Natives and Strangers: A Multicultural History of Americans

Natives and Strangers: A Multicultural History of Americans

Natives and Strangers: A Multicultural History of Americans

Natives and Strangers: A Multicultural History of Americans

Synopsis

The United States is the most culturally diverse nation on earth, a magnet for people from all over the globe. This diversity has always been one of the great engines of our economic growth. It is a source of great pride and much celebration (even on such unlikely occasions as St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, Georgia, where schools close, the local dairy offers mint-flavored milk, and a parade ensues second only to that of New York City). And of course diversity is the cause of much tension and bad feelings, as seen in America's recurrent attacks on minority groups. Now, in Natives and Strangers, Leonard Dinnerstein, Roger L. Nichols, and David M. Reimers present a wide-ranging historical narrative that illuminates the shifting tides of America's ethnic past and present, from the English colonists of Jamestown to the Asians and Mexicans of the West. A sweeping, ambitious chronicle of our unique cultural mosaic, spanning over nearly four hundred years, Natives and Strangers surveys America's legacy of assimilation and difference, of poverty and economic advancement, of ethnic conflict and intercultural mingling, expertly weaving together these strands into an engaging and informative whole. The authors consider the changing fortunes of American Indians, slaves, and immigrants, describing how newcomers interacted and often clashed with native-born people, with government and law enforcement, and with one another in crowded tenements or on expansive farmlands. They paint a compelling portrait of the extraordinary range of immigrant experience in America: working conditions and family life, communities of religion and language, political aspirations and social repression. The authors also explore the spectrum of ethnic coalitions that have fought for equal access to scarce resources and the rise of individuals of distinct ethnic lineage to local, state, and national offices. And they discuss the periodic surges of nativism directed at those cultural groups considered at odds with mainstream society, from vitriolic attacks on the "hordes of wild Irishmen" in the early days of the American republic to the torrents of abuse heaped upon Asian immigrants until long after World War II. Finally, the book examines some of the anomalies of immigrant life in America: why, for instance, have the Germans and Scandinavians built strong communities in the Midwest, while Chinese populations have congregated in New York and San Francisco? And how did Japanese immigrants overcome decades of venomous xenophobia to become one of America's most successful, highly educated minority groups, while Puerto Ricans remain near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder? Natives and Strangers offers telling insight into the lives and history of immigrants, American Indians, and African Americans, providing readers with the most up-to-date, informative account of this nation's rich multicultural fabric.

Excerpt

American society began as a string of tiny, isolated settlements that spread inland from east, south, and west. the invading Europeans sought blacks from Africa to aid them, and together people of these two races overran the Native American population inhabiting the present United States. From the start immigration and the contests among and between distinct racial and ethnic groups became central to national, social, economic, and political development. Once established, the resident groups raised concerns about which peoples to welcome, and under what conditions newcomers were needed or desirable. At times their concerns prompted national discussion and political responses. More often, communities that served as points of entry and areas to which large numbers of immigrants moved provided the arenas where debate and action took place. Many times the ethnic and racial friction that occurred came along with the newcomers from their homelands. Whether religious, class, ethnic, or racial, the disputes and animosities played a continuing role in American history.

Our purpose in writing this book has been to emphasize the role of African Americans, Indians, and immigrant minorities in the . . .

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