Attitudes towards immigrants

By the time of World War I, programs of "Americanization" were introduced into schools and other institutions.  These were designed to instill patriotic principles and American values in newcomers who might otherwise, it was feared, by open to "radical ideas."

Early attempts to "Americanize" immigrants revolved around teaching them English and giving them a grounding in civic education.  The "Americanization Day" which was held on July 4, 1915 used the slogan: "Many Peoples, One Nation."

Once America entered the war, there was an all-out assault on foreign influences in American life.  Immigrants had to out-do "natives" in flag waving and other patriotic activities in order to demonstrate their loyalty to their new country and to prove that they were not "enemy agents."

By the end of the war, immigrants who refused to "assimilate" could be accused of disloyalty and face deportation.

The Lusk Committee on Seditious Activities, which was set up by the New York legislature to investigate political dissent, issued a 4,500-page report in 1920, nearly half of which was devoted to Americanization.  The legislature had already proved its anti-radical credentials by refusing to allow five elected members to take their seats because they were socialists.

Other state legislatures passed laws requiring non English speakers to attend Americanization classes.  By 1919, 15 states had decreed that English must be the sole language of instruction in all primary schools, even private ones.  Oregon , in a law which the Supreme Court later declared unconstitutional, ruled that all children had to be educated in public, not private, elementary schools.  They would therefore be within the reach of public school programs intended to promote national cohesion and conformity of thought.  Some states insisted that teachers be citizens, screened them for loyalty and "purified" textbooks.

It was during this period that the Pledge of Allegiance became compulsory in many schools. The Pledge was written by Frances Bellamy, a Baptist minister who had been forced out of his Boston church because of his socialist views.  It was first published in The Youth's Companion in 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to the New World.  

Find out what Francis Bellamy had in mind when he drafted the Pledge: