tv Lectures in History Early 20th Century Nativism and Immigration CSPAN March 3, 2021 11:11pm-12:25am EST
weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. thursday night a look back to the civil war confederate generals. historian james batted roberts and talks about robert e.'s ties to virginia and the took out place throughout this state. he compares his life after the war to other generals and veterans. the battlefields foundation hosted this event. watch thursday night beginning at eight eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. next on lectures in history. professor david cortright talks about the changes in immigration demographics on the rise of nativism in the early 20th century. this class is about an hour and 25 minutes. good morning ladies and
gentlemen. today we will be talking about immigration and nativism in american history. here's an outline of what we will be covering. i will spend the next part of the crowd class talking about why americans came to the united states, who they, were how that changed over time, under the heading of nativism we will talk about the reaction to that mass migration, and how that nativist reaction really culminated in the period from world war i until roughly the late 1930s. we are going to end by asking an important question. that question is whether and to what extent the united states still and latest country. we will go into that. look at the pros and cons. how immigration has changed and how that might have affected the debate. let's start with immigration itself. let us start with some maps.
this map shows you world migration patterns from approximately 1500. now the thing that really jumps out from this map is that big, thick green in a row from europe to the americas. central america, add south america as well. but the biggest single line goes from europe to what is now the united states and canada. of, course there are other streams of migration. migration from africa to the united states, and the caribbean. that of course has to do with slavery. but the main driver of mass migration in the 19th century was your. up to the point we're in 19, ten approximately one fifth of all swedes were living not in sweden but in the united states. so the first question we need
to ask is why? why were so many people leaving europe and coming to the united states? it turns, out as is so often the case in history that there are so many answers to the question. here you can see the arrows and, read the main flow of the migration is from europe to the americas. the main reason for the mass migration is essentially that the population pressure had built up in europe. that's the most basic. cause the reason for the population pressure is that europeans were the first people in the history of the world really to experience what is now called the demographic transition. please make note of this. it's a really important idea. eventually all parts of the world went through this but europe really lead the way in the late 18th and 19th century.
the basic idea is that everywhere in the world, prior to the early modern period and well into the modern period, societies had both high death rates and high birth rates. occasionally the death rate would fluctuate because of a epidemic or famine, something like, that and fertility was. high if you think about it it is only logical so with very heavy infant and child mortality if you wanted to have surviving children you cannot just have one or two kids and think oh i need someone to look after me in old, age you need to have, five six seven or eight children and hope that two or three or four survive. that's just the way it was. but for reasons that medical historians still debate, the death rate started to come down in europe. especially for infants and
children. but, and here's the interesting thing, initially, fertility did not fall. people continue to have large numbers of children. so if you take a look at the figure on your left, you'll see that the worldwide being the death rate starts to come down, the other line remains high and doesn't come down to later. guess what happens during that interval? explosive population growth. and then, you can see this kind of very steep increase in european population. here are some fairly crude estimates, but they'll do. 1750 they were around hundred 40 million people in europe. that had gone up to 260 million by the middle of the 19th century and then on the eve of world war i, 400 million people. and there is just not enough land, there aren't enough jobs, these people are looking for
better lives and one way to solve that problem of course is to migrate. another factor is the end of slavery. so let's go back and look at this map again and you can see that in addition to the mass migration from europe to the americas, you can see that people from the sub continent of india were coming to the americas. and they were settling in the caribbean. why did people from the sub continent of india settle in the caribbean in the mid 19th century later? anyone care to answer that question? >> peter, you want to take a shot at that? okay. everybody knows about dandy in the caribbean, everybody knows that there are south asian infamy influences in the caribbean, how did they get, their diverse stop and think
about that? okay, hint, what happened -- yes, mike over here please. what happened in the mid 19th century? >> the beginning of british another colonialism. >> british colonialism and then there's a change in british colonialism in the mid 19th century which is whether the bridge got rid of? slavery. so the united states how long the further importation of slaves in 1808, the british got rid of slavery in the mid 18 thirties, but does that and the need for cheap labor on the sugar plantations in the caribbean? no one does not. it is not. so you start bringing in servants from places like india. another source of migration, which this one is probably familiar to everyone in the room. religious persecution. and the group that we most often identify with religious
persecution in the 19th and early 20th century, the european jews. especially those who were then part of the russian empire who were subject to -- who had enough and got out. but, just because you want to leave, doesn't necessarily mean that it's easy to do. and one of the things we know is that in the early 19th century, the journey from europe to the americas was very arduous in the age of wooden sailing ships, it took a long time, that trip was very rough, high mortality during the passage. that changed. so, by the late 19th century, now, for as little as ten dollars, you could book passage on a steel hauled ship with screw propellers and's team propulsion that would get you
to your destination in a week. one of the things that you may not know about the titanic is the titanic was actually designed to make a lot of money by holding immigrants. most of the burst on the titanic were in the steerage. everybody saw the movie, you all thought that it was going to make money by holings wells like kate winds low in first class and all of that. no, it's really about bringing large numbers of people in here you see a steerage ticket for the titanic. the dining area, the corridors, third class to reach passengers on the deck of the ship. so this creates an opportunity. this really is nice if you want to get out or, here's something else a lot of people don't know about the history of new york we grew issued. you want to come and work for a time in the united states.
