Immigrants And Immigration Movement Of The Early 20th Century

1118 words - 4 pages

Immigration Movement of the Early 20th Century

"Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of nations."
-Walt Whitman

People have been immigrating to the United States ever since the European settlers first founded the nation. The first immigrants were white European settlers who came for an assortment of different reasons, such as freedom of religion and employment opportunities. Waves of immigrants poured into the US until restrictions were made in the 1920s, which were largely for cultural and economic reasons. Many saw immigration as the only way to prevent starvation, extreme suffering and death. The US became a safe haven and melting pot for many different cultures and nationalities. However, it was not easy to be an immigrant, since they faced much racism, religious persecution, and xenia phobia from the Americans. Sensing this, they often banded closely together, settling with their own kind and forming their own tightly-knit communities where they established their businesses primarily to serve themselves. The Italians and the Jews were two such groups in the beginning of the 20th century who felt much of this racism -- as seen in Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. At this time, the majority of the immigrants were Italians, Russian and Eastern European Jews, Greeks, Slavs, and Armenians.

Before 1870 there was little Italian immigration to the US. Nevertheless, shortly afterward, many began to flee rural Italy's low wages and high taxes to seek a more prosperous income in the American cities. Many Italian settlements sprang up in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, and Detroit. By World War II, it is said that there were more people of Italian descent living in New York City than were living in Rome. From 1900-1910, some 2,100,000 Italians arrived to the US. Many of the new immigrants from Italy intended never to stay, and so 40 percent later returned to Italy. Racist sentiments were felt by the Italians as a result of the competition for jobs that resulted from their presence. The Italian immigrants were willing to work long hours for little pay in unskilled jobs. Italian migratory workers became known as "Birds of Passage," since frequently they returned to Italy after making money in the US. Italians received lower wages due to their nationality. While a native white coal miner would earn about $534 a year in the early 20th century, an Italian might earn only $286. Like other immigrants, the Italians faced much prejudice due to their different cultural norms. For example, they experienced extreme racism from the anti-Catholic KKK, since Italians were predominantly Catholic. The Italians also helped to cause prohibition, since many Americans did not approve of their drinking habits. However, like most immigrant groups, they eventually assimilated into American society after both nationalities become accustomed to each other's culture.

Jews were also at the forefront of the...

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