok people, the island came under Spanish colonial control during the late eighteenth century and passed to the United States in 1848, after the Mexican War. In 1863, the U.S. Army established a camp on the island and built artillery installations along its shore. The island served as a departure and homecoming port for troops during the Spanish-American War and both world wars. Some prisoners of war were detained on the island, and the Army operated a quarantine station there for many years.
In 1905, the federal government decided to expand beyond military use of the island by building an immigration facility near an inlet called China Cove on the island’s northeast coast. Opened for business five years later, the Angel Island Immigration Station became the principal site where U.S. officials detained and interrogated thousands of new arrivals from China, Japan, and other Asian countries. Unlike European immigrants, who were welcomed to the United States after cursory examinations, Asian immigrants passing through Angel Island experienced targeted discrimination in the form of exclusion policies mandated by U.S. laws originally enacted during the 1880’s.
Large-scale Chinese immigration to the United States had begun in 1848, at the start of the California gold rush. Tens of thousands of Chinese workers dug for gold, built railroads, and worked for rock-bottom wages at many other jobs, often sending remittance money home to families in China. Meanwhile, they encountered widespread hostility from Americans of European ancestry, many of whom feared competition from cheap Asian labor. In 1882, the Chinese became targets of federal anti-immigration legislation in the formof the Chinese Exclusion Act, which one U.S. senator denounced as "legalization of racial discrimination.” The act barred all Chinese laborers and most other Chinese from entering the United States, and placed numerous restrictions on those already in the country. China at this time was a politically weak nation, unable to protest the discriminatory treatment its sons and daughters received in the United States, so the policy faced no effective international challenges and was later renewed.
After 1910, immigration officials at Angel Island developed elaborate procedures to identify and deport would-be immigrants from China who sought ways around the ban on their immigration. The immigrants knew that the Exclusion Act could not apply to the children of American citizens, so if Chinese Americans born in the United States had offspring in China, those children should have the legal right to enter the United States. After many public records were destroyed by San Francisco’s great earthquake and fire of 1906, it became common for young men in China to buy documents that identified them as American citizens by claiming U.S.-born Chinese men as their fathers. Immigration officials at Angel Island had no way to tell "paper sons” from real sons, so they detained many male immigrants for weeks or months and tried to expose them as frauds by quizzing them in minute detail about such topics as family histories and ancestral villages. Typical interrogations included questions about habits or facial characteristics of relatives and odd bits of information about the histories and customs of the home villages. Immigrants prepared for weeks for the dreaded Angel Island interrogations, which were conducted through interpreters and could result in deportation because of misunderstandings or miscommunication. Chinese women immigrating as wives or daughters of American-born Chinese experienced similar detentions and interrogation. Whole families in detention were frequently separated and housed according to sex, a policy that was particularly hard on young children.
A small number of immigrant detainees were held for more than two years and interrogated numerous times. Despair was common among these long-term detainees, several of whom committed suicide during the center’s years of operation. Some detainees at Angel Island responded to their imprisonment and interrogation by composing poems that they painted or carved on walls inside the immigration station’s detention barracks.
During the early twentieth century, the Japanese population in the United States was less than one quarter that of the country’s Chinese population, but the Japanese also endured anti-Asian prejudice. However, because Japan was then a more powerful country than China, the U.S. government tried to avoid formal exclusion of Japanese immigrants. Nevertheless, in 1907, a Gentlemen’s Agreement forged between the United States and Japan created severe restrictions on further Japanese immigration. At Angel Island, Japanese men and women met with detention and interrogation techniques similar to those used on the Chinese.
During the early twentieth century, many Japanese arrivals at Angel Island were "picture brides” who had never met the husbands who arranged for their passage to America. It was common for Japanese men living in the United States to find brides in Japan by employing traditional matchmakers and exchanging photographs. After surrogate weddings, the newlywed women could embark for America and present themselves to immigration officials as the wives of U.S. residents. Japanese "picture brides” were detained at Angel Island for medical examinations and other immigration procedures. If a new husband did not collect his bride in a timely fashion, the woman was deported. Some couples had to go through weddings performed by Christian ministers before the brides were formally admitted into the United States.
The federal government stopped processing immigrants through Angel Island in 1940, three years before Congress finally repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act. Angel Island was later transformed into a California state park, and its immigration station was made a National Historic Landmark. A restored barracks building houses a museum in which visitors can view the Chinese inscriptions on the walls.
Karen Manners Smith
Lai, Him Mark, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung. Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940. Seattle: University ofWashington Press, 1991. Scholarly treatment of the immigrant experience shaped through oral history and detainee poetry in Chinese and English translation.
Okihiro, Gary Y. Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994. Asians in the broader context of U.S. national and international history.
Soennichsen, John. Miwoks to Missiles: A History of Angel Island. San Francisco: Angel Island Association, 2001. Popular history of Angel Island, including military uses of the island as well as the history of the immigration station.
Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998. Highly readable background for the Asian immigrant experience in the United States. Covers local Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Filipino immigrant history.
