Immigration and Integration: American History








Immigration and Integration: American History

Jean McBride

March 18, 2010



People are the masters of destiny. Individuals change history for a moment or for an eternity. They make a mark at times easily forgotten or embedded inevitably forever in society, industry, politics, or culture. It is people who guide every conceivable project, movement, law and the list is extensive. The people who shaped the past also molded the present as is and shall continue. One of the various aspects of the American experience is immigration of strong and resourceful individuals from all over the world who integrated, or migrated as needed into society to create what America is today.

The history course just accomplished has focused on five periods of time from 1865 through 2008.


Immigration and Integration: American History

Reconstruction and Industrialization

The abolition of slavery and the reconstruction of the nation covered in the first unit saw an influx of brave, proud, hard working people. Most had seen centuries of slavery, exploitation, gross civil rights violations that were inexcusable. Unsure of how becoming free would affect the black race in America, African Americans in the early years made many choices that ensured a diversified future. Despite the “black codes” and laws to keep the people impoverished they found ways to successfully manage and own land. (Davidson, 2008) The secret ownership of Brierfield and Hurricane plantations by the Montgomery family which gave a wonderful example of hard work, desire, and dignity is an example of massive success. (Davidson, 2008) Some migrated north to find work in industries and stores or pursue education. (Davidson, 2008) The idea of working for the master for pay suited some as they felt for whatever reason home is where one needs to begin the journey. Truly there was a journey to be made.

During the time African Americans were deciding how to pursue their freedom the politics of this was in a vast upheaval. Lincoln had begun the controversial journey. History defines President Lincoln with many aspects of trying to free the slaves. (White House, 2008) Compensated emancipation was one effort, while the Confiscation Act, passed by Congress, freed slaves of those rebelling against the Union became another avenue. (White House, 2008) The most well known effort was the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. (White House, 2008) Lincoln was a well thought heartfelt man. He ended his journey for the equality of all men in April of 1865. (White House, 2008)

Andrew Johnson was a self-made man of humble means and as President of the United States during the reconstruction period he faced an impending journey of helping the African American population gain the freedoms they so rightly deserved. (Davidson, 2008) Johnson allowed governments to adopt the “black codes” that oppressed. His innate distain for the rich clouded his judgment and gave way to a lack of willingness to work with other politicians who were striving to pass bills that were for the greater good. (White House, 2009) The Fourteenth Amendment thankfully came about despite his opposition. (White House, 2009) Thus, civil rights were not born, but the journey for the moment continued; the torch passed to people hungry for change.

The beauty of individuals is often the strength of the person within. While politics were dealing out freedoms, the business and industrial explosion of America was just beginning. Migrants from Ireland, Europe, China, and other faraway places were coming to build dreams in a land of promise. The railroads were being built. The steel industry was becoming revolutionized. People were needed to work, teach, preach, sew, sell and the list goes on.

The southern states and the West had vast natural resources as well as shared agricultural abilities that were imperative to supplying the northeastern states and central states. Poor whites, blacks, and other races were exploited by crop-lien systems, the Jim Crow segregation, share cropping, and the railroad industry. (Pilgrim, 2000) The West was also a conquest of whites slaughtering, capturing, and relocating the American Indians. Exploiting the Mexicans and Chinese for easy and cheap labor also became a mark on the land of the free.

The vast influx of immigrants coming into the insatiable whirl of industrial and agricultural jobs barely had time to settle, but settle they did. Tenements in urban areas changed to suburban areas as transportation became more available. Automobiles moved the city and suburban workers out farther into the countryside where just a few years before the farmers had migrated from to find better steadier work.  People, who were on the move; with a nation that was truly in the beginnings of changes that set the stage for the building blocks of a future that became prosperous and sure.

Politics and Change 1877-1920

Political change is a fundamental right of a democracy. It is the right of the people to offer choices. A young nation on the move had far to go with human rights and civil rights.  Women’s suffrage, the temperance league, and other movements had their roots in this tender age. (McCammon, 2001)(Gusfield, 1986) Decisions had to be made on foreign trade and territorial occupation or colonial expansion in the Caribbean and the Pacific to boost access to the rich Asian markets. (Davidson, 2008) The decisions had to be firm to keep Europe from encroaching in American affairs. (Davidson, 2008) Considering how America began, this was a prudent choice at the time.

Individuals in a democracy represent the people who vote or are politically active, thus there are a variety of thoughts and agendas throughout the political realm, even to this day. Progressivism began just as most but has had an enduring affect. The urban middle class attempted to foresee a better America from the local level up through the ranks of government. (Davidson, 2008) It was the hope that establishing a platform of social justice and social welfare would eventually balance the powers of industry and the politics that was corrupt. (Davidson, 2008) Progressivism led to the more activist government to come. (Davidson, 2008)

Man despite the very best efforts has never found a solution to war.  The pivotal year of 1914 saw a world in turmoil and by 1917 the United States joined the massive world engulfing conflict. Joining the war was necessary to preserve the interests of the country as well as the national security of the people therein. (Ibis, 2010)

The war had effects in America that were long standing. Women and many migrating minorities entered the workforce in place of the men at war. African Americans and Mexican Americans found greater freedoms in the work arena. (Davidson, 2008) The ability to serve in the military as valiant members of the forces became the lot for some. It took many years after the war for some to receive the credit they deserved.  This sad trial in their lives and the lives of the families who lost loved ones through their sacrifices in the war shows the extreme beauty in the resilience of people on the move. The motion forward can take decades for a nation and the fragility of human life is but a moment in time, yet justice and integrity as it is carried through by those left behind can make one see the remarkableness in the life that was, is, and is to come. It is the prodigy of faith in the human spirit.

