During the Antebellum Period, the differences between the lives and political demands of Americans in the North, South and West became clearer. Americans had long tended to have strong loyalties to their respective states and regions. This tendency grew stronger in the decades before the Civil War. Thus, although the struggles of small farmers in all regions may have been similar, most saw themselves as northerners, southerners or, westerners first, and farmers second.
Nevertheless, agriculture was one major issue which affected all Americans. Despite continued industrialization, the nation was still predominantly agricultural. In addition to people who worked on farms, forming the majority of the labor force, urban dwellers were concerned about the agricultural industry because of its affect on food prices. Merchants also closely followed the status of American agriculture, since many American exports, including cotton and tobacco, were agricultural products.
On small family farms, all members of the family would take part in the work, which began early in the morning and continued at least until sunset. Children might attend school, but only sporadically and rarely beyond the elementary school level. In the cities, adults worked mostly in clerical or service industries, as well as a relative few in factories. Children attended school more consistently than those in rural areas, but regular attendence was still rare.
While life on the farm was hard and sometimes lacking in excitement, it was generally safer than life in the lively, but often dangerous city. Cities provided opportunities to meet diverse people and take part in a wide range of activities. Theaters hosted local and traveling performers. Societies and organizations of all kinds flourished. Fancy hotels and restaurants began to appear. Nevertheless, the high crime rates, frequent fires and poor sanitation threatened the lives and well-being of residents. Overcrowding in slums and tenements was also dangerous for the rural newcomers and the many immigrants who spent at least some time in the urban centers of the United States.
1a. Diversity of Native American Groups
The structures Native Americans called home were extremely varied and often exclusive to tribe or region. These "apartment" style dwellings were the work of Natives of the Southwest.
Since 1492, European explorers and settlers have tended to ignore the vast diversity of the people who had previously lived here. It soon became common to lump all such groups under the term "Indian." In the modern American world, we still do. There are certain experiences common to the survivors of these tribes. They all have had their lands compromised in some way and suffered the horrors of reservation life.
The Natchez chief, known as "Great Sun," was a powerful Indian leader. Unlike some Indian leaders, "Great Sun" ruled as an absolute monarch.
Stereotyping Indians in this way denies the vast cultural differences between tribes. First, there is the issue of language. The Navajo people of the Southwest and the Cherokees of the Southeast have totally unrelated languages.
There were over 200 North American tribes speaking over 200 different languages. The United States used the uniqueness of the Navajo language to its advantage in World War II. Rather than encrypting radio messages, it proved simpler to use Navajos to speak to each other in their everyday language to convey high-security messages. It worked.
Navajo Code Talkers
Between 1942 and 1945, about 400 Navajos served as code talkers for the U.S. Marines. They could encode, transmit, and decode a message in a fraction of the time it took a machine to do the same. And unlike with machine codes, the Japanese were never able to break the Navajo code.
Excerpts from the Navajo Code Talkers' Dictionary
|MEANING||NAVAJO PRONUNCIATION||LITERAL TRANSLATION|
|BOOBY TRAP||DINEH-BA-WHOA-BLEHI||MAN TRAP|
|FIGHTER PLANE||DA-HE-TIH-HI||HUMMING BIRD|
|TANK DESTROYER||CHAY-DA-GAHI-NAIL-TSAIDI||TORTOISE KILLER|
&ndash excerpted from the Navajo Code Talkers' Dictionary (revised as of June 15, 1945), Department of the Navy
"In the beginning, this place was only darkness and water until the time when a woman fell from the sky world." Thus starts the Oneida creation story. Every Native American tribe has their own history, culture, and art.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Lifestyles varied greatly. Most tribes were domestic, but the Lakota followed the buffalo as nomads. Most engaged in war, but the Apache were particularly feared, while the Hopis were pacifistic. Most societies were ruled by men, but the Iroquois women chose the leaders.
Native Americans lived in wickiup is used to describe these structures in the western U.S., while wigwam is used in the notheast and in Canada '>wigwams , hogans , igloos , tepees , and longhouses. Some relied chiefly on hunting and fishing, while others domesticated crops. The Algonkian chiefs tried to achieve consensus, but the Natchez "Sun" was an absolute monarch. The totem pole was not a universal Indian symbol. It was used by tribes such as the Chinook in the Pacific Northwest to ward off evil spirits and represent family history.
It is important that students of history explore tribal nuances. Within every continent, there is tremendous diversity. The tribal differences that caused the Apache and Navajo peoples to fight each other are not so different from the reasons Germans fought the French. Recognizing tribal diversity is an important step in understanding the history of America.
The Roots of Multicultural Diversity in Revolutionary America
Opinions vary about whether multiculturalism and ethnic and racial diversity are divisive or beneficial to contemporary American society – but most of those discussing the issue presume that these are relatively recent trends, especially characteristic of the late-twentieth and early twenty-first century United States. The Immigration Act of 1965 is often cited as a watershed moment, a major policy change that opened the door to unusually diverse streams of immigrants, giving rise both to new ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups – and also sparking nativist reactions based on worries about a fraying national community. But a look back across U.S. history reveals that ethnic diversity and multiculturalism are hardly modern innovations.
Indeed, multicultural realities and ideals were present from the U.S. founding. Subsequent eras have brought new waves of arrivals, adding more cultures, religions, and languages into the mix, but not changing America’s core identity so much as adding to it. Only one major time period – the era between the 1920s Quota Acts and the 1965 Immigration Act – brought a temporary partial delay in the U.S. march toward greater cultural diversity.
Looking all the way back to the remarkable diversity of America’s Revolutionary era tells us much about the enduring models on which our society and national identity were grounded.
