From All Points: America's Immigrant West, 1870S-1952

From All Points: America's Immigrant West, 1870S-1952

From All Points: America's Immigrant West, 1870S-1952

From All Points: America's Immigrant West, 1870S-1952

Synopsis

At a time when immigration policy is the subject of heated debate, this book makes clear that the true wealth of America is in the diversity of its peoples. By the end of the 20th century the American West was home to nearly half of America's immigrant population, including Asians and Armenians, Germans and Greeks, Mexicans, Italians, Swedes, Basques, and others. This book tells their rich and complex story--of adaptation and isolation, maintaining and mixing traditions, and an ongoing ebb and flow of movement, assimilation, and replenishment. These immigrants and their children built communities, added to the region's culture, and contended with discrimination and the lure of Americanization. The mark of the outsider, the alien, the nonwhite passed from group to group, even as the complexion of the region changed. The region welcomed, then excluded, immigrants, in restless waves of need and nativism that continue to this day.

Excerpt

Richard white, the eminent historian of the American West, observed that just as people ignored garbage along trails, so Frederick Jackson Turner and his followers “eliminated from their history as so much human garbage most of the diverse peoples of the West … whose presence endangered their [thesis regarding the region’s] homogeneity.” Turner’s memorable thesis included a discussion of the moving frontier as the site of the evolution of a composite American nationality based essentially on Protestant northern Europeans. However, so beguiling and persuasive was his 1893 essay that it created an interpretive “box” from which western historians and writers have been struggling to break free. Ninety years later, Frederick Luebke took western historians to task for treating “their subject as the story of an undifferentiated English-speaking majority.” However, fifteen years later, he was lamenting, “European immigrants are the forgotten people of the American West.” But that did not signify an adequate coverage of those “others,” for when it came to the region’s ethnic diversity, most works that were not focused on a specific group have been limited, one-dimensional, at best providing little more than a checklist of some ethnic peoples present. Although several authors in Gerald Nash and Richard Etulain’s collection Researching Western History: Topics in the Twentieth Century (1997)—notably Roger Lotchin, Glenda Riley, and Robert Cherny—did address the larger reality, overall the remarkable array of immigrants in the West has been left, figuratively speaking, in the wings and rarely moved to center stage in the region’s history.

Notwithstanding the increasing appearance of individual works on Asian and Latino populations, Jews, and peoples from the Middle East (along with African Americans, and Native Americans), we would not be going far afield to modify Luebke’s observation to conclude that, on several levels, “many groups . . .

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