The American Studies Scholar

Philip J. Ripperger

The American Studies Scholar

 

            While attending this weekend’s meeting of the Eastern American Studies Association (EASA) I was struck by the intense level of engagement among the attendees. Each panel member, from the undergraduate presenters to the most tenured professor, explored their research with a great depth and multifaceted engagement.  As a first-time attendee among seasoned members of the American Studies community, I was tentative to engage them in academic discussion. However, there was a sublime moment that grabbed my interest and helped break common intellectual ground.

 

            After a Friday afternoon attending panels of mainly graduate students, we convened in a medium sized lecture hall to witness a panel entitled “The Future of American Studies.” My apprehension was at its peak here, as I was at a loss to see what I could contribute to a discussion between long-standing, even founding members of the field. Rather, I found myself amidst a debate on the EASA boycott of Israeli educational institutions, a cause they chose  to take up to help alleviate the suffering of Palestinian people whose academic freedoms had been infringed upon. The discussion boiled down to two sides: Those members who believe the EASA should remove itself from all political affiliation that could potentially isolate minority members, and those who believed the cause rightly justified political action and, regardless of the boycott’s effectiveness, had faith that this would assist progress towards a peaceful solution.

            Long after the meeting the debate raged on in my head. What was so wrong about taking a political stand? The weekend speakers had preached how active engagement with their research was what allowed them to gain deeper understanding of their subject. Wasn’t choosing a side on an issue a natural step in this process? Conversely, I saw how the necessity to make inclusive political statements, if any, so as not to isolate members who didn’t share the same views. As someone interested in continued involvement with this group, how would I feel if they represented an ideal at odds with my own?

            Regardless of the EASA boycott or any further political engagement, my biggest takeaway was how much these people obviously care about the future of the discipline. Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his speech “The American Scholar,” “Thinking is the function, living is the functionary,” claiming that it is one thing to engage with an idea from an academic point of view, but to truly have an understanding one must live their education. People like fellow Rutgers undergraduate James Malchow and Dr. Robert Snyder, Director of the Graduate Program in American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark, embody this maxim, approaching life with the interchangeable eyes of both an unbiased researcher and an engaged activist. Although it is complicated to define where these two personas should convene, this conference showed that it is important to pursue worthy studies, and use education to rationalize goals with widespread benefit

 

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(Photo of “Future of American Studies” panel, taken from EASA Facebook.)

A Slave’s Attempt to Return Home

A Slave’s Attempt to Return Home

By LA Hall

African Americans arguably have had the worst case of homesickness, due to the manner in which their migration, or leaving of the home, was performed. Opposed to whites, who voluntarily left their homes for better work, to provide for their families, or for religious passage, or Native Americans, who were pushed out of their homelands to the West, blacks were taken against their own will from Africa, “faced dreadful life-threatening conditions on the over packed ships that transported them across the Atlantic” (Matt 21), and enslaved in unknown territory. After being taken from their land, they were separated from their families during the slave trade. Slavery was a “cultural genocide against [Africans which] physically, ideologically, and emotionally removed [Africans/ from their [native land, sense of community], and tribal[/spiritual] affiliation” (Away From Home, 19). “Slaves expressed a mix of emotions. Including anger at the injustice of their situations, despair at their lack of control, and fear of the future, but a recurring theme in the writings of and about those sold away from their families and their native lands was the desire to return home” (Matt, 21). Slaves lives were in jeopardy as soon as they left their native lands and/or communities,  and they “suffered psychological trauma. Separated from their communities and families, many succumbed to a condition called the ‘fixed melancholy,’ a state of such dependency that they could not eat and soon died.”

How could one even suggest that African Americans didn’t “[posses] true emotional sensitivity and doubted that they loved their homes and families enough to experience much pain at separation from them,” (Matt, 42) when they wanted to return home so badly and longed for their families that they didn’t have patience to wait for their natural deaths. They committed suicide to speed up the process in returning home (Matt, 24). Blacks so wanted to go back to their native lands that many chose death as an option to grant their wishes. Many slaves had the belief that, “after death, individuals were reincarnated in Africa and would be free. Without liberty or income, [their] best hope for returning home lay in death” (Matt, 13). Slaves did all they could to return home. If death was too extreme they would attempt to “to return to Africa,” by fleeing plantations and becoming runaways or fugitives (Matt, 22). Slavery not only created a severe case of homesickness, it presented a whole new definition of home. “… [E]nslaved people began to define home not only as a place in Africa from where they or their parents had been taken from, but as the spot where their immediate family lived.” Before one would try to escape for Africa he/she would attempt to find their family making it even more difficult to return “home.” The word “home” now meant where one’s family might be held captive, where one was taken/traded from, as well as a place in Africa.

Runaway Slave

Runaway Slave,” [1832]. Courtesy of In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience

When death wasn’t an option, many enslaved chose to run away to freedom or home. The symbolic depiction of the fugitive slave appeared regularly in newspapers from the early days. The runaway was generally represented by a man  (rarely by a woman) who carried a bundle on his shoulder in which he had presumably put food and a change of clothes. The slave would be either trying to escape and get away from the treatment he/she was receiving, attempting to find his/her family, or trying to find “home” any way possible.

Robins Family Papers

Excerpt from “Robins Family Papers: 1862 Memorandum on Runaways,” 1862. Image courtesy of Courtesy of In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience

I think it is important to show actual evidence that Slaves did try to run away, numerous times and most failed, but they were persistent to get away. The memoranda presented from the In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience archive gave a deeper look into the act of running away from the slave owners’ view. To the slave owner it was business; to the slave it was a means of survival. The slaves felt they could not live being enslaved and, with great heart, many attempts were made to free themselves. The description by the slave owners that wrote these memoranda were very precise, including what clothes the slaves were wearing, where they were going, what drove them to try to escape, etc. Slave owners knew that what they were doing was wrong and knew that the slaves were homesick, but never the less, they still did all the could to recapture the slaves, punish them publically, and/or attempt to trade them off again. Slaves’ knowledge of the consequences for attempting to escape and failing was not enough to hold them back from getting away.