See also: Asian immigrants; California; Chinese immigrants; Deportation; Ellis Island; Japanese immigrants; Korean immigrants; Paper sons; Picture brides; San Francisco.Read the full story
The Law: Agreement allowing the United States to regulate, limit, or suspend immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States
Date: Signed on November 17, 1880
Significance: By placing restrictions on the number of Chinese workers permitted to immigrate to the United States, the Angell Treaty marked a turning point in the U.S.-Chinese relationship on immigration issues that paved the way for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which suspended Chinese immigration for ten years.
In 1880, James Burrill Angell, president of the University of Michigan, was nominated as minister to China by U.S. president Rutherford B. Hayes. Angell was confirmed by the Senate on April 9, 1880. Angell’s first task was to negotiate changes to the Burlingame Treaty of 1868 that would reduce the number of Chinese immigrants moving into the western United States. Angell and fellow members of the treaty commission to China, John F. Swift and William Henry Trescot, traveled to Peking (now Beijing), China, in June, 1880, to seek an agreement.
Using the argument that Chinese laborers did not readily assimilate into American culture, Angell and his colleagues negotiated a treaty to regulate and limit the immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States but not to prohibit it outright. The resulting AngellTreaty was signed on November 17, 1880, and proclaimed U.S. law on October 5, 1881. This treaty ended free Chinese immigration to the United States and separated U.S. trade interests from the immigration issue. It also provided an avenue for anti-Chinese lobbyists to push for an exclusion law. Most of the protections that the treaty secured for Chinese immigrants were reversed by passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
Alvin K. Benson
Lee, Erika. At America’s Gates: Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
McClain, Charles J. In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
See also: Anti-Chinese movement; Burlingame Treaty of 1868; Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; Chinese Exclusion Cases; Chinese immigrants; Page Law of 1875; Taiwanese immigrants.Read the full story
The Event: Era that saw widespread opposition to Chinese immigration at the local, state, and federal levels
Location: West Coast of the United States, primarily California
Significance: The Anti-Chinese movement developed out of anti-Chinese attitudes in the mining fields of California during the 1850’s to become a more widespread movement during the 1870’s. The movement was successful in helping to get the federal government to pass legislation restricting Chinese immigration that was enforced from the 1880’s until the 1940’s.
Contemporary newspaper illustration of the anti-Chinese rioting in Denver, Colorado, in 1880. (Library of Congress)
When Chinese immigrants first arrived in the United States, they were accepted because they performed work considered undesirable by European Americans. However, as their numbers increased, strong resentment developed on theWest Coast, particularly in California. Chinese immigrants encountered prejudice and discrimination that were sometimes manifested in violence. Ultimately, the anti-Chinese movement helped foster federal legislation that severely restricted Chinese immigration for several decades.
The discovery of gold in California in 1848 initiated the first significant wave of Chinese immigration to the United States. The state of California attempted to limit the ability of Chinese immigrants to assimilate. Miners of European descent were angered that the Chinese were gaining mining permits and finding gold that, in their minds, was rightfully theirs. The state government of California passed Foreign Miners’ License Tax laws in 1850 and 1852 that required all miners who were not U.S. citizens to pay three dollars per month in taxes (later increased to six dollars, and finally lowered to four dollars). Because Chinese workers were ineligible for U.S. citizenship, more of them had to pay this tax than members of any other immigrant group.
In 1851, John Bigler was elected governor of California on an anti-Chinese platform. Four years later, the state’s supreme court ruled that Chinese had the same limited rights as African Americans and Native Americans, meaning that they could not testify against white citizens in court. There was such a strong anti-Chinese feeling nationally that when a bill was introduced in Congress that would give Chinese Americans the right to vote, it was rejected. Many Americans who supported the anti- Chinese movement in the West regarded the Chinese as morally and intellectually inferior to all other minority groups in the region. These people consistently blamed the Chinese for the ills of the community.
As time passed, anti-Chinese sentiment gained support among the wider population. As the national economy suffered during the 1870’s, labor union leaders led the outcry against the Chinese for keeping wages low and taking potential jobs from white Americans. Labor leaders, along with politicians, used the charge that Chinese would work for lower wages as a way to win votes. Along with the economic issues, the movement focused on the cultural differences and stereotypes of the Chinese immigrants. Those opposed to Chinese immigration pointed to opium smoking, gambling, and prostitution as examples of the negative influences that Chinese immigrants had on American society. Furthermore, they looked down on the Chinese reluctance to assimilate and adopt the mainstream American way of life.
The anti-Chinese movement continued to grow during the 1880’s. With pressure from California, the federal government became involved as the movement gained national support. The federal government moved to stop Chinese immigration altogether. In the 1868 Burlingame Treaty with China, the U.S. government had encouraged the immigration of Chinese nationals to the United States. Just over a decade later, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 suspended all immigration of Chinese to the United States. This act was amended in 1884 to make it more difficult for Chinese laborers working in the United States who left the country to return.
After new Chinese immigration was mostly eliminated, the anti-Chinese movement turned its attention against Chinese who were already residing in the United States. There had been scattered incidents of violence in California against Chinese during the 1870’s, but the movement became more violent throughout the West during the mid-1880’s. This tension had been growing in both the mining fields and along the railroads—two sectors of the economy that employed large numbers of Chinese workers. In 1885, large-scale violence erupted in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where white vigilantes stormed through the Chinese community, killing many people and driving away many of the rest. Additional incidents later occurred in other Chinatowns throughout the Far West.
