Exam preparation materials

Section II: Essay Questions

Part A

(Suggested writing time — 45 minutes)

Directions: Write an essay based on your analysis of Documents A-J as well as your knowledge of the period covered by the question. It is important for you to include information on the topic not provided by the documents.

1. In Letters from an American Farmer, St. John de Crevecoeur wrote:

He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds .... Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.

Assess the validity of this early statement of the melting-pot theory of acculturation using both the documents and your knowledge of immigration during late nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. history.

Document A

The rapidity with which the democratic ideas are taken on by immigrants under the influence of our institutions is remarkable.

These races have certainly taken advantage of their opportunities among us in a fashion to promise well for their final effect upon this country. The French-Canadian has become a sufficiently good American to have given up his earlier programs of turning New England into a new France — that is, into a Catholic province or of returning to the province of Quebec. He is seeing something better than a racial or religious ideal in the freedom of American citizenship; and on one or two occasions, when he had political power in two municipalities, he refrained from exercising it to the detriment of the public-school system.

Source: Percy Stickney Grant, "American Ideas and Race Mixture, " North American Review (1912).

Document B

The district can yet be called a “Little Italy.“ Social life centers around the Catholic Church of Our Lady Help of Christians, on 10th and Wash, streets, the main business places being on 7th Street, between Franklin and Carr. It is there that one finds the Rome Drug store, the Viviano Macaroni establishment. the Selvaggi and Coppolino steamship agencies, the wholesale house of Costa and Siales, Dr. Cataldi’s office, the "pasticceria” and several groceries and butcher shops. One of the main events of the colony is the celebration of the Congregation of Santa Fara, the patroness of the town of Cinisi... . For the occasion solemn vespers are sung, a colorful parade takes place and fireworks galore remind the immigrant of his days in the “old country.’’ But Santa Fara is not the only Saint that is venerated. Almost every one of the groups from the towns mentioned above has its “patron’’ or “patroness” saint in whose honor large amounts of money are lavished each year.

Source: Giovanni Schiavo, The Italians in Missouri (1929).

Document C

There were approximately 33,000,000 people in the country in 1910 who were either born abroad or under foreign home conditions and neighborhood environment. In all there are 38 different language groups in the United States, supporting publications which have a total circulation approximated at 10.982,000.

Source: New York Times. February 2, 1919.

Document D

The societies which are organized and maintained by the members of different nationalities, and which flourish in some form in every community where there are large groups of immigrants, are a factor in helping the immigrant through the trials of immigration and the difficulties of adjustment to new conditions. The chief reason among all nationalities for the formation of these societies is insurance against sickness and death, but most of them combine with this some other objects. Nearly all of them outline an educational and civic program. They may lack the means to carry this out, yet the statement of these purposes has an influence upon the members. Cooperation with these organizations on the part of American agencies would help the immigrant in solving his own problems, and might mean carrying out these larger ideals.

Source: Report of the Commission on Immigration on the Problem of Immigration in Massachusetts (1914).

Document E

The present immigrant organizations represent a separateness of the immigrant groups from America, but these organizations exist precisely because they enable the immigrants to overcome this separateness. They are signs, not of the perpetuation of immigrant groups here, but of their assimilation. We know of no type of immigrant organization which is able to live without some feature related to the needs of the immigrant in America. If we give the immigrants a favorable milieu, if we tolerate their strangeness during their period of adjustment, if we give them freedom to make their own connections between the old and new experiences, if we help them to find points of contact, then we hasten their assimilation. This is a process of growth as against the “ordering and forbidding” policy and the demand that the assimilation of the immigrant shall be “sudden, complete, and bitter.”

Source: Herbert A. Miller and Robert E. Park, Old World Traits Transplanted (1921).

Document F

When our immigrant’s son looks back at his early life to consider his environment, his recollections in most cases are not very encouraging. The best he can think of is the sight of the East Side of New York or of any other Eastern city where immigrants are massed together. The rich surroundings of traditions characteristic of his race do not exist for him; he experiences a sort of spiritual starvation from which he tries to escape.