Depression and War 1921-1945

Business, industry, and realty, like all entities in life are prone to cycles. Boom, recession, and depression are the natural flow of most any manmade entity. The American nation being relatively new to mass issues and thus mass management of social structure found a new trial after the First World War. (Davidson, 2008) The “boys” came home to a booming transition in American history. Amazing growth in technology, construction, manufacturing, as well as the need to succeed and move forward from the war fueled the fire of the boom. Media now catering to a mass market of newspapers, magazines, movies, and the radio improved advertising, social knowledge and awareness on an unprecedented scale. Individuals once only aware of the local issues now began a connection to the world in a more adept and profound way.  Those who had immigrated and migrated throughout the free and new lands while the mass changes where being made after Lincoln had found a way to express and connect a world, truly using the freedom.

The market crash in 1929 was inevitable. The natural flow progresses as it does and it was time. President Hoover was replaced with President Roosevelt in 1933. (SearchBeat, 2007) The New Deal of programs to fix the 25% unemployment rate came to a nation of people struggling. (SearchBeat, 2007) Government intervention to support public infrastructure, roads, and bridges gave employment. There were projects to improve power such as the Tennessee Valley Authority. (Davidson, 2008) The Hoover Dam also became a New Deal project though plans had been made for it as the depression began. The work it provided caused migration of men to find work and relocate families where they could be sustained much easier through regular pay.

War was brewing again over the seas, the magnitude of which came to be another world-engulfing event. America became involved when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, much to the dismay of the people. Germany had progressed through Europe and was bombing Great Britain. The fall of Britain would have left America open in many ways. Thus using the Pearl Harbor tragedy to gain public support, America entered the war with immense charisma. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in 1945, just after the fatal nuclear bombings, brought the end to WWII.

Cold War and Vietnam

The document that laid out the cold war and the psychological profile of the nations as well as their goals for the future was the NSC-68. (Good, 2008) President Truman requested this report. (Whitehouse, 2009) He took a strong stand in several initiatives NATO and the Berlin Crisis being the most memorable. (Davidson, 2008)

Soviet communism was warily watched by those in the American government. The cold war that had began between the Soviet Union and the United States caused policy makers to fear the aggressive nature in which the Soviets behaved towards the Persian Gulf and Eastern Europe. (Davidson, 2008) President Truman implemented policies of communist containment that included: The Truman Doctrine, The Marshal Plan, and another policy called the NSC-68. (Davidson, 2008) Interestingly, the fear of communism’s spread even led to the persecution of American citizens with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s famous speech on February 9th, 1950. He brought forth a list of 57 known communist working in the state department. (Schultz, 1999) This caused an anti-American witch-hunt for communist of a magnitude unseen before.  He endured persecution up until the end of his life seven years later, by varied sectors he had vilified. (Schultz, 1999)

While the government was keeping the American people safe and watching the world, culture, multiple civil rights issues, and the mass of the population was moving in new ways. Automobiles had given freedom and easy personal transportation to the masses. Suburban life was maturing. Women began to find fulfillment out of the house; working and redefining the family. (Davidson, 2008) Black leaders held the public stage with the hopes for a better future. The need for change in areas of civil and human rights became an embattled issue, which changed the scope of history infinitely.

The Vietnam War also found controversial grounds throughout the American soil. The need to understand why it was fought and the overwhelming documentary of it on the mass media brought about a torn nation. The desire to find a better way in conflict with those who in their unreasonableness will always foster war rather than peace is even to the present seen.

America since 1975: The Conclusion

The progression of various movements, government policies, and amendments to the constitution has given America the wonder it is today. There has been various trials and issues through the years and whether dealt with competently or not, it is what it is now and is forever changing as the face of the people and politics reflect the immigration and migration of those long ago on their journey as well as now just beginning the path to live what was once known as the American Dream.  The progression of Presidents from Nixon through Clinton moved the population in thought and economic issues both good and bad. Democracy has its good as well as bad. It can be seen through the course of time, yet the winds of change are with the people as they vote and become active politically. Thus is the beauty of the people who immigrated, migrated and integrated to make America the strong, beautiful place it is today.


  1. The White House,


  1. About NSC-68, K. Good 2008)



  1. Davidson, J. W., Gienapp, W. E., et al. (2008). Nation of nations: a narrative history of the American Republic (6th ed., Vol. 2). Boston: McGraw Hill.


  1. How Movements Win: Gender Opportunity Structures and U.S. Women’s Suffrage Movements, 1866 to 1919   Holly J. McCammon, Karen E. Campbell, Ellen M. Granberg and Christine Mowery American Sociological Review, Vol. 66, No. 1 (Feb., 2001), pp. 49-70
    (article consists of 22 pages)   Published by: American Sociological Association   Stable URL:



  1. Jim Crow Caste System, Dr. David Pilgrim, 2000 Professor of Sociology Ferris State University
  2. Race Relations in the American West, Richard White American Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 3 (1986), pp. 396-416 (article consists of 21 pages) Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL:


  1. Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement 2nd Edition, Joseph R. Gusfield (1986) Illini Books, Chicago IL


  1. The Great Depression, SearchBeat (1997-2010)


  1. The Hoover Dam Construction History, WGBH  PBS (2008)


  1. Watching Communism: J. McCarthy, Stanley K. Schultz (1999)           


  1. WWI Eye Witness to History, Ibis Communications Inc. (2010)