After violence on the West Coast, the United States strengthened its anti-Chinese stance. First, the government approved the expulsion of Chinese laborers who owned property in the United States or had wives living in the country. In 1888, Congress passed the Scott Act, which banned both the immigration and the return of Chinese laborers to the United States. This law had the impact of refusing reentry to tens of thousands of Chinese who had temporarily left the United States. The anti-Chinese movement was successful in renewing the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1892 and establishing a permanent ban in 1902. Because of the anti-Chinese movement, Chinese immigration remained outlawed until 1943.
David R. Buck
Gyory, Andrew. Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Good analyis of why the federal government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
McClain, Charles J. In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth- Century America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. Focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area, McClain examines Chinese efforts to mobilize against discrimination in employment, housing, and education.
Miller, Stuart Creighton. The Unwelcome Immigrant: The American Image of the Chinese, 1785-1882. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. Documents American anti-Chinese feeling from the arrival of the first Chinese in the late eighteenth century to 1882, the year in which the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. Bibliographical references and index.
Sandmeyer, Elmer Clarence. The Anti-Chinese Movement in California. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1991. Considered by some historians to be the best work on the subject of anti- Chinese discrimination in California. Bibliographical references.
See also: Angell Treaty of 1880; Burlingame Treaty of 1868; California; Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; Chinese Exclusion Cases; Chinese immigrants; "Mongrelization”; Nativism; San Francisco; Stereotyping.Read the full story
Identification: Civil rights organization founded to combat anti-Semitism
Date: Established in October, 1913
Significance: Although the Anti-Defamation League was founded to correct injustices toward the Jewish people, it later broadened its mission to seek justice and fair treatment for all social groups.
Leo Frank, whose lynching helped prompt the creation of the Anti-Defamation League. (Library of Congress)
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was founded as an American Jewish defense organization by the Chicago chapter of B’nai B’rith. A decade before World War I, the United States experienced a vast influx of immigrants. More than 10 percent were Jews, who tended to settle in the cities of the East Coast such as New York City. Many of these Jewish immigrants were living among other immigrants who had carried their hatred and fear of Jews from their home countries, and the seemingly endless Jewish immigration from eastern Europe increased anti-Semitism. Wearing unfamiliar clothing, speaking a language most Americans did not understand, and engaging in religious practices that seemed bizarre, Jews were "othered” by some non-Jewish Americans who experienced discomfort and fear.
At the 1908 meeting of the executive committee of B’nai B’rith, Rabbi Joseph Silverman of New York proposed establishing an agency to promote "the Jewish name” and to combat stereotypes of Jews. Five years later, Chicago lawyer Sigmund Livingston, himself an immigrant from Germany, suggested the formation of a National Caricature Committee, the name reflecting the negative portrayals of Jews in the media. Early film, the vaudeville stage, dime novels, and even daily newspapers introduced the stereotype of the repulsive Jew. On stage, the Jew was a cheater, an arsonist, or a liar; on film, he was a usurer, smuggler, or worse. These stereotypes reinforced anti-Semitism and helped lay the groundwork formobviolence against Jews.
A few months before the founding of the organization that was finally named the Anti-Defamation League, Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager, had been found guilty of rape and murder in an Atlanta trial where crowds outside the courthouse chanted, "Hang the Jew.” After reviewing the evidence, the governor of Georgia commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment. In August, 1915, a mob inflamed by anti-Semitic propaganda took Frank from prison and lynched him. Anti- Semitic words turned to deeds.
Livingston and fifteen leaders of the Jewish community convened the first meeting of the ADL in Chicago. They established a 150-member executive committee representing Jews across the United States. With a budget of two hundred dollars from B’nai B’rith and two desks in Livingston’s law office, the organization began its mission: "to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience, and if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people.” The league was also committed to securing "justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike.” One of the first actions of the ADL was to eliminate negative images of Jews in the media. Adolph S. Ochs, a member of the ADL executive committee and publisher of The New York Times, wrote a letter to newspaper editors nationwide decrying the use of "objectionable and vulgar” references to Jews in the national press. By 1920, such references had virtually ceased.
The work of the ADL was carried forward through aggressive campaigns to educate people about anti-Semitism. Through the publication of pamphlets and short films, the league sought to eradicate negative stereotypes of Jews and to promote awareness of Jewish contributions to American life. However, serious attempts to defame Jews continued. For example, in 1920, industrialist Henry Ford began publishing the widely circulated anti-Jewish tabloid The Dearborn Independent. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), proclaiming its hatred of Jews, experienced a resurgence in the South and several northern states, with four to five million members throughout the United States. KKK activities including boycotting Jewish merchants, smashing shop windows, and burning crosses outside synagogues.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (first published in English in 1919) was introduced to America and spread throughout the country. This document, later proved to be a forgery, stated that Jews were plotting to overthrow all governments and take over the world. Many Americans, conditioned to negative beliefs about Jews, accepted the document as truth. By September, 1920, anti-Semitism was so widespread that the ADL and other Jewish groups met to consider action. One outcome was a manifesto denouncing anti-Semitism signed by 116 of the nation’s leaders, all of whom were Christians, including U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, former presidentWilliam Howard Taft, and Cardinal William O’Connell.
