Ellis Island Nation: Immigration Policy and American Identity in the Twentieth Century, a new book by University of Mississippi historian Robert L. Fleegler, traces the emergence of "contributionism," the belief that the newcomers from eastern and southern Europe contributed important cultural and economic benefits to American society.
Early twentieth-century immigrants from southern and eastern Europe often found themselves criticized for language and customs at odds with their new culture, but initially found greater acceptance through an emphasis on their similarities to "native stock" Americans. Drawing on sources as diverse as World War II films, records of Senate subcommittee hearings, and anti-Communist propaganda, Ellis Island Nation describes how contributionism eventually shifted the focus of the immigration debate from assimilation to a Cold War celebration of ethnic diversity and its benefits–helping to ease the passage of 1960s immigration laws that expanded the pool of legal immigrants and setting the stage for the identity politics of the 1970s and 1980s. Ellis Island Nation provides a historical perspective on recent discussions of multiculturalism and the exclusion of groups that have arrived since the liberalization of immigrant laws.
If you'd like the chance to receive a free copy of Ellis Island Nation, send an email to pressmkt at pobox dot upenn dot edu with your first name, last name, and your preferred email address by Friday, April 19 at noon Eastern Standard Time. One person will be selected at random to receive a hardcover or ebook copy of Ellis Island Nation.