all right, if it's easy, relatively easy and cheap to get to north america. it's also relatively easy and cheap to get back. so, there was another pattern of migration, where people would come and it would work hard, they save money and then they would go back to italy or poland or wherever they came from. and the name for such workers, we would today call them guest workers, but they were also asked and referred to as birds of passage and then late 19th and early 20th centuries. and probably have the -- let me give you a statistic. here of the ten -- of the 30 million immigrants in the united states, between 1900 and 1980, 10 million left which defies our sense of american immigration history.
most of us think that if you sail into new york harbor and you go past the statue of liberty, it's like you won the lottery. , and land of the free, the american dream. no, a lot of people came, work, save money and went back home. now it's that was possible because of this transportation revolution. so we, pork doing what? well, any economist will tell you that the labor market is basically divided into four parts. so, there are white collar jobs, engineers, doctors, lawyers, things like that. semi skilled and skilled laborers, but most immigrants came in that bottom category. the vast majority, especially in an late 19th and early 20th century came as an skilled workers and they could do so because the united states was
industrialized. this was the age of the urban industrial transformation and there were lots of jobs taking ditches, building subways, building factories and working in factories and anybody who is willing, who had a strong back could take advantage of that. i mean, you have to remember that this was a point in history where a roughly 90% of the world's industrial capacity, and say 1900, about 90% of the world's industrial capacity was either in europe or the united states and maybe canada. those were the basic industrialized zones in the world. microphone over here please. >> is there a slowdown during the great depression in the united states or was it still pretty quick)l >> there was in fact, and i'm going to say something about that in a minute. there was in fact a slowdown and not only during the great depression in the united states, but during any industrial
turned down, there will be a falling down in migration which only makes sense because of the big demand which was for industrial labor, anything that raises the rate of industrial unemployment is going to cut into migration. look, let me some of this up. immigration is always about push and pull factors. and so, what you can see is that there were these push factors like antisemitism, like religious persecution, like population pressure in europe. but there were also these poll factors primarily economic opportunities, typically in the lower level, less skilled jobs in the economy but still a lot better for people than what they were looking at in europe. so everybody has a copy of a manifest of the ship that arrived from naples, arrived at
ellis island in 1923 and i would just like for you to look at a few columns from this document. it's kind of peta but that's one of the occupational hazard of history, you have these old scratchy documents that came from michael film. they still have lots of useful information. take a look at the columns that deal with age and sex and occupation. do you see a pattern there? would somebody like to interpret this document? somebody tell me what you see. we >> well, there are younger man and have pretty much unskilled jobs. >> how do you know they have pretty much on skilled jobs? >> because it mostly says laborers, one guy says it is a barber but the rest is -- >> when it says half labor, what do you think it stands for?