During the 1930’s, as National Socialism (Nazism) gained momentum in Europe, attacks against Jews in America increased. The Nazis spent millions of dollars on propaganda in America; the ADL estimated that by the end of the 1930’s there were more than five hundred anti-Semitic organizations in the United States. During the lowest point of the Great Depression, many non-Jewish Americans believed that the Jews were responsible for their economic woes. The anti-Jewish radio propaganda of Father Charles Coughlin, broadcast over 475 stations, fueled this conspiracy theory.
Following World War II, the ADL worked toward ending social discrimination against Jews, focusing on barriers against Jewish memberships in organizations and prohibitions in housing. The ADL also started a "crack the quota” campaign against anti- Jewish discrimination in college and medical school admissions. The league’s weapons were the media and the law.
Over the years, the ADL has fought discrimination against Jews and other groups. During the 1960’s, for example, the ADL was actively involved with the Civil Rights movement. Headquartered since 1947 in New York City, the ADL works to provide civil liberties for all. It continues its original mission to heighten awareness of anti-Jewish propaganda, such as Holocaust-denying Web sites. The ADL alerts people to white supremacist pronouncements and denounces those who defame Jews.
Marcia B. Dinneen
Forster, Arnold. "The Anti-Defamation League.” The Wiener Library Bulletin 28, no. 33 (1975): 52- 58. A detailed look at the background of the ADL and the league’s continuing efforts to combat anti-Semitism.
Friedman, Saul A. No Haven for the Oppressed: United States Policy Toward Jewish Refugees, 1938-1945. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1973. Discusses how the intensification of Judeophobia in the United States led to the founding of the ADL.
Grusd, Edward E. B’nai B’rith: The Story of a Covenant. New York: Appleton-Century, 1966. Describes the context that led to the founding of the ADL.
O’Brien, Lee. American Jewish Organizations and Israel. Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1986. Includes general background on the ADL, including its founding, structure, and projects.
Svonkin, Stuart. Jews Against Prejudice: American Jews and the Fight for Civil Liberties. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Focuses on the post- World War II activities of the ADL.
See also: Affirmative action; American Jewish Committee; Anti-Semitism; Israeli immigrants; Jewish immigrants; Ku Klux Klan; Stereotyping.Read the full story
Definition: Dislike of Jews, based solely on their being Jewish, sometimes expressed in public pronouncements and hostile actions
Significance: Except for isolated instances, most notably the lynching of Leo Frank in Georgia in 1915, anti-Semitism in America never acquired the malevolent levels that it frequently reached in Europe. Discrimination had its greatest effects on U.S. immigration policies during the decades between the late nineteenth century and the era ofWorld War II. The refusal of the United States to admit European Jews trying to flee German Nazism during the 1930’s condemned most of these persons to murder at the hands of the Nazis.
Puck magazine cartoon lampooning Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe in 1881. (Library of Congress)
The lure of freedom for Jews can be found in the earliest decades following the founding of the first settlements in what became the United States. The first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam, which would later become New York City, in 1654, when twentythree Dutch colonists fled Recife off the coast of Brazil after the Portuguese occupied the island. Despite the reputation of Jews as productive citizens in Holland, even in the New World they continued to face discrimination, and at times even hatred. New Amsterdam governor Peter Stuyvesant considered them a "deceitful race,” "blasphemers of Christ.” Jews were permitted to worship only in their private homes—a situation that did not immediately change even after the British replaced the Dutch as rulers of New Amsterdam in 1664.
The period from the mid-seventeenth century to approximately 1830 represented the first, albeit limited, immigration of Jews from Europe to the United States. A second period, of greater immigration levels, occurred between 1830 and 1880. It saw the arrival of mostly of German and other western European Jews. The third and largest influx of Jews took place between 1880 and 1924, when most Jewish immigrants were from eastern Europe, particularly from Russia. The search for religious and political freedoms as well as economic opportunities was a primary driving factor during each of these periods. However, the relative importance displayed by each of these issues varied during the respective eras.
Most American settlers during the colonial era of North America were British. What little anti- Semitism they displayed was reflected primarily in attitudes or verbal attacks rather than in statutory legal restrictions. At the time of the late eighteenth century American Revolution, approximately two thousand Jews lived in the North American colonies. New York City and Charleston, South Carolina had the largest concentrations. Many of these people had immigrated from Spain and Portugal or those countries’ colonies, not from England, which was itself home to only about eight thousand Jews at that time. In the British colonies, Jews had been granted full rights of citizenry by an act of Great Britain’s Parliament in 1740—a privilege not then available to Roman Catholics. Nevertheless, while interactions between individual Christians and Jews were generally amicable, British attitudes toward the Jewish "race” often reflected contemporary prejudices about allegedly unscrupulous Jewish business practices.
The United States gained its independence in 1783. The U.S. Constitution that was ratified in 1789 contained no clauses discriminating against Jews or members of any other religious group and specifically guaranteed that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which was ratified two years later, specifically guaranteed that the federal government would not interfere in the free exercise of religion. However, while federal laws did not discriminate against Jews, some state laws restricted Jewish officeholders into the nineteenth century. In 1780, as prominent a figure as John Quincy Adams, the son of one of the nation’s Founders and a future president himself, said that Jews were willing "to steal the eyes out of your head if they possibly could.”