Moroccan Muslims in Revolutionary South Carolina
A Moroccan-American community lived in South Carolina during the Revolutionary era, though its exact origins are unclear. Some members had likely been brought to North America as slaves and then been freed others may have arrived as immigrants fleeing the violence of the Barbary Pirates, encouraged to seek refuge by the 1786 Treaty of Friendship between the fledgling United States and Morocco. In any case, by 1790 the community was sizeable enough to necessitate action in the state legislature to clarify the status and citizenship of its members. A law was passed, the Moors Sundry Act, recognizing South Carolina’s Moroccan residents as “white,” thus exempting them from laws governing free or enslaved African Americans and requiring them to fulfill certain civic obligations such as jury duty.
The presence of this Muslim American population contributed to two significant statements on religion in the new nation. The only reference to religion in the body of the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, avowed that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.” This provision was drafted in part by South Carolina’s Charles Pinckney, who also served as one of the authors of the Moors Sundry Act. During debates in the South Carolina about ratifying the Constitution, Pinckney unequivocally defended the “no litmus test” clause. In response to a question posed by a fellow legislator, Pinckney stated not only that the clause would allow a Muslim to run for office in the United States, but also he hoped to live to see that happen.
Early Filipino Americans in Louisiana
During this same era, Louisiana was under Spanish rule – the territory had been granted to Spain by the 1763 Treaty of Paris – and significant numbers of Spanish-speaking immigrants were arriving in the region. They came not only from Mexico but also from such far-flung Spanish colonies as the Canary Islands and the Philippines. The first Filipino arrivals created a village that came to be known as Manila Town, a settlement that has endured ever since and represents one of the nation’s oldest Asian American communities. After Louisiana was sold to the United States in 1803, Manila Town residents exercised their new American citizenship in a particularly striking way, by joining Jean Lafitte’s multi-national U.S. forces in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Filipino Americans constituted a fighting unit known as the “Batarians” and helped U.S. General Andrew Jackson triumph over the British.
Chinese Americans in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Because Chinese were legally excluded from immigrating to the United States between 1882 and World War II and beyond, many people presume that Chinese Americans arrived only starting in the late 20th century. Actually, the xenophobic 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (the first national U.S. immigration law) represented a response to a century’s worth of earlier arrivals from China. The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Spanish California in the late 18th century, and by the time the United States took control of the region in the mid-19th century there were sizeable Chinatowns in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. The 1880 census documented over 100,000 Chinese Americans, likely an underestimate. As the newly formed U.S. Republic expanded into the West, it had already encountered and incorporated significant Chinese populations.
Multiculturalism and Xenophobia
To be sure, Revolutionary-era America was defined by nativist, xenophobic fears as well as cultural diversity. Not even the most learned founders were immune to bigotry In 1751’s Observations Concerning the Increases of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. , Benjamin Franklin responded to German immigration into Pennsylvania by asking, “Why should the Palatine Boors [natives of a particular German region] be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English , become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?” By the end of his life, however, Franklin repudiated his earlier views and lauded all that German Americans had contributed to Pennsylvania and the new nation. Similar sequences of fearful rejection followed by pride in diversity have followed ever since.
Of course, contemporary U.S. society is evolving in complex ways, and cannot be understood as a mere repetition of the past. Still, a full accounting of America’s multicultural past back to the Revolutionary era shows that religious, linguistic, and ethnic diversity – and contrasting reactions to it – are nothing new. From its founding, the United States has been defined in no small measure both by sociocultural diversity and by intense conversations and conflicts about the meaning of diversity for our society, national identity, and politics.
Read more in Benjamin Railton, The Chinese Exclusion Act: What It Can Teach Us about America (Palgrave Macmillan Pivot, 2013) and Redefining American Identity: From Cabeza de Vaca to Barack Obama (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
7f. "What Is the American?"
Michel-Guillaume de Crèvecoeur was a French settler in the American colonies in the 1770s. Coming from France he could not believe the incredible diversity in the American colonies. Living in one area, he encountered people of English, Welsh, Scots-Irish, German, French, Irish, Swedish, Native American, and African descent. "What then is the American, this new man?" He could not be sure, but he knew it to be different from anything that could be found on the European side of the Atlantic.
At the time of the American Revolution, English citizens made up less than two thirds of the colonial population, excluding Native Americans. Nearly one fifth of the population was of African descent. Of the white population, there was still tremendous diversity, particularly in Pennsylvania, America's first melting pot . Most numerous of the non-English settler population were the Germans and the Scots-Irish.
Germans came to Pennsylvania at the turn of the 18th century in answer to advertisements in Germany placed by William Penn. The promise of religious freedom, economic opportunity and freedom from war accelerated the arrival of Germans in the 1700s. English-speaking Americans misinterpreted the word Deutsch &mdash the German word for German &mdash and the settlers became consequently known as the Pennsylvania Dutch . Along with linguistic and cultural diversity, the Germans brought new religions to America, the most prominent of which was Lutheranism.
The Scots-Irish were twice displaced. They originated in the Scottish Lowlands, but fled to Ireland to escape poverty. They found little prosperity there, as well. In addition, the Catholic Irish had little desire to share their island with the Presbyterian Scots, so they migrated to America. Much of the best farmland had already been claimed, so many Scots-Irish moved into Appalachia . Here they frequently fought with the Indians and resented being controlled by wealthy planters and politicians &mdash reminding them of what they had left behind.
Soon these cultures began to blend. Americans became culturally distinct from the English. Their language, culture, and religions differed greatly from those of Mother England . Most Americans were born here and never even visited England during their lives. The Germans were never loyal to England. The Scots-Irish had great resentment toward Great Britain. The ties that bound them to the British Crown were weakening fast.