“Hold of a Ship,” 1854. Courtesy of In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience

“Hold of a Ship,” 1854. Courtesy of In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience

This is an oil-on-canvas painting by Ron Brown. This visual gives an illustration of the terrible conditions slaves faced as they were taken from their homeland to a new land of enslavement.  This is a visual representation of a description of a vessel by Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: “We were thrust into the hold of the vessel in a state of nudity, the males being crammed on one side and the females on the other; the hold was so low that we could not stand up, but were obliged to crouch upon the floor or sit down; day and night were the same to us, sleep being denied us from the confined position of our bodies, and we became desperate through suffering and fatigue.” The excerpt with the visual gives you a sense of how “homesick” one might be when confined in these conditions/holds.

“Going Back to Family,” 1872. The African-American Migration Experience

“Going Back to Family,” 1872. Courtesy of In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience

This image depicts the story of a slave looking to return “home.” John Thompson, born in Virginia, was sold “down the river” to Alabama. Wanting to reunite with his family, he decided to escape in 1857. He traveled at night on top of train cars, hiding in the woods during the day. He finally reached Virginia, where he was caught and sold again. He managed to escape once more with the help of the Underground Railroad and settled in New York. Learning that his former owner was in town to arrest him, John sailed to London. The persistence of slaves to return “home” was risky, but those that had the strongest desire risked it all.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here

The Continuity of Culture through Relocation

The Continuity of Culture through Relocation

by: Mike Rogan

A person’s culture is often associated with their global positioning, however that may not always be the case. An individual’s culture is often associated with a country, region, or more broadly, a continent, however this leads to a false identity  since no consideration of where they came from or where they are going to is taken into account. As global culture has grown and progressed, mobilization of different peoples has become all the more a possibility and reality.  America has been the quintessential example of this as it is often referred to as a ‘melting pot’.  However, this melting pot was once home to Native Americans alone, but they were forced to assimilate, clouding the idea of the melting pot. Through disease and harsh violence, they remained as spiritual and connected to their culture as they could. They faced many trials and tribulations along the way, ultimately experiencing what could be called cultural genocide. As one Native boarding school student put it  “Our name isn’t supposed to be ‘Jones’ but Chonku, or something like that and the teachers couldn’t say it right so they just gave us Jones” (Archuleta, M.L., Child, B.D., Lomawaima, K.T., 28).

“Domesticity dominated middle-class women’s writing and culture from the 1830’s through the 1850’s” (Kaplan, 5). This period of time in American history is one of great expansion and imperial acquisition. It was also during this period that immense groups of immigrants from all parts of the world were flocking to the United States. This laid the foundation for what would be known as the “American Woman,” regardless of where she was from or her cultural standards of what a woman was. In this way, women had immensely less cultural grasp as compared to men. They were not only second-class citizens for not being American, but for not being men as well.

Homesickness can mean very different things for different people, depending on their previous residence, and their cultural idea of “home.” It was not their new location that frightened most dealing with homesickness, it was missing out on their culture. In this sense, it could be thought that the feeling of homesickness was indeed the feeling of losing their own culture to another. In this thinking “Americans began to express not just a longing for a home left behind – the characteristic yearning of the homesick—but a longing for a home lost in time” (Matt, 102). “American” ideals, which is a strange idea by itself, since these ideals would seemingly be a blend of other countries’ ideals, were often times strictly rigid with little room for other cultures. It seems in American culture the only way to escape persecution is to find another group to attack, or give up whatever parts of your culture are asked. One way in which Native Americans, for example, were able to preserve their culture was the economic benefits it brought to the American government through shows and events. “’Indianness’ became more lucrative than virtually any government assimilation program that Indians could adopt” (Archuleta, M.L., Child, B.D., Lomawaima, K.T., 74). Although this form of assimilation could be thought of as degrading or as a second-hand culture, it did open the door for future preservation and not a complete destruction of their culture as had been intended.

Trying to Make a Living

The man I interviewed was standing outside the Carpenters’ Union, 60 William Street. He did not want to give me his name.

My grandfather was born in Cork. My grandmother was born in Kilkenny. On my father’s side it was McCarthy, and on my mother’s side it was Fitzpatrick. My father was born in Newark, and my mother was born in New York. In those times they came over in sailboats; there was no steam. There isn’t much that I know about them. They came over here to get anything they could, like we do now. My grandfather had a hide and fat business. The fat house was on the corner of Norfolk Street and Thirteenth Avenue. He was there for years. That’s the Fitzpatrick I’m talking about now.

“Did your father have hard times?” I asked him.

No, he worked for years for the United Cigar stores. He was manager of a store. I am a carpenter, trying to make a living. I have three kids — they’re all girls. I haven’t lived any place else. I lived in Newark all my life. Thirty-five years.

Did you have a happy childhood?

Oh, sure, that’s the trouble. I had it too easy. If I had had to work a little harder, maybe I would have got somewhere. Look at how these foreigners come over and make good.

My grandfather was worth over one hundred thousand dollars. I was born in our big house on Norfolk and Thirteenth Avenue. We had everything. We never wanted for shoes or clothing or eats. I never had an education. I didn’t figure I needed education because I was well off. In those days, the people didn’t think much about education. The property where the playground is on is where we used to have our house. The property is right near the Robert Treat school.

Ernest Pentz

October 10, 1939

Excerpt from “America, The Dream of my Life.” 3/3/2014. Image re-typed from North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories.

This interview is from a third-generation Irish immigrant. It shows the loss of culture through the generations after migration. I think this not only applies to lacking a sense of culture, but a change in their values and mindset as well. This source shows the fracture of culture through the immigration process, rather than the preservation of it. Since the interviewee was born in America, as were his parents being born in New York and Newark, he had a significantly weaker attachment to his heritage. This brings to mind the connection many Americans have now with their ancestral heritage. He went so far as to say in the interview that he had also lost his hard work ethic as well as his drive to constantly become more successful and achieve more that his grandparents and possibly parents had possessed as part of their immigrant mentality. He talked of his being somewhat spoiled, which contributed to him feeling the sense that he did not have to work or try nearly as hard. He even said this is why he did not pursue an education, which is far different from just lacking a stronger work ethic alone. I think it shows a lot that even within a verbal interview he recognized the difference between generations. I believe this goes far to show how the American culture was beginning to change as a whole from a nation of immigrants into a nation that began to identify themselves first as Americans before any other cultural connection.