Even during this period, Jews in the public eye could be subject to personal attacks. Benjamin Nones, a Revolutionary War hero from Philadelphia and a member of Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party, was forced to defend himself against Federalist attacks denouncing him not only for being a Jew, but for being poor as well. New York politician Mordecai Noah, whose father and grandfather had fought in the American Revolution, was likewise denounced as an "enemy of Christ.” His position as a diplomat in Tunis was revoked because of his Judaism. Despite such obvious examples of antipathy toward Jews, Jew willing to convert to Christianity were generally accepted into what was considered polite society.
Between 1830 and the 1880’s, the number of Jews in the United States rose to approximately 200,000. Most of this increase was the result of immigration of Ashkenazi Jews from central and western Europe, in contrast to the Sephardic immigrants from Iberia of earlier years. Many of these transplanted Europeans settled in the cities along the East Coast, from which they gradually moved inland to the growing cities of Cincinnati, St. Louis, and New Orleans. In this they differed little from the millions of other European immigrants then entering America.
Complex reasons prompted the emigration of Jews from Europe through the mid-nineteenth century. Before the 1870’s, most of them left Europe for economic or political reasons, in contrast to later immigrants who fled from lethal pogroms. The decades of the 1830’s and 1840’s were a period of political turmoil that culminated in a series of mostly unsuccessful revolutions around the year 1848. After these revolutions failed, many young Europeans filled with revolutionary ideals looked elsewhere for their future. During this same period of political change, a population explosion was taking place in Europe while economic changes were limiting opportunities for young people. Jews were particularly affected, as merchant, trading, and skilled artisan occupations at which they had historically worked were disappearing.
Meanwhile, American attitudes toward Jews were undergoing changes as new German, Irish, and other immigrants brought their own prejudices against Jews to America. Attacks on Jews became increasingly common, and acts of discrimination against Jews increased. In Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, Roman Catholic priests told domestic workers not to work for Jewish employers. The speaker of California’s state assembly tried, unsuccessfully, to levy a special tax on Jews to induce them to leave the state.
Some eight thousand Jews fought in the U.S. Civil War. Most fought for the Union army, but the most prominent Jew during the war was arguably Judah Benjamin, a former U.S. senator who became secretary of state for the Confederacy. Early during the war, Union general Ulysses Grant issued what may have been the most blatantly anti-Semitic official statement in American history. In December, 1862, he issued an order in which he accused Jews "as a class” of war profiteering and ordered all Jews to leave certain parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi within twenty-four hours. However, after the order was brought to the attention of President Abraham Lincoln, it was revoked. During the decades following the CivilWar, Jews increasingly integrated into mainstream American society. Many became prominent merchants. Nevertheless, anti-Semitic discrimination persisted. For example, the prominent businessman Joseph Seligman was refused admittance to an upscale hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York, because he was Jewish. However, Jewish communities were becoming increasingly accepted as part of the American landscape.
Wholesale changes in the demographics of American Jews, and the response of the country at large, began with the mass influxes that began during the 1880’s and continued into the 1920’s. During those years, nearly 2.4 million Jews immigrated to the United States. Most came from eastern Europe, and most of them settled in the cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Poverty was among the forces that drove Jews to emigrate from Europe, but increasingly virulent anti-Semitic nationalism in some eastern European countries was rising to the level of lethal pogroms against Jewish communities.
Educated Jewish immigrants from western Europe integrated into American society relatively easily, but more poorly educated immigrants from Russia were considered by many Americans as less intelligent and of poor genetic stock. As these immigrants’ names revealed their Slavic ancestry, many immigrants changed their names to appear more American. It was common for these persons to change their names to reflect their "Americanization.” For example, the name "Pakerevich” became "Baker,” and "Israel Baline” became "Irving Berlin.”
While overt hatred, particularly in the South, was generally directed against members of racial minorities, such feelings were also occasionally directed against Jews. The most blatant example was the 1915 lynching of the Jewish Atlanta businessman Leo Frank, who had been unjustly convicted of the rape and murder of an employee. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company and a major figure in business during the 1920’s, regularly published anti-Semitic editorials in his own newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. Father Charles Coughlin preached anti-Semitism to the nation from his pulpit in Royal Oak, Michigan.
The growing anti-Semitic attitude was reflected most clearly in changes in immigration laws that were directed against eastern and southern Europeans in general, but against Jews from those regions in particular. For example, the Immigration Act of 1924 established a quota system that severely restricted Jewish immigration from most of Europe. These new limits on immigration had an immediate impact on Jews attempting to flee Europe following the rise of fascism during the 1930’s. The appointment of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party to power in Germany in 1933 was rapidly followed by German legalization of discrimination against Jews. The anti-Jewish riots that began during November, 1938, were merely the prelude to the rounding up and eventual murder of Jews throughout Europe.