we >> factory labor or? what's the other possibility? please pass the mic over there. >> are they talking about field labor? >> yes. in other words, to see it even more simply ladies and gentlemen, peasants. these are peasants who live in villages who is to assets or strong back and a willingness to work hard. one point, 75% of the workers building the subways in new york city where italian. italian construction workers. these people who came and they took these kinds of jobs and to your point about the age distribution, it's that on, you see there in their twenties, the oldest person is 43. some people are in their thirties. the main market for immigrants during this entire period was
prime age. and it's usually the man who come first. and if they are successful and they decide to stay, later on, they will bring their wives and children and maybe their fiancée is to the united states. you'll notice also that none of the questions that was asked of the arriving immigrants, can you read? okay, and yeah, they're all illiterate! yes, yes, yes, yes. but what language can they reach? >> italian! they can read italian. which is another reason why these ethnic communities were so tight-knit in the early 20th century is a lot of these newly arrived immigrants couldn't speak english or couldn't speak as well. so, they are literally yes but not necessarily in the english so here's another
were people who gathered at the port of naples, but they came from villages in the south of italy. but notice, what's interesting about that, doesn't say region, it says race. now let me introduce you to an important idea here, which is that today, when we talk about race in this country, we generally --
we have three basic categories, all right? we typically think of people as being white, black or maybe asian. and you look around this room and most of us would say we see white people, we see african american people. but, the sense of racial identity was much more very gated in the early 20th century. so, southern italian is actually a racial category. and as you'll see in a minute, it was a racial category that many americans looked down on. all right? here's an interesting one. column 19. are you going to join a relative or friend and if so, what's new with relative in friend and what's the address? >> does anybody see a pattern here and these names? let's get somebody else. over here please.
take a shot. come on. it looks like as far as the addresses they are all either located in new york city. >> that sounds like something important which is that many of the immigrants arriving in the 20th century are concentrated in the northeast, which makes sense because that is where the big industrial cities were. who are they staying with? who are these people? new york or wherever. alexander. go ahead. >> but other information is there, over here. >> a lot of it says mother or father. >> exactly. you see the abbreviations in the document. cousin, rather, does anyone see that? they are staying mainly with relatives. that tells you something else important about the pattern of migration. it was not just a shot in the
dark. this is a very daunting experience. if you ever lived overseas, there is a lot of adjustment and even alienation that you experience if you look for a long time overseas any strange culture. it's also expensive. ten dollars could mean a lot to somebody who is a peasant in the 20th century, so you don't just go leaping blindly into this. more typically, you have somebody who's already established in the united states who says i know somebody who can find you work, you can stay in the back bedroom until you get on to your feet and that kind of thing makes people much more willing to migrate. historians and sociologists have a name for that, we call it a chain migration, so once somebody gets established they typically bring other people along with them. this will amuse you. so by 1923, they were asking
some more personal questions. whether you are a polygamist, whether you are a anarchist. what are you going to say? no, no. they are looking for problems. there's turning. you talk about anti radical muslim you will see why they asked these questions. they also want to make sure that you're not crippled. what's student pointed out to me something interesting. his i fell on a color that i had ignored. the height of immigrants. what do you see there? what do you notice about the height of these immigrants? over their pleas. >> they are all very short. by our standards. by the standards of the late
19th century early 20th century not necessarily, but by our standards that is fairly short. but the student pointed out is that could very well be a sign of the population pressure that we talked about earlier, if people are living in poverty and malnourished and so on, one of the ways that that could catch on is in short stature. so i thought that was a quite astute observation. so these were people who came in through ellis island, which was the primary site for migration from 1892 until about 1954. here is a remarkable statistic. 40% of the people in the united states today can trace their ancestry back to somebody who came through ellis island.