Diversity in America - History
Diversity in America
Divining America is made possible by grants from the Lilly Endowment and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Religious Diversity in America
Professor of American Religious History
Barnard College, Columbia University
©National Humanities Center
Ever since the first days of European settlement&mdashand even before that with the wide variety of Native cultures&mdashdiversity has been one of the distinguishing features of religious life in North America. Sometimes the juxtaposition of religious groups created conflict, as when Spanish settlers sought to impose Roman Catholicism on the Pueblos in the Southwest, leading to the Pueblo uprising of 1680, seventy years after the founding of Santa Fe as the first European capital city in North America. At other times, religious groups have accommodated to one another, as in the Middle Colonies, where rampant ethnic and religious diversity forced various groups to find some way to coexist.
New Netherland provides a particularly graphic example. In 1524 Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian navigator in the service of France, discovered the inlet to what is now New York harbor through the Narrows that now bears his name. Nearly a century later, Henry Hudson, an Englishman under contract to the Dutch West India Company, nosed the Half Moon through the same Narrows and up the River later named in his honor. Hudson failed in his search for a northwest passage to Asia, but he opened the way for immigration. The first group of settlers to disembark at Manhattan were Walloons, French-speaking Belgians, followed soon thereafter by a modest influx of Dutch, Germans, and French. Early reports filtering back to Amsterdam from New Netherland told of Huguenots, Mennonites, Brownists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, even, according to a contemporary, &ldquomany atheists and various other servants of Baal.&rdquo 1 English Puritans settled toward the eastern end of Long Island. Jews, seeking asylum, arrived in New Amsterdam from Recifé (on the Northeast coast of Brazil) in 1654, following the Portuguese takeover of the Dutch colony there. The English Conquest of New Netherland a decade later further added to the diversity of the colony renamed in honor of the Duke of York, and English attempts to tame some of the religious and ethnic diversity of their new colony met with considerable resistance.
In contrast with most of New England, where the Puritans sought to impose religious uniformity, other colonies in the Middle Atlantic were also characterized by pluralism. Quakers and Scots-Irish Presbyterians, among many others, inhabited what is now New Jersey. Further south, the Swedes, flush from their crucial engagement in the Thirty Years War, sought to establish a beachhead in the New World with settlements along the Delaware River, settlements that yielded to Dutch rule in 1665 and then to the English nine years later. Maryland, named for the wife of England&rsquos Charles I (not for the Blessed Virgin, as many believe), was founded by Lord Calvert as a refuge for English Catholics, but he recognized even from the beginning that Catholic settlers would have to accommodate believers from other traditions in order to ensure toleration for themselves. William Penn, an English Quaker, founded his &ldquoHoly Experiment&rdquo in 1680, a place of religious toleration that attracted Lutherans and Quakers, along with smaller groups such as Moravians, Mennonites, Amish, and Schwenckfelders.
Religious Diversity and the New Nation
The religious and ethnic pluralism in the Middle Atlantic persisted throughout the colonial period, and when it came time for the framers of the Constitution to configure the relationship between church and state for the new nation, they looked both to Roger Williams&rsquos notion of a &ldquowall of separation&rdquo as well as to the religious diversity in New York and elsewhere. Williams, a Puritan minister who arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1631, quickly ran afoul of the Puritan ministers because he recognized the dangers to the faith of too close an association between religion and the state. He wanted to protect the &ldquogarden of the church&rdquo from the &ldquowilderness of the world&rdquo by means of a &ldquowall of separation.&rdquo The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay had no patience with such ideas they expelled Williams from the colony, whereupon he migrated south to organize what became Rhode Island as a haven for liberty of conscience and toleration of religious diversity. The notion of disestablishment, the absence of a state religion, was utterly unprecedented in England and Europe, but New York had been functioning for decades with de facto disestablishment, proving that religious pluralism posed no threat to the secular order and that government could function without the backing of a particular religion.
The First Amendment&rsquos guarantee of &ldquofree exercise&rdquo of religion together with its proscription against a state church set up a kind of free market of religious life in the United States. The absence of an established religion means that all religious groups are free to compete in this marketplace, and (to extend the economic metaphor) American history is littered with examples of religious entrepreneurs who have competed for a market share. This system (in theory, at least) disadvantages no one, so all religious groups, regardless of their historical or ethnic origins or their theological inclinations, are free to compete in that marketplace.
The Crucible of Pluralism
Americans, however, have not always welcomed religious newcomers with open arms. The immigration of the Irish, following the Potato Famines in the Old World, met with resistance from American Protestants, who wanted to retain their hegemony. Germans and Italians also faced hostilities in the nineteenth century, in part because of the newcomers&rsquo faith but also because Catholic immigrants did not share Protestant scruples about temperance. Opposition to &ldquoRum and Romanism&rdquo became commonplace.
Religious diversity not only had an ethnic valence, it was racial as well. Many Africans, who were brought forcibly to the New World as slaves, adopted the Christianity (so-called) of their captors. But others sought, against formidable odds, to retain vestiges of their ancestral religions more often than not, those expressions manifested themselves in enthusiastic worship. African-Americans also sought independence from white churches, finding at least a measure or institutional autonomy in such organizations as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Episcopal Methodist Zion Church, and, later, in the Moorish Science Temple of America and the Nation of Islam. (See also: African American Religion, Pt. I: To the Civil War)
Asians began to arrive late in the nineteenth century, many to the West Coast to help with the construction of the transcontinental railroad. The numbers of immigrants prompted the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and other Asians also met with resistance. The notorious case of Bhagat Singh Thind, a Sikh whose application for citizenship in 1923 was denied because he was not considered &ldquowhite,&rdquo eventually created pressure to redress that injustice President Harry Truman signed the Luce-Cellar Act in 1946, which essentially reversed the Thind decision, although it retained quotas on immigrations from India.