The banana plant dies when the single bunch of fruit it yields is cut off. After that the stalk is chopped down, but a new plant grows up from the old roots, and the same plantations keep bearing for years. “Banana Plant,” 3/3/2014. Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library

“Banana Plant,” 3/3/2014. Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library

This is an image from The New York Public Library. I believe this image relates to African American’s ability and desire to preserve their culture in a variety of ways. Bananas are a tropical fruit and working certain plants such as these were causes of their homesickness.  This, however, is more symbolic when put together with the caption of the picture. The quote serves as a metaphor for the perseverance and courage African Americans were forced to have, showing that despite severe injustices, through their roots and heritage they could not be destroyed.

“Gathering Mulberry Leaves for the Silkworm Culture, Los Angeles, California.” 3/3/2014. Image courtesy of The Library of Congress: American Memory

“Gathering Mulberry Leaves for the Silkworm Culture, Los Angeles, California.” 3/3/2014. Image courtesy of The Library of Congress: American Memory

This image is from The Library of Congress, and depicts a young Chinese boy who is also working the fields. This image shares a similar feeling to that of the Banana Plant photo, as the boy gathers Mulberry Leaves, which are native to southern Asia. Although the cultivation is being done in Los Angeles, he remains intact with a part of his culture since these plants have a wide variety of uses in Chinese culture. Additionally, you can see more traditional clothing on the boy, as he is wearing a rice hat.

Excerpt from “Topaz Times 1942-05-30.” 3/3/2014. Image courtesy of Utah Digital Newspapers.

Excerpt from “Topaz Times 1942-05-30.” 3/3/2014. Image courtesy of Utah Digital Newspapers.

This text is an excerpt from the “Topaz Times” newspaper on May 5, 1942. It was written to show different service times of a local church through newspaper distribution. This is very important to the idea of preserving culture through relocation. First off, one may notice the date of 1942, which is the year that Japanese internment was declared by the president after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, so it may be surprising to find Buddhism in the paper to begin with. This put a huge pressure upon Japanese Americans to preserve their culture in a country that was imprisoning them for actions they had nothing to do with. The only commonality between them was their ethnicity. On the other hand, it does show how strong religion was during this time, not for everyone overall, but each in their own respect. This specific image also shows the more dominant religions in America during this time period, and also tells an unfortunate tale of a lacking religious freedom and forced conversion.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here.

Intercepting Message

How Effectively Personal Messages are Communicated

by Mohammad Iqbal

Letter from Iwao Matsushita to Hanaye Matsushita, March 6, 1942

This letter is from Iwao Matsushita, a Japanese man living in America, to his wife in Japan. The tone and arrangement of words are directly coming from his heart, words that describe loneliness, happiness, and sadness he is experiencing as a result of being far from his family. Despite there being a word limit for the letter, he mentions his perspective of the situations back home and hopes his wife to resolve them as he himself is desperate to help but restrained due to his service in the United States (Iwao). He seems firm and confident and genuinely cares for his family. This is important to the concept of ‘leaving home’ as it incites readers to experience a feeling of a person who used to be part of their family. There is nostalgia, personal communication, and intimate connection involved which expands to homesickness, and showcases significance of a family’s bond that remains regardless of distance (Matt, 23). People may or may not lie in their letters; that is a different story. But if that case is overlooked, homesickness proves  true and to be throbbing in people’s hearts through every memory.

“Midst the snows of Missoula 700 miles away I celebrate alone my Hana’s 1 day of birth.”

Excerpt from “Letter from Iwao Matsushita to Hanaye Matsushita” March 6, 1942. Image courtesy of solomon.imld.alexanderstreet.com.

Letter from Shigezo Iwata to Sonoko Uyematsu Iwata, April 13, 1942.

Shigezo Iwata, a Japanese man living in US, sends a letter to his wife Sonoko Uyematsu Iwata living in Japan. To quote him, “The world trend is changing and the road we must take will see a big change” (Shigezo). If analyzed, this statement proves to be valid and strong in terms of determination to resolve family problems. Shigezo must be family driven, passionate, and a powerful figure in the family to make such decisive and bold moves on behalf of the family. The words he wrote meant serious business. There was a reason as to why he left his home – to support his loved ones in the long run. When the main part of the family, the benefactor, leaves home, the situation at home is likely disturbed, and responsibilities, anxiety and bonds are likely to be affected. Through distance, no objectives can be achieved as a unit. Iwata and Uyematsu needed what was mentioned in the letter to keep the relationship active and give family members a better life. Iwata worked for a better home while staying away from home, so writing such a poignant letter would only encourage family members to support him in his cause.

“It’s hard to know when I’ll be cleared and will be able to see you. There is no other way but to keep calm, be prudent, not be hasty and do the best we can. “

Excerpt from “Letter from Shigezo Iwata to Sonoko Uyematsu Iwata” April 13, 1942. Image courtesy of solomon.imld.alexanderstreet.com.

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The poem is written by Daisy Sanial Gill in 1909. The author of this poem is a lonely man who mentions the characteristics and core examples of home. The urge to go home and be with his family is what he had been longing for because he could not find homely qualities while alone. Lines throughout this poem were meaningful and seem to give the author comfort – the comfort of being able to express himself freely as if he were at home.

“Home…  Daisy Saniel Gill, NYC, Andrew H. Kellogg,” 1916. Courtesy of memory.loc.gov.

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This letter is by Agness Wilson, a female cousin of George Wilson, living in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She is stating troubles at home. She sounds serious and seems earnest about her marital matter. By analyzing and understanding her tone, George can reconsider his decision in becoming involved with her ‘arranged’ marriage and, perhaps, resolve the situation. Words can mean many things but it is the background and emotions that validate and polish communication.

“Letter from Agness Wilson to George Wilson,” 1821. Courtesy of memory.loc.gov.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/assignments-the-concept-of-home-spring-2013/ 

Moving On: Thoughts of Citizenship

by Lindsey Malko

Leaving home can be the result of a multitude of different things. Many times it is forced, but in other instances it is by choice. Sometimes the grass really does seem to be greener on the other side and this is what makes immigrants want to move to America. But it does not only involve physically moving from one place to another. It involves the full embrace of another culture and to move on mentally as well. Immigrants are making the choice to move to another place, specifically the United States, and with that they are accepting their own homesickness and moving on. They are searching for something better than what they are experiencing and just hope that they will find this in another country.

