The Ethnic Press in the United States: A Historical Analysis and Handbook

By Sally M. Miller | Go to book overview

Introduction

SALLY M. MILLER

The phenomenon of newspapers published in the United States for the benefit of particular immigrant groups appeared in the eighteenth century. However, the ethnic press typically may be termed a late-nineteenth-century institution which is now in many groups marking a centennial. Its peak years occurred between the end of the nineteenth century and the 1930s. While observers then presumed that the demise of the ethnic press was inevitable, since its lifeblood stemmed from open immigration policies then being reversed, such predictions have not proved to be accurate. Rather, war displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and revised federal immigration policies have led to what may be a renaissance of the ethnic media. Groups new to the United States and fresh waves of older groups have demonstrated that the forecasts were parochial and even skewed. They were based essentially on assimilationist expectations concerning the foreign-speaking groups most visible at that time.

The immigrant or ethnic press has received relatively little study. Given its importance in the various communities, especially the non-English-speaking, and the vitality and growth of ethnic studies over the last two decades, the scant attention paid to the press and the limited historiography is remarkable. The only comprehensive work remains the classic by sociologist Robert E. Park, The Immigrant Press and Its Control, published in 1922. Useful articles, published, respectively, three and four decades after Park, are "The Role of the Foreign- Language Press in Migrant Integration" by Jerzy Zubrzycki, published in Population Studies in 1958, and Joshua A. Fishman, Robert G. Hayden, and Mary E. Warshauer's "The Non-English and the Ethnic Group Press, 1910-1960," in Fishman "Language Loyalty in the United States: The Maintenance and Perpetuation of Non-English Mother Tongues by American Ethnic and Religious Groups, published in 1966. A full-length study appeared at the end of the McCarthy era, but its value was undermined by the xenophobic assumptions of the work: In Many Voices: Our Fabulous Foreign-Language Press by Edward Hunter had very limited scholarly value. But the scene is now being set for the type of close scrutiny the ethnic press merits. Various bibliographic works and

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