Living Up to American Ideals
The movement for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s paved the way for a greater acceptance of religious diversity, not only for African-Americans but for other Americans as well. Jews, who had their own struggles for acceptance following their immigration to the United States in the nineteenth century (see also: The American Jewish Experience in the Twentieth Century: Antisemitism and Assimilation), joined the civil rights movement, and Native Americans also began to assert their religious and ancestral identities, as with the occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay and Wounded Knee, South Dakota, site of one most brutal massacres of Sioux Indians at the hands of the United States Cavalry in 1890.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Hart-Cellar Immigration Act in July 1965, immigration quotas finally were removed. This opened the way for a new wave of immigrants, many from South Asia and Southeast Asia. Once again, Americans were confronted with religious diversity, as Islamic mosques, Shintō temples, Sikh Gurdwārās, Buddhist stupas, and Hindu temples literally transformed the religious landscape of the United States. As before, the newcomers met resistance. But Americans tend, sooner or later, to rise to their better selves and make good the promises in our charter documents that everyone is created equal and enjoys &ldquofree exercise&rdquo of religion&mdashor, if they prefer, no religion at all.
Guiding Student Discussion
American history generally&mdashand American religious history in particular&mdashtends to be presented through the lens of New England, especially in the colonial era. The story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is imprinted on our consciousness, and that generally gives way to the Puritans&mdashJohn Winthrop, the &ldquocity upon a hill,&rdquo Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, and the Salem witch trials.
When talking about religious diversity, however, it&rsquos much more useful to divert our attention to the Middle Colonies, present-day New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. Here you find a rich pastiche of religious groups, everything from Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Quakers to Dutch Reformed, Swedish Lutherans, Baptists, Huguenots, and various German groups. The story of how these groups learned to live together provides a rich contrast to New England, where the Puritans sought&mdashunsuccessfully&mdashto impose religious uniformity.
This translates, in turn, to the formation of the new nation. The founders adapted the ideas of Roger Williams, a Puritan dissident and founder of the Baptist tradition in America, along with the experience of religious diversity in the Middle Colonies to provide for freedom of religious expression and no state church, as encoded in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The First Amendment itself, much debated throughout American history and especially in recent years, is worthy of examination and discussion, emphasizing that this notion of a government that was not buttressed by a state religion was utterly unprecedented in the eighteenth century. The First Amendment provided, in effect, a free marketplace of religion unimpeded by the state, thereby allowing a rich variety of religious groups to flourish.
One suggestion would be to study both New England and the Middle Colonies and then ask students which region more nearly anticipated the contours of American society. Another exercise would be to read the Flushing Remonstrance of 1657, when the citizens of Flushing, New Netherland (now New York), protested against the attempts of Pieter Stuyvesant, director-general of the West India Company and governor of the colony, to prohibit Quaker worship. The Flushing Remonstrance is often cited as the first expression of religious freedom in America, and it is notable that none of the thirty-one signatories was himself a Quaker.
The story of religious diversity in the nineteenth century is tied inextricably to immigration. The arrival of non-Protestant immigrants, especially Roman Catholics and Jews, threatened Protestant hegemony many Protestants resisted. A good topic for discussion here might be what role the cities played in bringing about religious accommodation. With the massive urbanization of American society late in the nineteenth century, various religious and ethnic groups&mdashJews from Germany and Eastern Europe, Roman Catholics from Ireland and Italy&mdashwere thrown together into the cauldron of urban life. Despite inevitable differences and conflict, these groups eventually learned to coexist in the cities.
The twentieth century saw the spectrum of religious diversity expand even further, from Protestants, Catholics, and Jews to a wide range of Asian religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintō, Sikhism, Jainism, and many others. At the same time, various indigenous religious gained in popularity: Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah&rsquos Witnesses, the Nation of Islam, to name only a few. The Hart-Cellar Immigration Act of 1965, coming&mdashsignificantly&mdashon the heels of the civil rights movement, opened the doors of the United States to new waves of settlement and thereby eliminated the quotas of the Johnson Act of 1924. Both pieces of legislation merit study. And it is worth speculating about whether President Johnson or any of those associated with the passage of the 1965 bill anticipated how thoroughly that legislation would change the religious complexion (quite literally!) of the United States.
Finally, what about those who choose not to embrace religion in any form? The First Amendment provides for the &ldquofree exercise&rdquo of religion, but does it also protect &ldquono exercise&rdquo of religion? Clearly, it does, but how did we as a nation come to this conclusion? How have religious atheists and agnostics been treated throughout American history? What does it mean that many of the founders, including Thomas Jefferson, were Deists? What do we make of the fact that Jefferson once opined that Unitarianism would eventually become the dominant religion of an enlightened nation? Does the addition of &ldquounder God&rdquo to the Pledge of Allegiance and &ldquoIn God We Trust&rdquo emblazoned on our currency&mdashboth added in the 1950s, during the Cold War&mdashviolate the rights of those who choose not to believe in God or a Supreme Being?
From Perry Miller&rsquos &ldquorediscovery&rdquo of the Puritans in the 1920s until the 1980s, Puritanism dominated the historiography of colonial America. By the early 1980s, however, about the time that Edmund S. Morgan declared that &ldquowe now know more about the Puritans than any sane person should care to know,&rdquo historians began to look at religious life in other colonies. Several examples in this genre include Jon Butler, The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society Catharine Randall, From a Far Country: Huguenots and Camisards in the New World Ned C. Landsman, Scotland and Its First American Colony, 1683-1675 A. G. Roeber, Palatines, Liberty, and Property: German Lutherans in Colonial British America and Randall Balmer, A Perfect Babel of Confusion: Dutch Religion and English Culture in the Middle Colonies. All of these books address the challenges of religious pluralism, the conflicts associated with such diversity, and, generally, the resolution of those conflicts.