The resistance of the United States to Jewish immigration during the 1930’s was dramatized in the St. Louis affair in 1939. When the German ship St. Louis, carrying more than 900 Jews attempting to escape from Europe, arrived in Cuba, its passengers were not allowed to disembark, and they were ultimately refused permission to enter the United States. Most had to return to Europe, where they were eventually murdered. In 1939, the Wagner- Rogers Bill designed to admit 20,000 Jewish children from Europe was voted down in Congress. Despite the admittance of prominent individuals. such as Albert Einstein, few Jews were allowed to enter America during the 1930’s.
Although there was strong evidence that Nazi Germany was trying to exterminate European and Russian Jews throughout the war, the full extent of German atrocities became widely known only after the surrender of Germany in May, 1945. Hundreds of thousands of European Jews who survived the Holocaust became stateless; even the idea that they might return to what was left of their prewar homes was unrealistic. Whether public awareness of the extent of the Holocaust changed American attitudes or merely rendered overt anti-Semitism no longer acceptable is unclear. Returning American soldiers regarded the elimination of racial and religious discrimination to be a major priority, and criticism of Jews as a people was significantly reduced. Although Jews within some individual professions continued to endure some discrimination, often in the form of hiring quotas, legal barriers against Jews were gradually eliminated. Even the Hollywood film industry addressed discrimination and hatred against Jews. In the film Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), for example, actor Gregory Peck played a reporter pretending to be Jewish in order to investigate discrimination, while the plot of Crossfire (1947) involved the murder by bigots of a Jewish war hero.
U.S. immigration policies that had historically discriminated against Jews began to change as well. A bill proposed by Congressman William Stratton of Illinois in 1947 to admit 400,000 displaced persons, including Jews, went nowhere. However, one year later Congress did pass a similar bill to admit more than 200,000 displaced persons, the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. Efforts by members of Congress to establish into law provisions of the 1948 act that continued to create barriers to immigration of displaced Jews were defeated, and by 1960 an estimated 250,000 survivors had arrived. The Civil Rights movement during the 1960’s, while primarily addressing discrimination against African Americans and members of other racial minorities, ended most remaining legal barriers directed against Jews as well.
The last major influx of Jewish immigrants to the United States began during the late 1970’s and continued through the presidency of Ronald Reagan, as emigration barriers in the Soviet Union slowly beginning to lift. Approximately two million Jews had remained in Russia following World War II. An increasing number of activists, largely but not solely Jewish, began a campaign directed at the Soviet government to allow these Jews to emigrate. Pressure from the United States as well as internal Russian refuseniks eventually proved successful. Ultimately, nearly 200,000 Russian Jews immigrated to America between 1979 and 1990.
Diner, Hasia. The Jews of the United States, 1654-2000. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. In addition to treating Jewish history from a religious viewpoint, Diner addresses economic and cultural changes within the community. A feminist perspective underlies much of the history.
Dinnerstein, Leonard. Antisemitism in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Comprehensive history of anti-Semitism that addresses the earliest European Christian biases toward Jews and the influence of those beliefs during the earliest years of Jewish immigration. Chapters divide American history into specific periods, emphasizing the evolution of anti-Semitism and effects on immigration policy during each period.
Gerber, David, ed. Anti-Semitism in American History. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1986. Collection of essays analyzing both the roots of anti-Semitism and resultant discrimination against Jews. Subjects such as mythological accusations against Jewish practices, and interactions among Jews and other minorities are covered.
Wenger, Beth. The Jewish Americans. New York: Doubleday, 2007. Comprehensive history of 350 years of Jewish history in America. The book contains extensive first-person accounts of the Jewish experience, accompanied by a large number of photographs.
See also: American Jewish Committee; Anti-Defamation League; Displaced Persons Act of 1948; History of immigration, 1783-1891; History of immigration after 1891; Holocaust; Israeli immigrants; Jewish immigrants; Nativism; Religion as a pushpull factor; Stereotyping.Read the full story
Significance: Christian and Muslim Arab immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, initially drawn to the United States by economic opportunities, have both assimilated into and remained distinct from mainstream American culture, creating a distinctive literary and ethnic identity and working to address stereotypes and prejudices arising from the unfamiliarity of Middle Eastern peoples in the United States.
Arab immigrant accountant helping a Latino man prepare his income tax forms in Chicago in early 2007. Known as Al- Muhaseb (the accountant) in Arabic, the man’s company was affiliated with H&R Block, the giant tax-preparation firm. (AP/Wide World Photos)
Tracing the historical presence of Arab immigrants during the various periods of their arrival in the United States raises questions of cultural complexity and religious diversity as well as problems of identification. During the early years of the first major period of immigration, which lasted from 1881 to 1914, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration used no standard terminology to identify from what parts of the Ottoman Empire Arab immigrants originated. Instead, the bureau used such labels as Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Ottomans, and Syrians. After 1899, the bureau simply labeled all Arab immigrants as "Syrians.”
