Immigration and Americanization, 1880-1930

Primary Source Set

Between 1880 and 1930, approximately 28 million immigrants entered the United States. In contrast to earlier waves of immigrants, most of whom had originated in western and northern Europe, this group arrived from eastern and southern Europe. As they entered through Ellis Island in New York Harbor and made their way into various new lives—in cities and rural areas coast to coast, from urban tenements to Midwestern farms to seaside towns— they encountered mixed reactions from existing Americans. They also entered into a political climate that was charged by the sweeping immigration restrictions placed on the Chinese in 1882 through the Chinese Exclusion Act. While some Americans favored immigration, many opposed it, and responded during the 1920s by pressing for a tightening of the nation’s borders. This set of photographs, plays, and primary sources allows users to immerse themselves in the debates that surrounded turn-of-the-century immigration and to consider the nature of Americanization.

Additional resources for research

  1. Leaving Europe: A New Life in America online exhibition, Digital Public Library of America and Europeana.
  2. Ellis Island Museum of Immigration.
  3. Education Resources, The Tenement Museum.
  4. Destination America: US Immigration, PBS.

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