Question 1 (Document-Based Question): 55 minutes Suggested Reading period: 15 minutes Suggested writing period: 40 minutes Directions

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Synthesis: Essays can earn the point for synthesis by crafting a persuasive and coherent essay. This can be accomplished providing a conclusion that extends or modifies the analysis in the essay, by using disparate and sometimes contradictory evidence from primary and/or secondary sources to craft a coherent argument, or by connecting to another historical period or context. Examples could include, but are not limited to, the following.
-Linking the argument to the earlier  treatment of Native Americans

-Linking the argument to the Civil Rights Movement

-Linking the argument to the debate between fundamentalists vs. modernists

-Linking the argument to the rising white middle class suburb society which formed in the 1950s

-Linking the argument to the Progressive Era

-Linking the argument to internment of Japanese-Americans

The American industrial revolution led to an increase in jobs and economic opportunity, resulting in a surge of immigrants to America throughout the nineteenth century. This swell of foreign immigrants drastically changed society and led to increased tensions amongst the population. Immigrants were often ridiculed by Americans for being “different” and were seen as inferior beings. For the most part, Americans were against immigration to America because it threatened their traditional values and decreased their chances of getting jobs. However, some Americans believed immigrants played a vital role in society by creating diversity within the nation.  These contrasting views on immigration greatly affected society's definition of American identity. Did being American mean being born in America, or did it mean practicing American values and culture?

Many Americans strongly opposed immigration into the United States. The resentment  of immigrants was extremely powerful because they were taking jobs, leaving many Americans without work.  Charlotte Gilman, an author, expressed these concerns in an article, writing that many immigrants migrated to America solely for the financial benefits (Doc 3). The immense desire immigrants possessed to find jobs, resulted in their willingness to work for low wages and in turn, increased job competition as many employers and factory owners were more inclined to hire immigrants.  The situation grew so intense that the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882, eliminating Chinese immigration into the US (Doc 1).  The act was made with the purpose of cutting down the influx of Chinese immigrants to significantly lower the overall immigrant population and thus decrease competition in the job market. Similarly, in 1924, the Immigration Act was passed, limiting the number of immigrants that were allowed in the US, by implementing a quota system based on country of origin (Doc 6). Most Americans were unhappy about immigration not only because they were losing jobs, but also because most immigrants had no desire or intention to assimilate to traditional American society. While some people were unopposed to the increased number of foreigners, the fact that many immigrants isolated themselves in ethnic communities, such as Chinatown and Little Italy, did anger them.  It was clear that there was a division in society. Langdon Mitchell, a noted playwright and poet, pointed this out, describing both Americans and immigrants as intolerant of each other’s cultures, customs, and values (Doc 2). Yet, some Americans were not  so opposed to immigration. They believed it was important to accept others. William Pattangall, former legislator and attorney general, argued that being an American meant tolerating others and discriminating against no one (Doc 5). However, many Americans disagreed with this because they viewed America as superior to all others. These contrasting views challenged the meaning of American identity.

Americans had always had a set view of their own identity. They were hard workers with strong morals, often based off of Christian ideals. Furthermore, Americans felt a sense of superiority.  For example, in the later part of the nineteenth century, Americans began colonizing other countries to assist the “inferior” peoples. The image from the Library of Congress, depicts this sense of entitlement and superiority that Americans felt (Doc 4). However, as masses of immigrants began to enter America seeking work and bringing with them their new customs and values, many Americans began to feel that their traditional way of life was being threatened.  Franz Boas, an anthropologist, commented on America’s fear of the inferior people damaging and bringing a downfall to society (Doc 7). This feeling of resentment and anger that many Americans felt resulted in a division in society. Because many Americans viewed immigrants as un-American, these immigrants began creating their own isolated communities. In the early twentieth century, a movement to Americanize society began. Groups such as the KKK and methods such as eugenics hoped to make America “pure” again. Hiram Evans , a  member of the  Ku Klux Klan, wrote that America should be preserved as it was founded and that there distinct differences between races (Doc 5). Evans reflected the idea that to be American, meant being born on American soil. Furthermore, like many other Americans believed, being white was a large part of being valued in society. The KKK and other racist groups, would perform lynches of racial minorities and lead marches to prove this point. Therefore, not only were immigrants mistreated and looked upon as un-American, but so were American racial minorities. On the other hand, some valued the diversity that migrants created. It wasn’t about being born in America, but about having the same values.   

The vast increase in immigration that occurred during the Industrial Revolution created an ethnically diverse American population and led to the questioning of what it meant to be American. Many American-born citizens opposed  immigration to the United States because they viewed immigrants as inferior and unworthy of the opportunities American life granted them.  However, others tolerated immigrants and felt that accepting different kinds of people was a part of truly being American.  This ongoing debate created a sense of nativism across the nation.  Many felt that those born in America were the only ones deserving of being considered American.  Seeing as the vast majority of Americans shared this feeling, many were skeptical of other races’ presence in the United States. It was because of this skepticism that American citizens were so willing to gather Japanese-Americans and place them in internment camps in the 1940’s, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This kind of racism did not end with the influx of immigrants or the forced internment of innocent Americans, rather, it was persistent all the way to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s and onward.

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