Several books have been written about Roger Williams: Perry Miller, Roger Williams: His Contribution to the American Tradition Edmund S. Morgan, Roger Williams: The Church and the State and Edwin S. Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America. Gaustad has also written a useful book about Thomas Jefferson, who contributed greatly to the configuration of church and state that allowed religious diversity to flourish: Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson.
Religious diversity in the nineteenth century took many forms, and it met with spirited opposition from Nativists, those who opposed new immigrants. Ray Allen Billington examines this opposition in Protestant Crusade, 1800-1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism. A number of case studies demonstrate how religious diversity played out, especially in American cities. See Jay S. Dolan, The Immigrant Church: New York&rsquos Irish and German Catholics, 1815-1865 as well as his In Search of an American Catholicism: A History of Religion and Culture in Tension. Robert Anthony Orsi&rsquos The Madonna of 115 th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem deftly traces the congeries of religious and ethnic diversity both within and beyond a single parish in New York City. John T. McGreevy examines intra-Catholic tensions in Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North.
No scholar has more thoroughly examined the history of Jews in America than Jonathan Sarna. See, in particular, American Judaism: A History and The American Jewish Experience. In addition to tracing the persistent dilemma of Jewish assimilation or particularity, Sarna demonstrates as well the internal diversity within Judaism.
Internal diversity also marks other religious movements too often seen, by outsiders, as homogeneous. One example is evangelicalism, America&rsquos &ldquofolk religion.&rdquo My own book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, seeks to portray American evangelicalism as anything but monolithic, with its rich diversity of fundamentalism, pentecostalism, the holiness and charismatic movements, the sanctified tradition, and many others.
African-Americans have faced their own peculiar struggles in expressing their religious life. The best account of the days of slavery is Albert J. Raboteau&rsquos Slave Religion: The &ldquoInvisible Institution&rdquo in the Antebellum South. The quest for black religious autonomy is recounted in Segregated Sabbaths: Richard Allen and the Rise of Independent Black Churches, 1760-1840, by Carol V. R. George. Following the Great Migration to northern cities at the turn the twentieth century, African-Americans began increasingly to develop their own institutional religious life, especially in the cities. Several colorful figures appeared including Daddy Grace, the Noble Drew Ali, Marcus Garvey, Father Divine, and Elijah Muhammad&mdashall of whom sought space for religious expression. Several biographies are useful: Colin Grant, Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey Jill Watts, God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story Marie Dallem, Daddy Grace: A Celebrity Preacher and His House of Prayer. Though considerably dated, Arthur Huff Fauset&rsquos Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North, an early sociological study of new black religions, provides a snapshot of extraordinary religious diversity within the African-American urban context.
The Nation of Islam remains one of most striking examples of religious diversity. The Autobiography of Malcolm X is indispensible, but other studies of the movement and its context are also useful: Richard Brent Turner, Islam in the African-American Experience and Edward E. Curtis IV, Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975.
As in the nineteenth century, religious diversity in the twentieth century was inextricably tied to immigration. In Protestant Missionaries, Asian Immigrants, and Ideologies of Race in America, 1850-1924, Jennifer Snow finds that missionaries often protested against the various attempts to exclude Asians from coming to the United States. In 1965, a decade after Will Herberg had articulated three ways to be American in Protestant-Catholic-Jew, changes to the immigration laws finally ended decades of exclusion and opened doors to new forms of religious diversity. The Pluralism Project at Harvard University provides a range of resources for understanding this new diversity, including a sophisticated website. The director of the project, Diana L. Eck, has also written A New Religious America: How a &ldquoChristian Country&rdquo Has Become the World&rsquos Most Religiously Diverse Nation.
Finally, several scholars have sought to understand all of American religious history through the lens of pluralism. See, for example, Catherine L. Albanese, America: Religions and Religion and another survey of religion in America, Religion in American Life: A Short History, by Jon Butler, Grant Wacker, and Randall Balmer. This topic also forms the basis of William R. Hutchison&rsquos Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal.
1 J. Franklin Jameson, ed., Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1664 (New York, 1909), 123-125.
Randall Balmer is professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University and a visiting professor at Yale Divinity School. He has taught at Columbia since earning the Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1985 and has been a visiting professor at Princeton, Rutgers, Yale, Drew, and Northwestern universities and at Union Theological Seminary, where he is also an adjunct professor of church history. He has published a dozen books, including A Perfect Babel of Confusion: Dutch Religion and English Culture in the Middle Colonies, which won several awards, and Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, now in its fourth edition, which was made into a three-part documentary for PBS. His most recent books are Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America and God in the White House: A History: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush.
Address comments or questions to Professor Balmer through TeacherServe &ldquoComments and Questions.&rdquo
What Does an American Look Like? Racial Diversity in the Peace Corps
What does an American look like? America is home to a beautiful array of different races and ethnicities. On most city streets it's common to look around and see a plethora of people representing every region of the world. Ancestors who came to America at different times over the last couple of centuries have added their legacy and dreams to our nation. However, the question of what does an American look like can result in some intriguing answers. American minorities who volunteer in the Peace Corps learn this lesson pretty quickly when serving abroad.
In this piece I will try to provide some perspective from volunteers who deal with different experiences pertaining to their race throughout their service. I interviewed volunteers in Botswana. I want to stress that Botswana is different from other African countries and obviously other countries around the world. The circumstances for each volunteer also vary.