The initial wave of immigration brought roughly 110,000 Arabic speakers to the United States before World War I (1914-1918). A second, much smaller, number entered between 1920 and 1924, when passage of a new federal immigration act set a quota on Arab immigrants. The 1924 law represented a shift in American opinion away from the open immigration policies of the earlier era, limiting the entry of members of designated ethnic or national origin groups to 2 percent of the numbers of those groups who had been counted in the 1890 U.S. census. This had the practical effect of further limiting the number of immigrants from Arab lands who could qualify for admission, as the bulk of immigrants to the United States before 1890 had come from northern Europe.
|Countries of origin||Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen|
|Primary regions of U.S. settlement||Northeast, Midwest|
|Earliest significant arrivals||1880’s|
|Peak immigration period||Mid- to late twentieth century|
|Twenty-first century legal residents*||262,468 (32,809 per year)|
*Immigrants who obtained legal permanent resident status in the United States. These figures are only for immigrants from nations whose populations have the highest percentages of ethnic Arabs—those listed above. Other nations with large Arab populations include Chad, Israel, Somalia, and Sudan.
Source: Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2008.
The first Arabic speakers to arrive in the United States were Christians from Lebanon. Higher percentages of Muslim immigrants arrived during the next major period of Arab immigration, from the early 1950’s to the mid-1960’s. Another increase came after the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which abolished the quota system. The Arab countries that contributed the greatest numbers of immigrants after 1965 were Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan, and Iraq.
The first Arab immigrants generally settled in the urban areas of the Northeast and Midwest of the United States, forming their own ethnic neighborhoods. By the beginning of World War II, they had established major presences in New York City, Boston, and Detroit. Their economic profile was both as members of the industrial workforce and independent businesspeople who traveled widely in search of customers for their lines of household goods.
The second wave of Arab immigrants, who came during the 1950’s, brought a significant number of professional people seeking better conditions. Their numbers were augmented by university students who chose to remain in the United States and followed employment opportunities to new homes, often creating an Arab presence where none had been before. The third wave, after 1965, contained a mixture of skilled and unskilled workers, many fleeing civil strife or instability in their homelands. However, equal numbers simply sought better lives for themselves and their families. The third stream of Arab immigration contributed most of the visible face of Arab America known to the rest of the United States.
All three waves of Arab immigrants initially encountered a variety of prejudicial attitudes beyond those associated with belonging to any group of newcomers to America working to establish themselves. The initial group from Syria and Lebanon entered the United States at a time when nativism was widespread and a cultural imperative on making all immigrants assimilate completely into white Protestant society was in vogue. The newcomers were viewed as suspect for multiple reasons. Not only were they foreign born and speaking limited English, they also were dark skinned, often unskilled, and members of either the Roman Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox faiths. Their village backgrounds, family loyalties, and relatively small numbers worked to preclude the establishment of a distinct and visible Arab ethnic segment of the population in a fashion similar to the process undergone by such groups as the Italians, whose own provincial origins took second place to their identification with their native country. The question of Arab eligibility for admission as American citizens proved contentious after 1910, due to federal government restrictions on Arab immigration. However, a series of successful lawsuits filed between 1910 and 1923 by members of what was loosely known as the "Syrian” community eventually established that Arabs were to be considered eligible for American citizenship.
The predominantly Muslim Arab immigrants who arrived during the 1950’s and early 1960’s usually arrived with greater economic resources and higher levels of professional education than the members of the first wave had possessed. They were far less flexible in blending with America society than their Christian Arab predecessors had been. They preferred to retain their allegiance to Islam and remained engaged in Middle Eastern political issues. Mainstream American general opinion toward Arab immigrants altered sharply following the Six-Day War of June, 1967, in which the American ally Israel fought several of its Arab neighbors. After a series of highly publicized airline hijackings by Middle Eastern groups, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon issued an executive order in September, 1972, that was intended to prevent terrorists from gaining entrance to the United States. His order authorized special measures against Arabs, ranging from the imposition of restrictions on their entry and ability to apply for permanent resident status to surveillance of community organizations under the code name Operation Boulder.
The fact that no incidents of terrorist activity connected with the Arab American community had occurred raised questions about the necessity of the president’s measure. However, the situation was further complicated by the subsequent oil embargo and the sharp rise in petroleum prices imposed by the Arab-dominated Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after the conclusion of another Arab-IsraeliWar in October, 1973. Before these developments, Arab Americans had drawn little public attention in the United States. However, these events prompted a cultural redefinition of what it meant to belong to this community. No distinction was made in political language or mass media journalism to reflect the actual diversity of the contemporary Arab world, which was publicly cast as made up of vicious terrorists intent on destroying America, fanatical religious leaders—no matter which sect of Islam—and unscrupulous businesspeople. These stereotypes were based partly on political realities but were widely disseminated within the United States, unrelieved by positive characterizations of Arabic speakers in American culture.
The presence of such inaccurate images has contributed to a sense of social marginality among Arab Americans that has been addressed in several ways. While some Arab immigrants have made complete breaks with their home cultures and have adopted American lifestyles and values, others stress their uniqueness to distance themselves from being associated with a particular Arab nation or withdraw into ethnic communities, following the pattern of earlier arrivals.
A third response has been to confront stereotypes directly by stressing points of commonality between Islamic and American culture by calling attention to common emphases on strong families and beliefs held by both Muslims and Christians. Although the history of Arab immigrant civil rights activism can be said to begin with the protest by a delegation representing the Association of Syrian Unity made to the federal government during the citizenship disputes before World War I, most such groups came into being during the 1980’s. Perhaps ironically, the success of Arab Americans in adapting to mainstream culture during the earlier part of the twentieth century had the unexpected result of isolating them from the issues of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. The largest civil rights organization countering stereotypes and misinformation about the Arab communities has been the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Founded by South Dakota politician James Abourezk—the first Arab American to serve in the U.S. Senate—in 1980, it quickly established chapters nationwide. In 1985, the Arab American Institute was established inWashington, D.C., to encourage and promote greater involvement by Arab Americans in civic life and the political process.