you have at least one ancestor who was processed through this place. and in its heyday, about 5000 people a day were checked through. they were questioned. they would fill out the form that i just showed you, and they would be sent on their way after a few hours. although you can also see from the photograph that some people were kept for longer periods of time. these are hospitals and quarantine boards and dormitories. so if you are sick, or they thought that you might have eight infectious disease, or if there was some question about your identity or your legal background you might be detained on ellis island. there was a hospital in this complex. 3000 people died on ellis island. i happen to have the privilege of going on a tour of ellis
island when it was being rebuilt back in 1999 with a group of other historians and they took us to the hospital. we went into the room was, this was the dissecting table, this is the body of freezers. this was a spooky room. very much in ruins, the doors and the body freezers were half open. another interesting fact about ellis island that does not usually make it into the history books. 3500 people took their own lives on ellis island. and the primary reason for that is that they were among the people who were detained, and there were two basic reasons why you might be detained. one was because of a medical condition or because you were judged to be too unhealthy to be admitted into the night it states. or there's a question about your identity or criminal
background. they say no we are not admitting into the country. that was it. they were not going back. they took their own lives. the vast majority, 98%, came through, most were healthy enough. here you see the medical inspection, health inspection on ellis island, 1920, by the way does anybody know the of people being refused admission? the number one medical cause. does anyone care to make a case. it's 1920, if they are going to keep you out for medical reasons where they want to do it? michael, over here. >> i would say tb. >> tuberculosis is a great, yes a number of these people happen
to have to bear colossus but that is not the right answer because it was treatable. >> was it the spanish flu? >> the spanish flu is an epidemic. the spanish flu was a big deal. it killed a lot of people. but if you had the spanish flu, if you contracted the spanish flu in europe in 1919 you weren't getting onto about selling the united states. you will be very ill or you are going to survive or you weren't. by the time you recovered that would not necessarily help you out. one last gas. >> it was a charm coma? >> what is it? >> it's an eye disease. >> so sure coma is eight disease which was caused by a bacterial infection, which in
the earlier 20th century would lead to blindness. it's treatable today, but it was a serious disease and they knew that eventually you would become blind. that tells you what, if you are going to become blind you are going to become a burden on the public. so that was the attitude of the immigration establishment. if you are healthy and ready to work, fine. if you are going to become a public war because of illness or some other problems and do not come in so it was a hard no system, and they were looking for the obvious diseases that would prevent people from being productive workers. let me tell you something else important. there's a comment over here. >> i am curious.
these answers were given at the time that they arrived would happen to those people that answered yes to being a anarchist? >> [laughs] that's a really good question. so you can either keep them out of the country for being an anarchist or you can keep them out of the country for being really stupid and say that you are a anarchist, one way or another, you will see, remember the date of that document. it was 1923. what little world, historical event had occurred back in 1918? >> -- which was accompanied by what? russian revolution. so the concern, i will see more
about this and a minute but the concern about radicalism was it was an increasing work by the world war one, early 19 hundreds era, just like how in our lifetimes concern over terrorism intensified after the 9/11 attacks. so there's a historical context year. you also need to know and please make note of this that a migration was a peak and valley affair. so the process of alice island as you come through, and they would ask you these questions and they would inspect to but the flow of people through ellis island and other ports varied as you can see from this diagram. the upper line, the red line represents the total volume of immigration. the blue line is that component of migration that came -- of people who came from eastern and southern europe. so why is there an increase
police in the 18 forties and early 18 fifties? let's get somebody else here. somebody tell me, what's going on in the 18 forties and 19 fifties? you know this. mike, over here please. right here. >> isn't it famine? >> chairman, all right! this is a time when the irish potato famine. not just in ireland, but in other parts of europe, this is a time of failed revolutions. this is a period of increased migration. why does migration go down in the 18 sixties? what's going on in the united states marine? >> the civil war is happening. >> so it's not a good time to be come cannon founder in the united states. so you are more reluctant to migrate to a country in the midst of a bloody civil war. earlier, i was asked, i think it was mr. brown asked me --
someone asked me about depressions in in the great depression? >> there was a depression that occurred in the mid 18 seventies, there's another sharp depression in the 18 nineties. look what happens to immigration. and then there was a recovery, then you have an increase and the number of people coming in. this is the age where they really spikes up. this is an age of relieve rapid population increase. rather immigration increase in the united states, this is a combination of the urban industrial transformation. why does it go down in this period of time during the post 1914 period? yes. >> world war i. >> exactly. a number of european nations actually passed the laws forbidding migration because they needed the soldiers and moreover, there were lots of jobs in a war industry in europe so if there employment in one country and you're not
