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Americanization

Americanization, term used to describe the movement during the first quarter of the 20th cent. whereby the immigrant in the United States was induced to assimilate American speech, ideals, traditions, and ways of life. As a result of the great emigration from E and S Europe between 1880 and the outbreak of World War I (see immigration), the Americanization movement grew to crusading proportions. Fear and suspicion of the newcomers and of their possible failure to become assimilated gave impetus to the movement. Joined by social workers interested in improving the slum conditions surrounding the immigrants, and by representatives of the business and industrial world, organizations were formed to propagandize and to agitate for municipal, state, and federal aid to indoctrinate the immigrants into American ways. The coming of World War I with the resultant heightening of U.S. nationalism strengthened the movement. The Federal Bureau of Education and the Federal Bureau of Naturalization joined in the crusade and aided the private Americanization groups. Large rallies, patriotic naturalization proceedings, and Fourth of July celebrations characterized the campaign. When the United States entered into the war, Americanization was made an official part of the war effort. Many states passed legislation providing for the education and Americanization of the foreign-born. The anti-Communist drive conducted by the Dept. of Justice in 1919–20 stimulated the movement and led to even greater legislative action on behalf of Americanization. Virtually every state that had a substantial foreign-born population had provided educational facilities for the immigrant by 1921. The passage of this legislation and the quota system of immigration caused the Americanization movement to subside; private groups eventually disbanded.

See J. Higham, Strangers in the Land (1963).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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