A lot of African Americans look forward to volunteering in Africa. Aaron Washington, an African-American man from New York, was hoping for a homecoming of sorts when he came to Botswana. He said, "I expected the 'back to the motherland experience' that so many Afro-Centric black Americans talk about. I expected people to be excited that their 'brother' has returned home to learn more about them and take that knowledge back to the US."
Aaron faced a situation a lot of African Americans deal with when serving abroad. He explained, "The 'welcome back to Africa my brother' I thought I would get when meeting many people has usually been: 'you are too dark to be American,' 'why don't you speak our language' or 'you want to be white.'"
Race relations can be challenging in any part of the world. Aaron expands on his experience, "My own jealousy has been surprising. I never even noticed race in the states and now when I am with a white person I feel like local people slightly change their behavior. To be honest I envy the treatment that whites get in Botswana, although I am not naive enough to know that they also have many hardships."
With every challenge comes rewards and Aaron has found his, "As a minority I have become a teacher in a sense. No matter where in the world I went I am sure the experience of being a minority would be the same, which is interesting that I still feel like a minority in Africa even though I am black. I feel like I represent all black Americans but I don't want to, because I am not all black Americans. At the end of the day I have met a lot of people and made a best friend here in Botswana, a best friend for life."
Omosalewa Oyelaran, an African-American woman, who was born in Nigeria and raised in Nigeria and North Carolina, said she expected to come to Africa and face questions about not having kids and not being married due to different roles of women. She said, "I didn't expect to have to answer so many questions about being American, why I am light-skinned and spending so much time trying to make people believe me."
She continued, "It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. In America, I spent a lot of time trying to conform to the definition of being Nigerian and or American, then I came to Botswana and had to spend just as much time trying to get people to believe I am American. I don't want to deny any part of myself. I wasn't like a flag waving patriotic person when I came here, but being in Botswana has really made me proud to also be American and given me more meaning."
I asked Omosalewa how she copes with these situations. She said, "I write a lot. I can sit down and all of a sudden I am 30 pages into my journal. I talk to people. I do my best to make sense of it all and have made some really good friends in the Peace Corps and in Botswana."
Asian Americans face a unique situation in Africa as China has begun investing in a lot of countries and establishing businesses. Caitlin Anzalone was born in South Korea, and adopted when she was a baby by an American family in Virginia. She identifies more with her adopted family's Italian background than her Asian appearance. When I asked her about any expectation she had about her race, she said, "Before coming to Botswana, I read in the handbook that volunteers who look Asian often have people act out kung-fu or ask about Bruce Lee and I thought that would be entertaining and that it wouldn't bother me much. I didn't think about my race much at all."
As Caitlin was adjusting to life in her village she was harassed a lot. She provided these details: "People would constantly call me China, speak fake Chinese to me, or ask if I sold certain objects at my shop. Occasionally kids would make kung-fu movements. One time a man stopped and got out of his car to ask me why I never said hello to him, since he gave my family business at the shop. I explained to him that my family did not own a shop and that I was American."
At first she didn't want to walk to work anymore. She just didn't want to deal with constantly explaining she is American and America is a diverse place. She was getting the attention more than other Asian-American volunteers. She quickly learned how to cope, "I realized people didn't mean to be offensive. They see Chinese people setting up shops and they aren't trying to be derogatory. After being in my village for a while people started to know who I am and called me by my name. I feel like this experience really gave me more self-awareness. As American as I feel, I look Asian and there is no way around that. Whether I feel American or not or am connected to the Korean culture or not, this is what I look like and its part of who I am."
Paco Mathew is a mixed race, Hispanic-Caucasian man from New Mexico. He didn't think about his race before coming to Africa. "There's so many other things to worry about that I didn't really think much about what role my race would play. When I got here I was surprised that the stereotype of Americans is that they must be blonde-haired and blue eyed. It was like anyone not fitting that description must not be American."
Paco lives in a very small village in Botswana and has adjusted well. "Sometimes people think I am Indian. Sometimes people think I am white. I often talk about being half Mexican. Growing up mixed race I am used to a lot of jokes on both sides, so the confusion or questions have never really bothered me. I do a lot of work with students and teachers. They got to know who I really am and that's really what matters. People will always see race, but once you get to know someone that stuff can fade away."
Parisa Kharazi is a first-generation American woman of Iranian descent who grew up in New Jersey. She said, "I wanted to serve in the Peace Corps in Africa. I didn't really think about my race when I was coming here. People in Botswana are usually surprised when I tell them of my ethnic background. It is a stereotype to assume that all Americans are blonde-haired and blue-eyed. I like to bring up the example of our President whose name is not typical. I think that really helps people understand the diversity of our country."
She talked about her experiences, "Sometimes I get confused for being Indian or South African but I don't really experience much discrimination here in Botswana. I have actually experienced more of it in America because of my ethnic and religious background. Growing up I felt like I had to pick one identity American or Iranian but I learned that I can be both."
Parisa has made efforts to talk to people about her background, both American and Persian, and celebrates holidays with friends in her village. She's also grown in a new way in Botswana. She shared, "I think that I have really learned to appreciate my Iranian heritage since coming to Botswana. I never realized how much it is a part of my identity and I thank my parents for that. Today in America there is a growing plague of Islamophobia and a negative image towards Middle Easterners and I hope that by serving in the US Peace Corps other Americans will see that I have a love for this country and care about it as much as they do."
As a Caucasian male, being in Botswana has been fascinating. I fit the stereotype of what many people think an American is "supposed" to look like. I have some difficult moments, but most of the time I am celebrated. People want to be my friend, help me or talk to me any chance they get. Little kids will yell, "white person" in the local language as I pass by and my co-workers laugh that I am a pseudo-celebrity in my part of the village. It's not the minority experience I thought I would have.