necessarily gonna go overseas. but, this is important, you see how it picks up again after world war one? what was happening in the united states during the 1920s? the economy was booming. so, everybody knew that there was going to be another big wave of migration from the united states. >> actually, they'd -- do you know if we saw a lot of immigrant involvement and the american side of world war i? >> yes. i'm sure there would have been some immigrants but the more typical pattern, and i don't have a percentage for you, but it was certainly the case that the second and third generation to the children again children did serve and in large numbers in the american almond forces during world war i. but, for reasons of language
and age, it's generally not so much the actual immigrants themselves who were likely to serve. but their children, yes. now, with the other thing that's important to notice about this chart leads the change in the composition of migration to the united states. so during the early period, it's mainly people from northern and western europe. we're talking about countries like scotland or england or ireland or germany. but in the blue line, you could see the shift away from northern and western europe to countries like italy or poland or greece or the bulk of nations. that's where most of the migrants were coming from and in fact, by one point i think, something like 75% of all the
immigrants by the early 20th century were coming from southern and eastern europe. so, contemporaries had a name for this change. they referred to the hold and the new immigrants. so if you're ever reading a document and someone makes mention of the old immigrants, they're talking about the people who came from countries like scotland or like england that new immigrants, or someone writing in newspaper in 1890 referred to the new immigrants, they would mean people primarily from countries like poland or russian jews or people like italy who were coming to the united states. and in addition to that, there was another group of new immigrants that sometimes get left out of treatments over immigration but they were numerically very important and i'm referring to people from the americas especially mexico
who were coming to the united states states to take a mostly agricultural jobs in the southwest, but also some industrial jobs in the midwest. and they came in large numbers. all right, so something like 1 million mexicans came to the united states in the first three decades of the 20th century and they also were subject to a lot of prejudice. many americans regarded them as basically inadmissible -- they were off on their own doing their own thing, they had these strange customs, one of the strangest of which by the way was the smoking of marijuana. that's how marijuana smoking came to the united states, in case you are curious. it was primarily through mexican immigrants who crossed the border in the early 20th century. and you see this uptick in the yellow part of the bar graph,
here. now, as i say, there was prejudice against mexican and other immigrants and that brings me to the -- public the question first and then go on. >> how we have coyotes now, are there similar things like little -- >> know, these folks are legal. >> no i'm saying, for illegal immigration back then, was there something similar? like kind of under the table type thing? >> yes, but interesting lia, didn't involve the mexicans per se. it involved the chinese. so, congress in 1882 passed a law called the chinese exclusion act. the purpose of that law was to keep chinese laborers out of the united states for reasons all explain in a minute. but, nonetheless, there are various organizations contrived to continue to bring them into the united states and one way that they did that was to first
ship to chinese immigrants to mexico and then smuggled them across the border into the united states. the mexicans were coming to the united states were doing so legally at the time. but yes, there was some illegal immigration in the sense of excluded chinese. in the late 19th and early 20th century. all right, so why would you want to keep anybody out? why do people think about mass migration on these new groups that are coming in? and some people didn't think much. and that negative attitude we call a nativism. and this is the definition of the well-known american historian and, john haim, who wrote a partner in study of nativism in american history and haim said what? basically, what it is, it's simple. it's a tense opposition to an
internal minority on the basis of its foreign origin or dissent. it's a way of saying, you don't really live long you, come from another group, become from another country, another people, another race and you are not really american, okay? but, he went on to point out fast this was not and i would add, it is, not in an differentiated phenomenon. there are many kinds of nativism. you can almost think of nativism as being white spaghetti. different strands of nativism and these trends get tangled up together and. one of the things that kind of interesting to do is kind of disentangle the strands of nativism in american history. so i'm going to do that quickly and i'm going to do that with the help of political cartoons. the four big ones, at least during this time period in the late 19th and early 20th century where religious
nativism, political racial and finally economical nativism. let's look at religious nativism first. and this is a thomas last cartoon. this is one of the famous political cartoons of american history. this cartoon appeared in harpers weekly, which was a popular periodical in 1871. and it shows politics of the catholic church as crocodiles who were emerging from the banks of the hudson river to attack the school teachers. these catholics and the religious hierarchy that they bring with them they are a threat to the institutions of the united states, and democracy. here's a detail from the political cartoon. that's the school teacher.