One reason for emigrating from one’s homeland, or moving to somewhere new they want to call home, was as very much a physical process as an emotional one. In Homesickness, Susan Matt writes that “ideally, when an individual moved, he realized that ‘new adjustments must be made, old brain paths must be dropped and new ones formed. He must fuse with a new stratum ’” (Matt, 122). One can not just move and expect everything to be dandy and great; there has to be some thought put into it. There has to be some sort of acknowledgement and appreciation for their new place of living, their home. Occasionally it takes longer for some to get used to their surroundings, but ideally it would be better if it were quicker.

In other cases, such as those of the Native Americans, they were thrown into the new American lifestyle and expected to get used to it quickly. That is not a very fair way to overcome leaving home, however. In the words of Richard Henry Pratt, “I suppose the end to be gained, however far away it might be, is the complete civilization of the Indian and his absorption into our national life, with all the rights and privileges guaranteed and to be made to feel that he is an American Citizen” (Archuleta, Child, and Lomawaima, 58). It definitely takes some time to get over any hard situation, especially being forced to live somewhere else. Boarding schools were no exception. They were fast paced and set in motion on getting the Native Americans to be American Indians and learning American ways. Because of the schools, some were learning to be like Americans and after attending, many more decide they wanted to stay and adopt that lifestyle (Archuleta, Child, and Lomawaima, 58).

“The Reverend Isaac Fidler left England in 1831 with the intention of becoming a citizen of the United States. Like many emigrants he was dissatisfied with conditions in his own country and had formed a high admiration for the American way of life.

Although educated for the church, he had been unable to find a parish in England and had been forced to remain a “mere teacher.” With the hope of bettering his prospects he emigrated but was unable to find a position in the United States. After another try in Canada, where he spent some years doing missionary work, he was forced to return to England. The Reverend Fidler belonged to the small number of immigrant failures.

I observed an uniformity of statement quite surprising, among persons from England and Ireland. The same difficulties and privations and dislikes had befallen most of them. But, perhaps, where almost every one is complaining of grievances, these become magnified beyond their due proportions. We find this frequently in England.”

Excerpt from “America’s Immigrants: Adventures in Eyewitness History,” March 1st, 2014. Text courtesy of North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories.

This passage is featured in America’s Immigrants: Adventures in Eyewitness History and the quotes are from an interview with Isaac Fidler. It addresses his particular experience with emigrating from Europe; it talks about why he moved, his experiences with certain Americans, a young gardener in particular, and his thoughts about living with Americans. Actually wanting to move somewhere other than home is a really big step in a person’s life. It has even more importance to immigrants who are looking for something new. As indicated above, the immigrants were constantly searching for something better, somewhere new with bigger and better opportunities. The passage relates to the fact that the people of other countries such as England were expecting life to be grand once they came to America. They had mentally prepared themselves for a better life and more ways to prosper. He had wanted to be a part of the American way of life, but instead had to return home and live with the fact it did not work out for him. Once immigrants actually lived in the United States, they were not prepared for what came next. Sometimes staying in America was successful, but one did not know until they tried.

Troy, State of New York, 7th May, 1804.

My dear Child,

“You must excuse my not writing sooner, my journal being swelled to too large a size to be contained in a letter, and so many advantages have arrested my attention: I have not at present satisfied myself with any. I have been doing business this winter for a merchant, who has shown in every respect great friendship, which I believe to be real. Farming appears to be so advantageous, that I cannot sit down with any thing short of it — an industrious man renders himself independent in about three years, and in seven secures for himself what will make a large family comfortable. Land, at some distance from a river or market, I can have for one day’s work as a carpenter, per acre: near a market it runs high to buy it out, but I can have it on a lease for ever at about sixpence per acre, or buy it out for about eleven shillings per acre. The custom is to give to lease about five, six, or seven years’ rent-free. I and another man of serious good character, are going each of us to take up a lot in a newly erected township, each lot containing about 250 acres, and as good land as any I have seen in England; it is common to get the first year 25 to 30 bushels of wheat per acre sowing but one, without ploughing; nothing is done but cutting down and burning the trees, the root never sprouts again. Land is let to clear at 20s. per acre.”

“I FEEL THANKFUL TO God, THAT HE EVER PUT IT INTO MY MIND TO COME TO A COUNTRY OF GOOD LAWS, RELIGION, AND PLENTY. In regard to a family, we are hard set to keep our children with us: on our arrival at New York, some ladies and gentlemen came to view the passengers, and solicited of me my children, on snch terms as I can never make out to them; they were to be bound no longer than till they were 18 or 20 years of age, and then to choose for themselves. Poor men need not be afraid to come with a large family, for children of industrious parents are riches, and English children are sought after.”

“I never had a winter of better health, or business more easy, my hardest work being to cut wood for our fire, and the rum barrel to run to, which some who loved it better than me, grudged me.”

The Emigrant’s Guide to the United States of America,” March 1st, 2014. Text courtesy of North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories.

Despite some immigrants having difficulty getting adjusted to the American way of life and becoming a citizen, some found success. As this anonymous author mentioned above, he had very good luck with traveling from England into Troy, New York. In coming to the United States he found work and not only that, he was thankful for God, who “put it into [his] mind to come to a country of good laws, religion, and plenty”. The United States had proven a better economy for those willing to do the work, and along with work, these immigrants were able to find the success they were looking for. He successfully passed through the hard stages of leaving home, and mentally accepted that Troy was a new and exciting place for him. He could do all that he wanted and more because of his new found freedom.

An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

“An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera,” March 2, 2014. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

This photo from the Library of Congress, highlights the statistics of immigration from the years 1902 and 1903. Included in this image are the percentages of not only the different types of nationalities of the immigrants, but their literacy, and the number of them that were turned away and sent back home. From 1902 to 1903 all of the numbers in each of the categories increased, except for literacy percentages in those 14 years of age and older. Those who wished to come and settle in the United States may or may not have achieved their goal.

