Ethnic Pride, American Patriotism: Slovaks and Other New Immigrants in the Interwar Era

Ethnic Pride, American Patriotism: Slovaks and Other New Immigrants in the Interwar Era

Ethnic Pride, American Patriotism: Slovaks and Other New Immigrants in the Interwar Era

Ethnic Pride, American Patriotism: Slovaks and Other New Immigrants in the Interwar Era

Synopsis

In Ethnic Pride, American Patriotism, June Alexander presents a history of inter-war America from the perspective of new Slovak and Eastern European immigrant communities. Like the groups that preceded them, Slovak immigrants came to define being American as adhering to its political principles; they saw no contradiction between being patriotic Americans and maintaining pride in their ancestry. To counter the negative effects of the 1924 immigration law, Slovaks mobilized a variety of political and cultural activities to insure group survival and promote ethnic pride. In numerous localities "Slovak days" brought first and second generation immigrants together to celebrate their dual identity. June Granatir Alexander's study adds complexity and nuance to entrenched notions of conflicts between tradition-bound immigrants and their American-born children. Showing that ethnicity mattered to both generations, Alexander challenges generalizations derived from "whiteness" studies. Author note: June Granatir Alexander is on the faculty of the Russian and East European Studies Program at the University of Cincinnati. She is also the author of The Immigrant Church and Community: Pittsburgh's Slovak Catholics and Lutherans, 1880-1915.

Excerpt

This work opens with World War I and closes with World War II. A major part of the discussion, though, is devoted to the interlude between these two dramatic events. The purpose is to examine a period when, because immigration faded from the national agenda and the Great Depression dominated American life, it has been assumed that immigrants and their children gave little thought to ethnicity. By focusing on Slovaks, this book attempts to view the era from the standpoint of the “new immigrants” and give them a chance to tell the story from their perspective. Since the United States used restrictive laws to curtail the addition of more foreign-born inhabitants, the demographic characteristics of the new immigrant population in 1920 furnish an essential profile of the first- and second-generation people who would live through the interwar era. To explore the interim from their perspective, it is necessary to keep in mind some distinguishing features about America's new immigrants from Europe.

By the early twentieth century, conducting America's decennial censuses involved more than merely counting the number of inhabitants; it entailed scrutinizing the results and their implications for American society. The 1920 census sustained that tradition. It confirmed what some Americans had been dreading since the turn of the century. With slightly more than half (51.4%) of its 105,710,620 inhabitants residing in incorporated places exceeding 2,500 persons, the United States had become an urban country. The 1920 enumeration reinforced a reality already evident in the census ten years earlier: since the turn of the century, America's population had grown increasingly ethnically diverse. The tabulations listed forty specific “countries of origin” and thirty-one different mother tongues. The fourteenth census showed that more than one-half of America's 13,920,692 foreign-born persons had emigrated from new immigrant homelands. Eastern and southern Europeans . . .

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