he standing. he's protecting. this is the protestant schoolteacher who is protecting the american schoolchildren from this invasion of catholics and their ways. what does he have talked in his shirt? it's the king james bible. it's the protestant version of the bible. does everyone see that? the people in the background who were looking on, this is the tweet rain. the boss politicians in new york who are in league with immigrants. that's the political thrust of the cartoon which is that the political cartoons are and lead with the immigrants together and they pose a threat to democracy. he's looking on with evidence satisfaction at the mounting
threat. notice the u.s. public school is in ruins. you see it flags upside down. and if you look at tammy hall in the background. wet buildings that resemble? >> the vatican. >> the vatican. that's important. that could seem like a detail. that is important because american native born protestant in the 19th century saw catholics as not just an alien religion. ladies and gentlemen, they saw them as a threat to american democracy. they thought that ultimately, of america became a more catholic nation it would ultimately become a less democratic nation. it's true. the catholic church is and was
not a democracy. it was a higher organization with the pope, a monarch on its head. this was -- protestants in the 19th century. a question here. >> i also noticed the name of the political cartoon. it said the river gauges. is that supposed to be a jab at indian immigrants as well? >> it's a way of reinforcing the crocodile motif. visually the very clever part of this cartoon is the fact that the clerical garb has been turned into this menacing, crocodile like appearance. the other thing that i want you to notice and this is a recurring thing in nativism is the idea of an invasion.
that is another motif in budapest -- it's a rat. they are coming at us. you can see this very literally in the political cartoon. there's a question here. >> and the top corner are they bringing one of the catholics to a news? >> they are bringing one of the constant -- protestants. the boss political establishment that controls new york state corrupt politicians will go to the lengths of thanking or executing those that oppose their policies which is another way of getting at this authoritarian or anti-democratic strand. so there is a lot going on in the cartoon. here's another one that has a lot going on in it.
also the day is important. the first curtainless meeting 71. this cartoon is 1928. in that year the democratic party for the first time in american history nominated a catholic candidate for president. that catholic candidate was four-time governor of new york, i'll smith. that did not sit well to have a major party nominate a catholic. there is a poster of then candidate al smith. when we see there? this is the way of saying the usual suspects. the gang of corrupt politicians has been running new york city forever is behind this candidate. here's a priest. you can tell by his political
garb. it says roman-ism on the back of his -- you need to know that is a slur term. that was a derogatory term for cathal a system. he's identified as a cleric. who's this guy? he is one of the trump trying to push alcohol. >> he's trying to push alcohol. but more specifically trying to push -- this is 1928. what is he trying to push? anti prohibition. he wants the repeal of prohibition. also, you will notice that there is a diamond stick pan in his attire. there's a hint here of a lot --
corruption. does everyone see this now as both of the cartoons representing the anti catholic strand of nativism. the second one was anti radicalism. this is a carton that appeared in a american humor magazine in the 19th century. this is extremely interesting cartoon because in some ways it is very liberal. it suggests that assimilation is a real possibility. america is a melting pot welcoming to people all over the world. the caption is assimilation and the one element that won't mix. now let's zoom in on this. the one element who will not mix is a fenian.
a fenian is basically violence, irish, revolutionary. the late 19th century equivalent would be somewhat in the i.r.a.. he is radical and violent. when i say that the cartoon is in some respects liberal and welcoming here is the person with african features. here is a native american with a feather. here are people with semitic features or eastern european features. and these people can eventually assimilate and become citizens. but what's the cartoon is saying is that basically if you are a bomb thrower, if you are violent that is the element that will not mix. so this would be an example of the anti radical stream of nativism. racial nativism. this is something that we have already talked about in the semester. the early 20th century was a
time of scientific racism. there were many people who are influenced by darwinian thought. assumed the hierarchy of races. assumed different racial or ethnic groups had evolved different characteristics. one of which was a proclivity to commit sex crimes. this illustration appeared in life magazine in the late 1930s. it takes people, different ethnic groups from europe. remember what i said earlier about how not all white people are white people. there are different groups of white people. you can see that it sort people out by their proclivity for sex crimes. so people from the generic group or baltic regions of europe. basically southern and eastern europeans are more likely to be skirt chasers as opposed to