Castle Garden – their first Thanksgiving dinner

“Castle Garden – their first Thanksgiving dinner,” March 2nd, 2014. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Shown above is an image of a man, woman, and a boy who are eating on a picnic bench in New York City. It was published in Harper’s Weekly in 1884. The title of this photo sets the mood of the picture. Upon first glance, one would not have looked into it too much, but in a closer look, the family seems to be in poor stature and not in high spirits. Thanksgiving dinner should not be spent on a street bench, but in a nice warm home. But undoubtedly, leaving home and moving to America was better, no matter what the outcome, and better than what came next.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.” A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/assignments-the-concept-of-home-spring-2013/

Finding Your Way Home

Finding Your Way Home 

By Sabrina Lauredent

There are several ways to define home, ranging from “one’s place of residence” to a “place of origin;” home is most often defined in regards to a person’s physical location. However, home can be both a physical and mental location. One definition that encompasses this thought describes home as being a “familiar or usual setting; congenial environment: also the focus of one’s domestic attention” (Merriam-Webster). For many, throughout several generations, “home” is where loved ones, places, smells, and more reside; it could be the house on the hill, a spot in the coffee shop, or a moment in time. Overall, home can be described as a place in which one feels comfortable, relaxed, the place one stays until they leave, if they ever do. Either voluntarily or coerced, the act of leaving home inevitably leads to the feeling of homesickness; the yearning for comfort and familiarity.  Upon leaving home, each group in every generation, across all cultures, did their best to find their way back “home” to overcome their homesickness. Through writing, songs, dances, clubs, or even Skype, people have attempted and often succeeded in bringing parts of their past and culture to the communities they resided in.

Though far from home, often thousands of miles away, migrants, travelers, students, etc. brought pieces of home with them to their new settlements. Whether it was a shrine, artifact or pictures of their family, something familiar existed in an unfamiliar place making them more at ease and more “at home.” Eventually, with the help of these artifacts and connections with communities, new homes were established. Such was the case with several students parting ways during graduation at their boarding school. “…It was not an easy thing to say goodbye to friends who shared a brotherhood and sustained one another through periods of dejection…saying goodbye was a re-enactment of the day the bond with their mothers and fathers was sundered with ‘Goodbye’” (Archuleta et al, 51). Despite calling the place of their origin home, these students were able to create a new home – a place where they were comfortable and familiar – by forming bonds and gaining a sense of community with those around them.

Other cultures were able to find their way “home” by bringing parts of their culture to their new settlement. Such is the case of Chinese immigrants in California as they re-enacted festivals from their homeland. The discrimination Chinese immigrants faced led to the development of communities in which they were able to recreate and practice their beliefs and cultural festivities like the Lunar New Year.

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Chinese Dragon, May 2, 1902. Image Courtesy of The Library of Congress: American Memory: Immigration, American Expansion

The picture above depicts Chinese immigrants in California, participating in a festival featuring their cultural dragon. Each participant is carrying a part of the dragon together as a community.

Sabrina 1

 

Chinese girl of today” Mar. 1922 Courtesy of The Library of Congress: American Memory: Immigration, American Expansion

The photo above depicts an Asian American woman applying traditional makeup for what seems to be a festival. Although in a different country, she maintains her cultural practices through festivities like the one she is preparing for. In a new country she is still able to express her heritage with beauty and pride.

 This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here.

Women and Westward Expansion: The Pains and Perils of Pioneer Life

Women and Westward Expansion: The Pains and Perils of Pioneer Life

By Sara Ziegler

The pioneers of 19th century westward expansion in the United States are often looked back upon as possessing levels of courage and individualism that are the stuff of legend and lore. However, these men and women are perhaps overly-romanticized out of political sentiment. Highly regarded for settling the west on their own, pioneer frontier spirit has been used to critique government initiatives, when in reality the West was settled only with massive state intervention. In fact, the “hardy” pioneers were more often than not overcome with nostalgia. In Homesickness: An American History, Susan Matt suggests that “under a facade of optimism and adventurousness…often lurked regret and a deep longing for home and family” (Chapter 2). Because men often ventured into the West alone, for the time being leaving their wives and families behind in pursuit of wealth, there were relatively few women in the West. While men often missed the comforts of home, family, and domestic life, it was undoubtedly women who missed them even more (Matt, Chapter 2).

“I trembled at the possibility of being the only woman within eighteen miles”, 1921. Courtesy of Library of Congress.
This pen and ink drawing by John Wolcott Adams was published in The Delineator, a women’s magazine, in 1921. The image and its title suggest sentiments of fear and loneliness felt by women of the frontier, who were few and far between.

Many men flocked to the farthest reaches of the frontier when gold was found in California in 1848. In these early days, there were very few women, and society in general was far less refined in California. The few women in California, still meant to inhabit the domestic space of the home, would have had far fewer opportunities to socialize in this environment. An Englishmen who lived in California for four years in the 1870s, Walter M. Fisher, wrote an account of what he thought of the women of California in his 1876 work, “The Californians”.

 Selections from Chapter VI of "The Californians" by Walter M. Fisher. Fisher connects women, home, and domesticity to all that is good and righteous. He laments the fact that there are so few women in California, citing the damage it has on the character of both men and women, and society in California as a whole.


Selections from Chapter VI of “The Californians” by Walter M. Fisher. Fisher connects women, home, and domesticity to all that is good and righteous. He laments the fact that there are so few women in California, citing the damage it has on the character of both men and women, and society in California as a whole.

 

In his reasoning, Fisher makes three connections that are important to note. First, he links women, and family, to “the golden domestic doors” of home. Secondly, he portrays the domestic, feminine woman as a heroine, linked to “delicacy, elegance, nobility”. Lastly, he links the woman that is in a fallen state of femininity (one who has acquired “habits of self-assertion,…tyranny…a giant’s strength”) to the foreign (“Amazonian dash…Spanish traditions”). These connections fall in line with what Amy Kaplan describes in Manifest Domesticity, which is an understanding of domesticity not only in terms of the contrast of “the domestic sphere with the market or political realm,” but also of “the domestic to the foreign” (582). Contrasting the domestic and the foreign allows domesticity to bring men and women together against the alien (Kaplan, 582), but when the women of California fall outside the traditional realm of femininity, Fisher puts the blame on the alien, and associates these women with the foreign.