I thought a lot about race before I came to Africa and how my race in general was responsible for a lot of issues both good and bad. I worried about how I would handle those situations. Much like Aaron feels like he has to speak on behalf of all black Americans I feel the same way for white Americans, especially when trying to change other stereotypes about wealth.
I do everything I can to respect the local culture, learn new languages and represent myself the only ways I know how. I've found there are definitely different customs all over the world, but much like Ghandi's famous quote, "we are more alike than we are different."
Racial, ethnic diversity increases yet again with the 117th Congress
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi swears in new members of Congress during the first session of the 117th Congress on Jan. 3, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
About a quarter of voting members (23%) of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are racial or ethnic minorities, making the 117th Congress the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. There has been a long-running trend toward higher numbers of non-White lawmakers on Capitol Hill: This is the sixth Congress to break the record set by the one before it.
Overall, 124 lawmakers today identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Congressional Research Service. This represents a 97% increase over the 107th Congress of 2001-03, which had 63 minority members.
Among today’s senators and representatives, the overwhelming majority of racial and ethnic minority members are Democrats (83%), while 17% are Republicans. This represents a shift from the last Congress, when just 10% of non-White lawmakers were Republicans. Our analysis reflects the 532 voting members of Congress seated as of Jan. 26, 2021.
This analysis builds on earlier Pew Research Center work to analyze the racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. Congress. To determine the number of racial and ethnic minority lawmakers in the 117th Congress, we used data from the Congressional Research Service. U.S. population data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. Historical data was pulled from CQ Roll Call, CRS and the Brookings Institution. All racial groups refer to single-race non-Hispanics. Hispanics are of any race. Native Hawaiian Rep. Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii) is counted with the Native American lawmakers.
Our analysis reflects the 532 voting members of Congress seated as of Jan. 26, 2021. In the House, one New York race has not been called yet, and one Louisiana seat is empty because the congressman-elect died before he could be sworn in. We did not include former Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to join the Biden administration. The current number of voting House members is 432. Biden administration nominees who were not yet confirmed at the time of writing are included in our count. Independent members of Congress are counted with the party they caucus with.
Although recent Congresses have continued to set new highs for racial and ethnic diversity, they have still been disproportionately White when compared with the overall U.S. population. Non-Hispanic White Americans account for 77% of voting members in the new Congress, considerably larger than their 60% share of the U.S. population overall. This gap hasn’t narrowed with time: In 1981, 94% of members of Congress were White, compared with 80% of the U.S. population.
In the House of Representatives, however, representation of some racial and ethnic groups is now on par with their share of the total population. For example, 13% of House members are Black, about equal to the share of Black Americans. And Native Americans now make up about 1% of both the House and the U.S. population.
Other racial and ethnic groups in the House are somewhat less represented relative to their share of the population. The share of Hispanics in the U.S. population (19%) is about twice as high as it is in the House (9%). Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders together account for 6% of the national population and 3% of House members.
This analysis includes four representatives who are counted under more than one racial or ethnic identity: Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., is counted as Black and Asian. Reps. Antonio Delgado and Ritchie Torres, both New York Democrats, are listed as Black and Hispanic. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash., is both the first Black lawmaker to represent the state and one of the first Korean American women to be elected to Congress. Native Hawaiian Rep. Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii) is counted with the Native American lawmakers. Portuguese American members are not included in the Hispanic count.
In the House, Republicans account for a larger share of newly elected minority representatives than in the past. Of the 16 freshmen representatives who are non-White, nine are Republicans, compared with just one of the 22 new representatives in the 116th Congress. This freshman cohort includes the only two Black Republicans in the chamber: Burgess Owens of Utah and Byron Donalds of Florida.
Eleven senators are a racial or ethnic minority, up from nine in the 116th Congress. Six senators are Hispanic, two are Asian and three are Black. Freshman Raphael Warnock is the first Black senator to represent Georgia, and another freshman, Alex Padilla, is the first Hispanic senator to represent California. Padilla replaced Vice President and former Sen. Kamala Harris, who was one of four women of color (and the only Black woman) serving in the Senate.
Just three of the 11 non-White senators are Republicans: Tim Scott of South Carolina is Black, and Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas are both Hispanic.
In the USA, seniors are those who are 65 and older. At 65, Americans can stop working and receive a pension, or small retirement salary, from the government.
The United States is different than many other countries because older Americans often live alone or in institutions. About 29% of Americans over 65 live alone, and 47% percent of women over 75 live alone. Many others live in senior housing or nursing homes.
You may feel that Americans, especially American youth, do not respect the elderly in the same way as in your culture. In the USA, the difference between age groups is sometimes referred to as a “generation gap.” Young and old people may have different opinions, like they do in other countries, but American media tends to focus on youth.
Elder Americans often face financial and health difficulties. These difficulties are true for older immigrants and refugees, too. If you are an elder, you may have thought the USA would provide more care for you than you are receiving. But you may need to find work to support yourself in the USA, as many seniors do. But there are special programs to help seniors, and if you need help to find one, email us.
Diversity in America - History
Even in the colonial era, the distinguishing characteristic of American society was the diversity of its population. By European standards, America was extraordinarily diverse ethnically, religiously, and regionally. The first federal census, conducted in 1790, found that a fifth of the entire population was African American. Among whites, three-fifths were English in ancestry and another fifth was Scottish or Irish. The remainder was of Dutch, French, German, Swedish, or some other background.
This astonishing diversity was in large part a product of the way that colonial America was originally settled. During the early seventeenth century, the most dynamic countries in Europe scrambled to establish overseas colonies and trading posts. The Dutch set up outposts in Brazil, Curacao, New Netherlands, the Pennsylvania region, and West Africa the English in the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and Nova Scotia, as well as along the mainland Atlantic coast the French in the Caribbean, Canada, Guadaloupe, St. Domingue, Louisiana, and Martinique. The first phase of colonization was highly decentralized. The earliest settlements were established not under the direction of government, but by commercial companies, religious organizations, and individual entrepreneurs.
