During the early 1900s a vast amount of people both immigrated and migrated to the United States in search of money, better jobs, new lives, etc. Yet, the people who immigrated and migrated to the United States were each a part of different cultures: from Italian to German, French to Jewish, Irish to African American (American Cities/New York/African American/Intergroup Relations/Color Lines). New York City was a prime location for the immigrants and migrants of the time to create their new lives. They joked that The Jews own New York, the Irish run it and the Negroes enjoy it (American Cities/New York/African American/Intergroup Relations/Color Lines). The single line clearly shows how each group, Jewish, Italian, and African American, had distinct experiences from one another. Although they had experiences that were different, the immigrants and migrants all experienced some of the same feelings, being in a new place, being discriminated against and being alone. After immigrating and migrating to the United States, Eastern European Jews, Italians, and African Americans had experiences that were unique as well as similar to each other.
The first experience of immigrants and migrants was the area of neighborhood they chose to live in. In New York, African Americans migrated primarily to Harlem, yet were scattered in different neighborhoods. This was an ideal location for African Americans, since most people in New York were so busy they hadnt time to spend hating other people (American Cities/New York/African American/Intergroup Relations/Color Lines). Although most of the New Yorkers
did not discriminate, there was still a portion of the population that contained Southern whites, who felt that the African Americans were taking over the white neighborhoods (American Cities/New York/African American/Intergroup Relations/Color Lines). Within these neighborhoods was where the African Americans encountered prejudice and persecution (Global View/Arrival/Northern Train Stations/letters/The Exodus During the World War). Although the African Americans moved north to escape the effects of slavery, the prejudices still followed them to New York, where being spread across the city did not help.
The Italians and the Eastern European Jews, on the other hand, immigrated to New York as part of a larger family, kin or village networks (American Cities/New York/Italians/ Community/social institutions/A Hodge-Podge Collection of Small Village Clusters). Once they settled into the new location of their old village, they attempted to reproduce the pace and patterns of its homeland setting (American Cities/New York/Italians/ Community/social institutions/A Hodge-Podge Collection of Small Village Clusters). Since the merchants, doctors, lawyers and manufacturers from the old villages traveled together to America, the Italians and Jews were provided the necessities they had in their old village, from Italian cheese to soda-water flavored Neapolitan style (American Cities/New York/Italians/ Interactions/ Americanization/Little Italy in War Time). Being able to reproduce the settings of the old villages and live within a community of similar backgrounds, Italians and Jews were not as harshly discriminated against as African Americans. It appeared as though smaller ethnic communities dodged a fair amount of discrimination from American citizens due to their larger numbers and sense of identity.
For a majority of the immigrants and migrants who came to America, after forming a community, the development of organizations within their community was essential. Religion
played a key role in the lives of African Americans, Jews and Italians. It was said the immigrant who loses his religion is worse than the religionless American because his early standards are dropped along with his fate (American Cities/New York/Eastern European Jews/ Interaction/Intergroup Relations/The Race Line). For African Americans, churches were a few of the first buildings built and started in their community through the joint effort of several congregations; It gave them a sense of belonging to something, having something to believe in and call their own. Along with religion, immigrants also formed numerous other organizations and clubs within their communities. The Italians formed groups based on the sections of Italy (American Cities/New York/Italians/ Community/social institutions/Italian Organizations). African Americans alternatively, formed schools, club-houses and lodge meeting places the Y.M.C.A and the social service agencies. (American Cities/New York/African Americans/ Interactions/Becoming Ethnic Americans/The Same Pattern, Only a Different Shade) The integration of religion and organizations into the community gave the immigrants and migrants a feeling of being at home and belonging to something important while in America. The organizations allowed them to follow the American Ideals when outside of their community, and still practice and remember their culture.
In the workplace, Italians and Jews were treated quite different from African Americans. Although the Italians and Jews were seen as the defective and delinquent classes of Europe, they were still higher in the American hierarchy (Hall P.305). The European Immigrants had the ability to exclude the Negroes even from the menial positions (Global View/Arrival/Northern Train Stations/letters/The Exodus During the World War). While the Jews and Italians peddled, selling shoe-strings, neckties, sausages, candy and a thousand and one other things the African Americans were forced into hard labor (American Cities/New York/Eastern European
Jews/Neighborhood/In the Streets/The Earnestness That Wins Wealth). Due to racial discrimination, African Americans were given the blind alley jobs which lead to nothing beyond the merit of long and faithful service (American Cities/New York/African Americans/Neighborhood/At Work/The Negro Worker). The African American worked day in and day out, rarely with anything to show off but worn bodies (American Cities/New York/African Americans/Neighborhood/At Work/The Negro Worker). Even though African Americans were American citizens first, the European immigrants were given priority in jobs over the African Americans; prospering in the rewards of the occupations that the African Americans would not dream of occupying.
When the immigrants and migrants came to America, people were skeptical as to whether or not they would easily assimilate into the American culture, and they felt that the immigrants should not come to America if they were not going to Americanize. Yet, as Grace Abbot wrote, None of the immigrants should be foredoomed to extinction simply because they are different from those that have existed here (Abbott P. 311). The African Americans and Jews proved Abbot correct, and also conformed to the American ideals. The way of life in African American communities were like mini-American communities; African Americans occupied all of the jobs needed in a community, they had their own organizations, their own churches, etc. The fact that the Jews were so actively involved in business and politics was seen as a desire to follow the American dream. The Eastern European Jews had experienced the ghetto and did not want to fall back into the same situation, hence the reason why they assimilated so quickly to American ideals.
The Italians, on the other hand, were not pictured to be an Americanized group. This was because the Italians were seen as a group more violent then any of the other immigrant groups,
although the great majority of the Italian immigrants were peaceable (American Cities/New York/Italians/ Community/Group Life and Culture/Traits of Italian Character). It was shown that the Italians Americanized just as easily as other immigrant groups and offered no resistance to his new environment(American Cities/New York/Italians/ Interactions/ Americanization /Little Italy in War Time). This shows how the stereotypes of Italians during the early twentieth century affected the need for the Italians to take on the American ideals. Overall, the immigrants and migrants felt the need to assimilate to American ideals to prove that.
Eastern European Jews, Italians and African Americans had experiences, which allowed the groups to connect and feel as one group, immigrating and migrating to find a better life, and also separated them from one another. Through the neighborhoods they lived in, the organizations and churches they began, the jobs they worked in, and accepting American ideals as their own, the immigrants were similar in their experiences. The African Americans experienced more prejudices due to their race then the Italians or the Jews. This, overall, affected their way of life and experiences in America, while the Italians and Jews led fairly typical American lives. This same problem of forcing American Ideals upon immigrants to prevent discrimination is still an issue today. Should the only way for immigrants and migrants to live enjoyable lives are to conform to American ideals and morals, or should each individual be allowed the choice to be different and not undergo assumptions made by the American Citizens? People should be treated equally whether they choose to assimilate or continue to follow their culture. This is the land of the free home of the brave.
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