Immigration In The Early 1900's Essay

1670 words - 7 pages

IMMIGRATIONImmigration has played a major role throughout the history of the United States. Beginning in the early nineteenth century there have been massive waves of immigration. The immigration waves that I will focus on in this paper are those from China, Russia, and Ireland. I will show how these groups were assimilated and/or acculturated by discussing their family, work, and community structures as well as communicate the mixed reaction to these incoming foreigners by the established white, Protestant community. While these immigrants provided industries with a cheap source of labor, Americans were both afraid of, and hostile towards these new groups. Nonetheless, with a strong ...view middle of the document...

As a result, labor unions began to form and push for better pay, shorter hours, and improved working conditions. Industries saw that it was not as easy to exploit these immigrants as it had been before. In attempt to fight back, industries tied the American hostilities towards immigrants to the newly emerging fear of radicalism. When workers went on strike, industry leaders turned public opinion against them by labeling the strikes as attempts at radical uprising. As a result, workers were often left with no other choice than to accept the terms of industry management. With the onset of hard economic times in the 1870s, other immigrants and European Americans began to compete for the jobs traditionally reserved for the Chinese. Along with economic competition came dislike and even racial suspicion and hatred. The Chinese clustered into groups, working hard and living frugally. They moved into the cities and took on jobs not accustomed to their cultural traditions such as men working at Laundromats. As the populations of these groups increased, they formed large cities of ethnic enclaves called "Chinatowns" all over the country. It was within these communities that their culture and traditions thrived thus providing them with the support they needed to climb up in American society. Practically forced out of their homeland by the English and hard economic times back home, the Irish came to America with hopes of a better life. They crammed onto boats with little more than a suitcase and the clothes on their back in search of the American dream. Upon arrival they settled in the cities and formed Irish communities based around the Catholic Church. Like the Chinese, Irish men at first took on low paying laboring jobs such as railroad and canal construction. The existing Americans, mainly because of religious differences, looked down upon the Irish. They were referred to as 'white negros' and when the Civil War erupted, they were the first people out on the front lines because they were too poor to pay the $300 required to get out of fighting (152). The acculturation of the Irish into the established society is rather interesting. In an effort fit in, the Irish followed the lead of white America and began to treat blacks in a racist manner in order to "transform their own identity from Irish to American" (151). On the contrary, they continued to celebrate cultural events such as St. Patrick's Day that were regarded by most Americans as evidence of the separateness of these immigrants. Their desire for self-expression showed that the Irish understood their group identity. This is evidence that the Irish were acculturated into American society rather than assimilated like African Americans. However materialistically poor they were, the Irish were rich in cultural resources, developing institutions that helped them face hardship without despair. Poor as they were, they drew strength from a culture that explained their situation in the...

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