By the mid-seventeenth century, however, it became apparent that the colonies could be an important source of national wealth for the parent nation. Mercantilist thinkers saw colonies as a source of revenue and raw materials, a market for manufactured goods, and a way to strengthen a nation's economic self-sufficiency. The English government adopted a more systematic approach to colonization it moved aggressively to annex Jamaica, New Netherlands, and New Sweden and began to grant territory to a specific person or persons called proprietors.
Although major goals of the new colonial system were to expand trade and assert greater control over the colonies, many of the proprietors projected utopian fantasies onto the lands they were granted. George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, established the first proprietary colony. He envisioned Maryland as a haven for Roman Catholics and as a place where he could recreate a feudal order. A group of eight nobles who received a gift of land in the Carolinas envisioned a hierarchical manorial society with a proprietary governor and a hereditary nobility. William Penn sought a refuge for himself and other Quakers. A group of proprietors led by James Oglethorpe envisioned Georgia as a haven for debtors and a buffer against Spanish Florida.
In practice, it proved impossible to confine colonial development to a predetermined design. To attract settlers, it proved necessary to guarantee religious freedom, offer generous land grants, and self-government through a representative assembly. But it was not merely schemes to set up feudal manors or to maintain proprietary rule that failed. The proprietors of Georgia banned the importation of hard liquor and outlawed slavery (not out of a moral concern about slavery, but an anxiety that slavery would promote economic inequality and discourage industrious habits among white settlers). Yet within a few years, mounting opposition from Georgians and migration out of the colony led the trustees to revoke the restrictions on liquor and slaves.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in History
Our Commitment to Diversity
The department recognizes that true academic excellence depends in part on the pursuit of innovative research, effective teaching and learning, and engaged outreach. It also requires recruiting and supporting a diverse population of faculty, staff, and students. Although diversity means different things to different people, here the term refers to categories including race, color, sex, religion, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation and identities, veteran status, disability, and age.
We start with the assumption that diversity is everyone’s goal and to everyone’s benefit. Because we believe that diversity enhances both the intellectual community at Ohio State and the quality of our scholarship and teaching, in addition to attention to hiring and admissions, diversity also requires critical engagement with diverse intellectual perspectives in all fields. The discipline of history explores the full range of the human experience in all its variety, and specific fields will grapple with the issue of diversity in distinct ways.
The study of history necessarily involves the exploration and expression of opinions on any number of topics. Indeed, the full and free expression of many viewpoints is central to the value of diversity. We therefore encourage and welcome the full and free expression of all perspectives, subject to a single caveat: In all exchanges we expect civility and respect for others. We do not tolerate hateful speech or actions.
Our Commitment to Inclusion
Inclusion is an extension of diversity that recognizes and welcomes uniqueness of beliefs, backgrounds, talents, and capabilities on the part of all members of the Ohio State community, and the value that these contribute to a learning environment in every sense. The History Department is particularly concerned to address the needs of persons with disabilities, physical or mental, to ensure their inclusion in the complete life of the Ohio State community.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee
Established in 1999, this committee oversees the department’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Per the department’s Pattern of Administration, its specific charge is as follows:
The Diversity & Inclusion Committee consists of faculty, graduate student, and staff representatives. The committee will oversee diversity-related projects and make recommendations on diversity issues as needed. It will work with or make suggestions to other committees as appropriate. The chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee will serve as the department procedures oversight designee, providing guidance on diversity issues. The committee chair will be available as a point of contact for complaints of discrimination or harassment, as well as a point of contact for requests for reasonable accommodation by persons with disabilities recognized by the University’s Office of Human Resources.
The current committee chair is Professor Stephanie Shaw.
The current committee membership includes:
Although the committee is not the entity through which formal complaints concerning discrimination or harassment are initiated, nor the initiation of requests for reasonable accommodation by persons with disabilities, it can provide advice and support.
Read the History Department's Statement of Support for Black Lives Matter.
Read the AHA's Statement on History of Racist Violence in the US
University Procedures Regarding Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Diabilities
The university’s policy on sexual harassment, including information concerning how to initiate a complaint of sexual harassment, is here.
The university’s policy on affirmative action, equal opportunity employment, and non-discrimination/harassment, including information concerning how to initiate a complaint of discrimination, is here.
The university’s process for initiating requests for reasonable accommodation of a disability (both physical and mental) is here.
Students with disabilities should contact Student Life Disability Services.
Other Campus Resources
ODI offers numerous resources, including lectures, discussion, publications, and sponsorship of conferences concerning diversity and inclusion.
The Kirwin Institute is an interdisciplinary engaged research institute. Its goal is to connect individuals and communities with opportunities needed for thriving by educating the public, building the capacity of allied social justice organizations, and investing in efforts that support equity and inclusion.
Disability Studies at OSU examines the nature, meaning, and consequences of disability in global culture from an integrated social, political, and cultural model. It offers an undergraduate minor in Disability Studies.
Disability Studies offers links to a wide variety of organizations focused on such subjects as American Sign Language (ASL), aid for persons with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Students concerned about travel bans based upon the recent Executive Order signed on January 17, 2017, may contact the center for assistance and support.
Perspectives on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
An on-going series of brief videos by members of the Department of History, offering personal perspectives concerning all aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion. Here is the first in the series:
Prof. Mark Grimsley, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 26, discusses the impact of mental disabilities and the resources available at Ohio State to address them.
In this video, Ohio State History Professor Hasan Kwame Jeffries discusses racial bias and discrimination.