American Ethnic History Essay

1965 words - 8 pages

The United States has been notorious for welcoming peoples from all over the world onto its lands in order to facilitate the growth of a diverse nation and generations of families have traveled to America in search of creating lives more fulfilling than those they had escaped. During the years of the late 1800s and early 1900s, the United States allowed the highest rates of immigration in it's history as groups from a number of different countries sought an escape from the economical, political, and religious hardships their own nations bequeathed.This massive influx of such a myriad of ethnicities irreversibly changed the evolution of the newly formed United States and challenged existing ideas and attitudes of what constituted an American citizen. In addition, immigrants were faced with the difficult task of finding equilibrium in what seemed, and often was, a world full of chaos. Although those traveling to America came from contrasting origins, the trials and tribulations they endured were much the same. Reasons for immigration, arrival, living and working conditions, socialization, and increasing assimilation into the American culture were experiences common to all immigrating groups.Edward SteinerOne can easily see the change in Edward Steiner's attitude by comparing "On the Trail of the Immigrant" written in 1909 and "From Alien to Citizen" written in 1914. In the first work Steiner seems very critical of the process of becoming an American. He talks of immigrants who failed the inspections and were sent back to the port from which they had come. If it was a child under 12 being deported for sickness, a parent had to travel with them. Quite often, families had to decide which parent would stay with a healthy child and which one would return with a deported child. Those who passed the medical inspection moved through a passageway lined with benches. Here they sat, awaiting their turns to be asked why they had come to America and how they planned to earn a living. 1 (p2) Edward Steiner further captured the predicament of families caught in the gears of Ellis Island in this anecdote. A Russian Jew and his son are called before the commissioner. The father is a pitiable-looking object; his large head rests upon a small, emaciated body; the eyes speak of premature loss of power, and are listless, worn out by the study of the Talmud, the graveyard of Israel's history. Beside him stands a stalwart son, neatly attired in the uniform of a Russian college student. His face is Russian rather than Jewish, intelligent rather than shrewd, materialistic rather than spiritual. "Ask them why they came," the commissioner says rather abruptly. The answer is: "We had to..." "Ask them whether they are willing to be separated; the father to go back and the son too remain here?" They look at each other; no emotion yet visible, the question came to suddenly. Then something in the background of their feelings move, and the father, used to self-denial through his...

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