In 1987, the Reagan administration attempted to prosecute two longtime Palestinian American residents of California and six of their associates who had been distributing literature and working at fund-raising for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The government charged that they were promoting communism. Dubbed the "LA 8,” the Arab defendants were not deported, as a federal judge ruled the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, under which they were being prosecuted, to be unconstitutional. The government continued to attempt to revive the case six times over a period of twenty years, using successive pieces of antiterrorist legislation including the Patriot Act. In 2007, the Board of Immigration Appeals announced that no further action would be taken, following a ruling by a Los Angeles federal immigration judge that the plaintiffs’ civil rights had been repeatedly violated. This long, drawn-out case served as the focus for Arab immigrant distrust of the federal government and, despite the eventual vindication of the accused, created a legacy of wariness that was only exacerbated by the terrorist attacks on America of September 11, 2001.
The varied social impacts of the events of September 11, 2001, on the Arab immigrant communities were based upon several pieces of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. There was an intensification of existing negative stereotypes about Arabic speakers and an erosion of certain civil rights and elements of due process in investigations carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with the stated aim of identifying possible terrorists and their accomplices, based in large part on racial profiling. Male immigrants fromArab nations regarded as terrorist havens who did not possess green cards were frequently required to be photographed, fingerprinted, and registered by the federal government. More than 140,000 people were registered. Only a handful of the people investigated were actually accused of having terrorist links, but the process resulted in hundreds of Arab immigrants leaving the United States for their home nations, Canada, or Europe to avoid official deportation.
Many of the actions taken by the FBI were sharply criticized by the U.S. Justice Department. These actions also helped energize civil liberties organizations within and outside the Arab community to oppose the selective enforcement of immigration law being utilized to target them. Arab immigrants found themselves having repeatedly to deal with the domestic political consequences of policies and actions they did not condone. They also were repeatedly obliged to emphasize and assert their adoption of American national culture, a process complicated by ignorance among mainstream Americans of the actual core values of Islam.
Despite these problems, the numbers of Arab nationals applying for immigrant status to the United States held firm after 2001—at an average of about 4 percent of total U.S. immigration. However, there was a sharp decline in the numbers of foreign student visas issued to applicants fromMiddle Eastern countries. The drop in student visas ranged from 31 percent for persons from Lebanon to 65 percent for persons from the Persian Gulf states. At the same time, however, the U.S. government actively sought persons fluent in all dialects of the Arabic language to work in its counterterrorism campaign. Ironically, the scarcity of Arabiclanguage programs in American institutions of higher education forced the government to accept applicants for these new positions from among recent Arab immigrants, who faced lengthy periods of security evaluation before they were hired.
These cultural and political challenges resulted in a new awareness of the presence of Arab immigrants in the mind of the American public and offered the immigrants an unprecedented opportunity to educate other Americans on the realities of Arab life. A prime example of this new assertiveness was the appearance in public settings across the United States of women wearing head scarves as required by the Qur$3n, a practice widespread within the Muslim world but not well known in the United States before 2001. In May, 2005, the Arab American National Museum opened in Dearborn, Michigan. These and other outreach efforts by Arab political and religious organizations has begun to create a degree of balance in how the American public regards Muslim and Christian Arab Americans.
Robert B. Ridinger
Arab American National Museum. Telling Our Story: The Arab American National Museum. Dearborn, Mich.: Author, 2007. Profile of the history and exhibits of this unique collection of Arab immigrant history.
Ewing, Katherine Pratte, ed. Being and Belonging: Muslims in the United States Since 9/11. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2008. Collection of eight ethnographic essays that explore how questions of identity and assimilation have been and are being addressed in contemporary Arab Christian and Muslim communities.
Hooglund, Eric J. W. Crossing the Waters: Arabic-Speaking Immigrants to the United States Before 1940. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987. Collection of original research essays on the first wave of Arab immigration.
Kayyali, Randa A. The Arab Americans. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006. Detailed yet readable history of the cultural background of Arabic-speaking immigrants to the United States and their participation in and impact on American society.
Mehdi, Beverlee Turner, ed. The Arabs in America, 1492-1977: A Chronology and Fact Book. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana, 1978. The history of Arabic speakers in the Americas is followed from 1789 to 1977 through fifty-five primary documents.
Naff, Alixa. Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985. History of the first wave of Arab immigrants before World War II and their economic and social networks.
Orfalea, Gregory. Before the Flames: A Quest for the History of Arab Americans. Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch Press, 2006. Collection of oral histories of 125 Arab immigrants of three generations of migration, with background information.
See also: Asian immigrants; Asian Indian immigrants; Asiatic Barred Zone; Iranian immigrants; Israeli immigrants; Muslim immigrants; 9/11 and U.S. immigration policy; Patriot Act of 2001; Religions of immigrants; Stereotyping.Read the full story