Writing around the same time as Fisher, Eliza W. Farnham captures her own account of life in California in her 1856 work, California, in-doors and out; or, How we farm, mine, and live generally in the Golden State. As a pioneer woman herself, she has a slightly different perspective on the women of California.

In Chapter XXXI of "California, in-doors and out; or, How we farm, mine, and live generally in the Golden State", Eliza W. Farnham provides an account of the women in California. Blaming the culture of individualistic capitalism, and a general mistrust of women that she claims is present in the community, she laments the effects of the harsh environment on the values and good quality of the women there. She provides an account of a "beautiful exception", a woman that engages in masculine work yet retains her femininity, and praises this as the most desirable state of pioneer womanhood.

In Chapter XXXI of “California, in-doors and out; or, How we farm, mine, and live generally in the Golden State”, Eliza W. Farnham provides an account of the women in California. Blaming the culture of individualistic capitalism, and a general mistrust of women that she claims is present in the community, she laments the effects of the harsh environment on the values and good quality of the women there. She provides an account of a “beautiful exception”, a woman that engages in masculine work yet retains her femininity, and praises this as the most desirable state of pioneer womanhood.

Although Farnham places much of the blame on a single-minded obsession with attaining material wealth (“It is rare to meet with a man or woman, who seems at all stirred by any but the money phase of the country,” Chapter XXXI), and men’s general mistrust of females in the community, she still frowns upon the loss of “gentleness,” praises the state of being “feminine and sweet,” and seems to hold many of the same opinions as Fisher. Her final words to what she calls the “martyr women of California” are those that encourage great sacrifice: “Forget not this in your afflictions. If it cost you the peace, happiness and outward dignity of your life, forget not that it is carrying to others, elsewhere, the same blessings it has robbed you of…for it rarely happens that the good which our human desire craves, flows to the first laborers in any new field” (Chapter XXXI).

Although there were undoubtedly women that “welcomed the adventure and the liberation from the more rigid and confining gender roles of the East” (Matt, Chapter 2), most were still constrained by the limiting values of domesticity. The women of westward expansion were, therefore, inflicted not only with the same perils of their male counterparts, but also with a repressive system of values. It is no wonder then, that they felt homesick and lonely. It was not easy to leave home, and their bravery should be commended.

This drawing by George E. Niles, entitled “Lost to Sight” was published in 1887. It depicts a Pioneer woman standing in profile on the prairie. Her vision trails off to something she can no longer see. This image portrays the vastness of the West, and one woman’s lone stance within it.

Note: Because I only have a Kindle edition of Homesickness: An American History, I was not able to include exact page numbers.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here.

When She Leaves for America She Won’t Come Back the Same

When She Leaves for America She Won’t Come Back the Same

By Bobby Buscher

“Americanization Through Homemaking,” 1929. Courtesy of the Library of Congress: American Memory: Immigration, American Expansion.

The visual Americanization Through Homemaking, written by Pearl Idelia Ellis , offers assimilation to Mexican women into the American imagination through domestic labor and gendered roles. Courses include methods of food preparation, child rearing, and monetary budgeting. The instructional guide offers an American identity by instructing Mexican immigrants in gender and domestic practices of American women. Mexican immigrant women that moved to the U.S. were absorbed into American paradigms of domestic conquest.

In Manifest Domesticity, Amy Kaplan writes that the home is often imagined as a microcosm of the nation (Kaplan, 582). The home then fosters national policy and customs as well as educates the unfamiliar with the customs, values, and expectations of the nation. The home is often positioned as the natural or proper place of women and mothers. Women and mothers become civic servants to advance national policy, cultural expectations, and methods of inclusion and assimilation into the nation through domestic practices. For many migrants and immigrants, the U.S. sought to incorporate them into national culture and sovereignty by removing them from their original home, Americanizing them,  and having the women return to their families and export the new American customs, values, and expectations to their families for the purpose of duplication.

In the latter half of the 19th century, American Indians were removed from their homes to be made American by stripping them of their traditional cultural practices and replacing them with U.S. cultural expectations via boarding school education. Many of the boarding schools are marked with an arch dividing savagery from civilization (Archuleta, 24). Through traveling under the arch the American Indian leaves her home and is “detribalized, [made] fluent and literate in English, economically self-sufficient, hardworking, and self-disciplined (Archuleta, 56). At the schools, the American Indian women are introduced to methods of housekeeping, dress making, child rearing, and culinary arts (Archuleta, 116).  The school transmitted images and beliefs of a modern and civilized domestic setting for women to occupy and cultivate. It also exposed the “‘civilized’ standards of familial affection and love” to their parents (Archuleta, 58-59).

The process of Americanization is tied to notions of domesticity and often rails on women, in particular mothers, as the pillars supporting the nation because in women’s homes are the nation’s future citizens. The nation’s well being is the responsibility of the mother because

SHE is responsible for the cleanliness of her house.

SHE is responsible for the wholesomeness of the food.

SHE is responsible for the children’s health.

SHE, above all, is responsible for their morals, for their sense of truth, of honesty and decency, for what they turn out to be.

Excerpt from “Women in the Home: National American Woman Suffrage Association,” 1910. Courtesy of the Library of Congress: American Memory: Immigration, American Expansion.

The quote is taken from a National American Woman Suffrage Association pamphlet. The pamphlet is dated 1910 and is from the organization’s headquarters in New York. The pamphlet argues for women’s right to vote so that mothers can better ensure the health and safety of their children as well as amend the failings of husbands and men that have negatively impacted homes and the nation as a whole. In the claim for equal voting rights, there is a position of women as defenders of the home. With the power to vote, women can ensure the well being of their children by combating poor regulations that impact the meats and produce fed to her family. It is the duty of women to be care providers that are naturally disposed to be protective and morally aware.

Americanization through domesticity follows some paternalistic tropes and ideas. Organizations that teach domestic practices control the person’s behavior by imposing rules on the person to mold them into a predetermined design (Crawford). The YWCA organizations are “moral oases” for young women that have left their home (Matt, 142). There, the young are showed the “amenities of idealized middle-class home: a piano, a parlor, a library, a sewing room” (Matt, 142). Not all immigrants stayed in he U.S., but upon returning home some built American houses (Matt, 161). Part of Americanization through domesticity is to spread ideal notions of the home.