Often he cannot understand his own parents; thought and manners and this situation at times becomes really tragic. He is no longer at home in his own family. That peaceful united homelife which we still believe is the real foundation of happiness and society is never experienced by many of these young people.

Source: Mario Petruzzelli. Atlantica (May 1937).

Document G


Source: Library of Congress


Document H

In any summary of the work of the Polish schools it is evident that the knowledge of the Polish language among the American-born youth has created a better contact with their parents who immigrated from oppressed Poland and settled here permanently, building churches, schools, newspapers, and community centers, but who never ceased to long for their newly freed homeland, the Republic of Poland. Knowing that they will not return to their native land, what is more natural than their desire to pass on to their children this proud and splendid heritage of culture and to make them realize that in making a part of American culture they are adding to the latter rather than subtracting from its prominence? The immigrant generation is happy to see their youth absorb Polish along with American culture and take pride in the homeland of their forefathers, thus assured of their becoming better and more contented citizens of America.

Source: AM Skibinska, "Polish Language Supplementary Schools" in Poles of Chicago (1937).

Document I

The growing sense of superiority on the part of the boy to the Hebraic part of his environment extends itself soon to the home. He learns to feel that his parents, too, are “greenhorns.” In the struggle between the two sets of influences that of the home becomes less and less effective. He runs away from the supper table to join his gang on the Bowery, where he is quick to pick up the very latest slang; where his talent for caricature is developed often at the expense of his parents, his race, and all “foreigners,” and like his glorious countrymen in general, he is quick to ridicule the stranger. He laughs at the foreign Jew with as much heartiness as at the Italian; for he feels that he himself is almost as remote from the one as from the other.

The boys not only talk together of picnics, of the crimes of which they read in the English newspapers, of prizefights, of budding business propositions, but avoid the Yiddish theater, seek the uptown places of amusement, dress in the latest American fashion, and have a keen eye for the right thing in neckties.

Source: Hutchins Hapgood, The Spirit of the Ghetto: Studies in the Jewish Quarter of New York (1902).

Document J

By the first decade of the twentieth century, the Lower East Side had become an immigrant Jewish cosmopolis. Clustered in their separate Jewries, they were set side by side in a pattern suggesting the cultural, if not the physical, geography of the Old World. Hungarians were settled in the northernmost portion above Houston Street, along the numbered street between Avenue B and the East River, once indisputably [Little Germany]. Galicians lived to the south, between Houston and Broom, east of Clinton, on Attorney, Ridge, Pitt, Willet and the cross streets. To the west lay the most congested Rumanian quarter ... on Chrystie, Forsyth, Eldrige, and all streets, flanked by Houston Street to the north and Grand Street to the south, with the Bowery gridironed by the overhead elevated to the west. The remainder of the great Jewish quarter, from Grand Street reaching south to Monroe, was the preserve of the Russians — those from Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Byelorussia, and the Ukraine — the most numerous and heterogeneous of the Jewries of Eastern Europe.

Source: Moses Rischin, The Promised City: New York's Jews 1870-1914 (1962).

Part B

(Suggested writing time — 35 minutes, including a 5-minute planning period)

Directions: Choose ONE question from this part. Cite relevant historical evidence in support of your generalizations and present your arguments clearly and logically.

2. The election of Thomas Jefferson is sometimes called he “Revolution of 1800.“ To what extent is this description accurate?

3. Assess the impact of THREE of the following on the decision of the United States to go to war with Mexico.

Manifest Destiny The Rio Grande boundary dispute The annexation of Texas Slidell’s mission

Part C

(Suggested writing time — 35 minutes, including a 5-minute planning period)

Directions: Choose ONE question from this part. Cite relevant historical evidence in support of your generalizations and present your arguments clearly and logically.

4. The Populist party platform in 1892 stated, “The interests of rural and civic [urban] labor are the same; their enemies are identical.” Given the political and economic conditions of the 1890s, to what extent was this true?

5. Analyze the relative importance of Supreme Court decisions and congressional action during the 1950s and 1960s in bringing about significant change in the civil rights of African-Americans.


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