MOTHERS need the ballot to regulate the moral conditions under which their children must be brought up.

Excerpt from “Why women want to vote. Women are citizens, and wish to do their civic duty.,” 1910. Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress: American Memory: Immigration, American Expansion.

A pamphlet from the National American Woman Suffrage Association in New York dated 1910. The pamphlet shares the same request for women’s right to vote as the previous pamphlet. The quote above continues the gendered notion that mothers are responsible for the morality of their children and the environmental factors that influence the child’s moral development.  The similar argumentative framework, that mothers need the ability to vote to endorse policies that ensure the health and welling of their children, is reproduced and creates power in numbers for asserting a gendered discourse pertaining to women and mothers. The more often an argument is asserted in multiple articulations, even in quite similar modes, the more the argument is held to be true. Here the repetition continues the notion that mothers are responsible for the moral upbringing of their children, more so than the father.

When leaving home to come to the U.S., women were Americanized through domestic practices that included them in an American imagination with a hope of exporting the domestic and gendered practices to others during a return to their original homes. Immigration and internal migrants distanced women from their home and traditional activities. When away from home, the import and adoption of new practices became easier, and it replaced old ideas. Women that left their home for the U.S. did not return to their home they left as they were, but as Americanized and spreading their new customs.

“Two Phases Of Emigration,” 1878. Courtesy of North America Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories.

This visual is from Harper’s Magazine dated 1878. The caption on the right read “Europe’s Contribution to America,” suggesting that European immigration to America brought undisciplined and refined settlers. On the left the caption reads “America’s Contribution to Europe,” suggesting that America has refined and cultivated the settlers, and are bringing their civil American customs to share with Europe. The return to native lands is to demonstrate superior behavior and methods of living.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here.  

The Battle Between Homesickness and Economic Growth

The Battle Between Homesickness and Economic Growth

by Ryan Weiner

Whether voluntary or involuntary, one of the root reasons why people have decided to migrate has been for economic growth. The 19th century was full of migration from within and without America. As Susan Matt discusses the market revolution in America during this time in her book Homesickness, she addresses the common trait of people in the country by saying, “Influenced by the ideal of the self-made man, American men and women abandoned the familiar in search of new profits and possibilities” (5). In Away from Home: American Indian School Experiences, K. Tsianina Lomawaima discusses how the Indians were made to go to boarding schools that attempted to educate them intellectually, but mainly focused on developing skills that they could use in the job force and stated, “…many did go on to a meaningful employment, and many alumni report satisfaction at having learned the American ‘work ethic'” (34-35). Both accounts discuss that a person has a desire for economic growth. However, the irony behind this desire is the constant pain and dreadful experiences the people suffer from being homesick. Most of the time people, especially the Indians, left their families behind on their quest for economic growth and without their family or home country/town, they struggled from homesickness. In the Indian Boarding Schools, children had suffered from homesickness and the poor lack of communication to their families back at home did not help (Lomawaima 40-41). The problem was that there was still the constant desire for that economic growth that forbid them from going home until they succeeded. The stories of success were being published in books like The Emigrant’s True Guide that attempted to fight off the emigrants homesickness by telling tales of immigrants succeeding in America (Matt 55). Susan Matt discusses many stories of immigrants who came to America and after a while had strong intentions of going back to their homeland, but one account of a Norwegian lady summed up the immigrant’s problems by writing, “Fate has indeed separated me from my native land and all that was dear to me there…Cannot deny that homesickness gnaws at me hard. When I think, however, that there will be better livelihood for us here than in poor Norway, I reconcile myself to it” (Matt 58).  The battle between desires and homesickness was a problem for many immigrants and the toughest thing was to find balance between the two.

The following source was written by Michael Proctor, who was a resident of America.  He wanted to tell immigrants from England everything he could, good and bad, about America. Proctor discusses the immense amount of economic opportunities that are in America and how an immigrant cannot pass on the opportunities. He also discusses that the work is completely different from that in England and that a person will be miserable doing this type of work, especially without family.

But, from the moment he strikes the first blow with an axe in the forest, to the end of two full years he may bid farewell to every comfort of life; even to all those meagre comforts, which are afforded by the mud cottage of the poorest labourer in England; except he be a man of discernment, and his wife, if he has one, be equally endowed with natural good sense, then he will have one great source of comfort, all the time open, which to the poor man in England is perpetually closed, we mean the comfort of hope. Nay he will realize something more than mere hope, he will have assurance, that after two or three years trial he most certainly will be in such circumstances of comfort, as the greatest dint of industry and economy could never have procured him in his native land (81-82).

“Notes and Observations on America, and the Americas; Including Considerations for Emigrants,” 1830. Courtesy of North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories.

This source is a collection of letters written by Norwegians discussing their experiences in America. Most of the Norwegians understood that their home country was suffering economically and this resulted in an influx of immigrants to America all seeking economic growth. A lot of the letters discuss the struggles of these Norwegians as they were homesick, but knew that they could not go home because of the economic conditions. This letter was written in 1883 by a Nordic immigrant who was constantly moving from city to city to find the perfect combination of comfort and wealth. However, the tone expresses that he’ ll never truly be able to mix the two.

  I didn’t get along well there, however, and after a few days in Dallas I went up to Dakota, 2,500 kilometers north. I went there because I had a friend there and thought I would enjoy it but I missed Stavanger and didn’t find it in Dakota. I spent nine weeks in a small town, where I worked in an American’s grocery store. But my homesickness wouldn’t go away, so I went to Chicago, which is full of Norwegians. But I didn’t find Stavanger here, either. At first it was very difficult to find any kind of work here even though I tried as hard as I could to get a job. Now I work for a combined wholesale and retail grocer and expect to stay at this job until spring. Then I’ll look for something else (64)

“Their Own Saga: Letters from the Norwegian Global Migration,” 1986. Courtesy of North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral History.

Irish emigrants leaving their home for America--the mail coach from Cahirciveen, County Kerry, Ireland

This image is showing Irish immigrants getting ready to leave for America. The people seem to be celebrating the fact that they are going to America, showing how the immigrants were excited at first for the economic opportunities America offered. What the picture does not show is how these people will feel after months or years of being in America and how homesickness will affect them.

“Irish emigrants leaving their home for America–the mail coach from Cahirciveen, County Kerry, Ireland,” 1866. Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

This image was on the back of a newspaper to discuss boarding schools for Indians. The picture was taken at a Dakota mission school. None of the Indians in the picture show any signs of happiness. Two do not even look at the camera. This shows how the schools made the Indians unhappy and miss their homes.

“Dakota Mission School,” 1880-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here

Politics Behind Leaving Home

Politics Behind Leaving Home

By Carley Chan

The concept of home has long been a powerful source of propaganda in the American political landscape. Both the physical and metaphorical act of “leaving home,” whether by men or women, white or ethnic, voluntarily or forcibly, has often had larger political implications.

The plight of marginalized individuals has been continually exploited throughout American history for the purpose of political gain. In the late 19th century, boarding schools to re-educate Indians and assimilate them into American society emerged as a more humane solution to the “Indian problem.” Supporters of this new policy, with their paternalistic faith in the “potential of the Indian,” were the progressives of their time despite the largely inhumane and dehumanizing aspect of the schools which aimed to “kill the Indian and save the man” (Lomawaima, 22). At worst, the white man’s ambitious venture was cultural genocide. At best, it taught Indians the skills for a life of menial labor on the lowest rungs of society.

The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is a similar example of the disenfranchisement of individuals for the sake of politics. Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes to designated sites “surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards” due to suspicion over their loyalty to the United States (Topaz Museum). The move was not a matter of personal choice, but rather to appease “real” Americans and ease political pressure. To prove themselves as “good American citizens,” Japanese Americans had little choice but to submit quietly to their imprisonment.

Ethnic minorities were not the only victims. In the company town of Pullman, residents who settled there were pawns in George Pullman’s pursuit of the ideal “paternalist institution” (Crawford, 37). Pullman received ample attention and praise for its beauty, innovation, and “financial and social success” (Crawford, 39). For the workers living there, however, the town was unusually restrictive; “nobody [regarded] Pullman as a real home” and many left as soon as they were financially able (Crawford, 40).

Women, who were long imprisoned in the home by the idea of “separate spheres,” were both victims and proponents of the use of the home as propaganda. In the nineteenth century, women were expected to “[withdraw] from the outside world” into the private sphere of the home. Women who were unsatisfied with this “shrunken realm of female agency” struggled to metaphorically leave the home for the public sphere (Kaplan, 586). This struggle continues to impact women in politics today. Despite being freer from gender expectations and restrictions, female politicians continue to cite their competence in the private sphere to justify their involvement in the public sphere. Being a capable mother or a compassionate woman is a vital part of a female politician’s image – but male politicians are not held to similar standard (Lecture, 2/19).

Kenji Fujii, the first speaker, said the nisei’s attitude should be unfailingly grounded in his faith in his essential Americanism. Dave Tatsuno, a prominent member of the JACL, and Ernest Takahashi both, in effect, counseled “voluntary cooperation” with the Federal program of evacuation. Warren Tsuneishi urged continued faith in democracy in meeting the problems of evacuation.

Excerpt from “Pros, Cons of Nisei Attitude Discussed,” 06 June 1942. Courtesy of Topaz Museum.

Nisei, literally “second-generation,” were natural-born Japanese American citizens. Many were confined in internment camps for the the duration of World War II. This excerpt is from an article in the Topaz Times, a newspaper run by the Japanese internees of the Topaz WRA camp in central Utah.  The article documents a weekly Town Hall Forum to discuss the topic: “What should the Nisei attitude be towards evacuation?”

As evident in their language, the Nisei featured in the article fully believed in their status as American citizens – even if the government and many other Americans did not. Despite the gross violation of their civil rights, negative attitudes or complaints towards internment are almost completely absent. Instead, the Nisei stress “voluntary cooperation” and “faith in democracy” to deal with such difficult times.  More cynically, this positive attitude can be seen as the Nisei’s way to appease their oppressors, in hopes of proving their loyalty and hastening their return home.

The woman who has never possessed money of her own earning, has missed a great happiness. The depressing feeling of dependence under which many girls and women suffer, is crushing in many ways to their growth, and to the woman who once achieves independence comes an expansion of soul, a breadth of view, a mental freedom she never knew or imagined. For the first time in her life she realizes that she too is an individual, with the ability and the right to regulate her conduct according to her own judgment, and to grow broader, deeper, truer at her will.

There is one consideration which a woman must take into account in settling the question of her duty and her work. She has a responsibility in regard to herself as well as to her husband, and family. … The woman who marries, – deliberately or thoughtlessly as the case may be, – assumes the duties of wife and mother, and these have the first claim upon her.

“Should a married woman work for money? The effect on herself,” 1892. Courtesy of The Library of Congress.

This article, written by Olive Thorne Miller for The Cambridge Literary Bureau and Press, addresses the conflict that arises from the intersection of the public and private sphere. Though Miller acknowledges that wage labor is a liberating and life-changing experience, she still perpetuates the idea that first and foremost, a woman’s place is in the home. Whether or not she wanted to or continues to want to live a domestic life is of little relevance, as her domestic duties “have first claim upon her.” Thorne goes on to write that perhaps, at fifty years of age, a woman will finally be able to pursue her own dreams and desires – but in the meantime, while she raises her children and submits to her husband, she will have to bear “the depressing feeling of dependence” that is “crushing in many ways to [her] growth.”

“Old Kentucky Home - Life in the South,” 1859.

“Old Kentucky Home – Life in the South,” 1859. Image courtesy of In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience.

This oil painting by Eastman Johnson depicts a racially integrated Southern home, where slaves interacted with their white master and his family. This cheerful scene is meant to depict the institution of slavery in a positive light. This romanticized image of white paternalism was far from the reality for many slaves, however. Slavery did not “civilize the Negro;” it was an exploitative and inhumane trade that caused the breakup of African families and forced removal from their homes for the sake of economic profit.

“Emil and Yas Furuya,” 1942. Courtesy of Topaz Museum.

This photo, taken at the Topaz WRA camp in central Utah, shows several internees presumably preparing to leave for an outing. Internees were required to obtain passes before leaving the camp, making migration a larger political issue. A Japanese American’s decision to leave or return home was under jurisdiction of the American government.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here