In what ways did events during the period 1880 and 1920 reinforce the image of the United States as a "melting pot" for races and ethnic groups? In what ways did events seem to contradict that image?


"...Whereas the Government of the United States, because of the constantly increasing immigration of Chinese laborers to the territory of the United States, and the embarrassments consequent upon such immigration, now desires to negotiate a modification of the existing Treaties which shall not be in direct contravention of their spirit....ART.I Whenever in the opinion of the Government of the United States, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States, or their residence therein, affects or threatens to affect the interests of that country, or to endanger the good order of the said country or of any locality within the territory thereof, the Government of China agrees that the Government of the United States may regulate, limit, or suspend such coming or residence, but may not absolutely prohibit it. The limitation or suspension shall be reasonable and shall apply only to Chinese who may go to the United States as laborers, other classes not being included in the limitations.....ART. II ....Chinese laborers who are now in the United States, shall be allowed to go and come of their own free will and accord, and shall be accorded all the rights, privileges, immunities and exemptions which are accorded to the citizens and subjects of the most favored nation."

SOURCE: Treaty Regulating Immigration From China. November 17,1880.



          "..SEC.12. That no Chinese person shall be permitted to enter the United States by land without producing the proper officer of customs the certificate in this act required of Chinese persons seeking to land from a vessel. And any Chinese person found unlawfully within the United States shall be caused to be removed therefrom to the country from whence he came, by direction of the President of the United States, and at the cost of the United States, after being brought before some justice, judge, or commissioner of a court of the United States and found to be one not lawfully entitled to be or remain in the United States....SEC.14. That hereafter no State court or court of the United States shall admit Chinese to citizenship; and all laws in conflict with this act are hereby repealed. SEC.15. That the words "Chinese laborers," whenever used in this act, shall be construed to mean both skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining."

SOURCE:  Chinese Exclusion Act. May 6, 1882.



Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land:
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

SOURCE:  "The New Colossus", a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus which was inscribed on the base
of the Statue of Liberty in 1903.




SOURCE:   In New York during World War I the NAACP led a march protesting brutality against blacks. One of the many banners read: "Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy?" (1918).




          "To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, 'Cast down your bucket where you are.' Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know and whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labour laws, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and ruin your factories. While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and un-resentful people that the world has seen. As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of our mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defense of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interest of both races one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress."
SOURCE:   Booker T. Washington's, Atlanta Exposition Address. September 18, 1895.



          "In my opinion, the judgement this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott Case. It was adjudged in that case that the descendents of Africans who were imported into this country and sold as slaves were not included nor intended to be included under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and could not claim any of the rights and privileges which that instrument provided for and secured to citizens of the United States; that at the time of the adoption of the Constitution they were "considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them." The recent amendments to the Constitution, it was supposed, had eradicated these principles from our institutions. But it seems that we have yet, in some of the states, a dominant race, a superior class of citizens, which assumes to regulate the enjoyment of civil rights, common to all citizens, upon the basis of race. The present decision, it may well be apprehended, will not only stimulate aggressions, more or less brutal and irritating, upon the admitted rights of colored citizens, but will encourage the belief that it is possible, by means of state enactments, to defeat the beneficent purposes which the people of the United States had in view when they adopted the recent amendment of the Constitution,....."
SOURCE:  Separate but Equal: Plessy V. Ferguson, 1896



"..To the Senate: ...I do this with great reluctance. The bill contains many valuable amendments to the present immigration law which will insure greater certainty in excluding undesirable immigrants...But i cannot make up my mind to sign a bill which in its chief provision violates a principle that ought, in my opinion, to be upheld in dealing with our immigration. I refer to the literacy test..... WM. H. TAFT

My Dear Mr. President.....the ground is taken that the provision is to be defended as a practical measure to exclude a large proportion of undesirable immigrants from certain countries...the final purpose being to reduce the quantity of cheap labor in this country: I cannot accept this argument. No doubt the law would exclude a considerable percentage of immigration....The oppression with which these people have to contend in modern times..it consists of a denial of the opportunity to acquire reading and writing....The census returns show conclusively that the importance of illiteracy among aliens is overestimated, and that these people are prompt after their arrival to avail ( themselves) of the opportunities which this country affords....Charles Nagel, Secretary"

SOURCE:  Taft's Veto of the Literacy Test for Immigrants. February 14, 1913.



          "...To the House of Representatives: It is with unaffected regret that I find myself constrained by clear conviction to return this bill without my signature.....But candor and a sense of duty with regard to the responsibility so clearly imposed upon me by the Constitution in matters of legislation leave me no choice but to dissent....It sealed to all but close entirely the gates of the asylum which have always been open to those who could find nowhere else the right and opportunity of constitutional agitation for what they conceived to be the natural and inalienable rights of men; and it excludes those to whom the opportunities of elementary education have been denied, without regard to their character, their purposes, or their natural capacity...The literacy test and the restrictions which accompany it constitute an even more radical change in the policy of the nation...Those who come seeking opportunity are not admitted unless the have already had one of the chief of the opportunities they seek, the opportunity of education. The object of such provisions is restriction, not selection....."
SOURCE:   Wilson's Veto of Literacy Test for Immigrants. January 28, 1915.



          "..The immigration act of 1882, which as already indicated, was the first general law upon the subject, provided for the exclusion from the United States of the following classes only: Convicts, lunatics, idiots, and persons likely to become a public charge. This law underwent more or less important revisions in 1891, 1893, 1903, 1907, and 1917, until the last-mentioned act, which is the present general immigration law, denies admission to many classes of aliens, including the following: Idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, epileptics, insane people, persons who have had one or more attacks of insanity at anytime previously; persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority; persons with chronic alcoholism; paupers; professional beggars; vagrants; persons afflicted with tuberculosis in any form or with loathsome or dangerous contagious disease....."
SOURCE:  Immigration Restriction-The law of 1917 (U.S. Bureau of Immigration, Annual Report of the Commissioner-General of Immigration).




          "..In order that the best results might follow from an enforcement of the regulations, an understanding was reached with Japan that the existing policy of discouraging emigration of its subjects of the laboring classes to continental United States should be continued, and should, by co-operation with the governments, be made as effective as possible . This understanding contemplates that the Japanese government shall issue passports to continental United States only to such of its subjects as are non-laborers or are laborers who, in coming to the continent, seek to resume a formerly acquired domicile, to join a parent, wife, or children residing there, or to assume active control of an already possessed interest in a farming enterprise in this country, so that the three classes of laborers entitled to receive passports have come to be designated 'former residents'..."
SOURCE:  Japanese Immigration- The Gentleman's Agreement 1908 
(Report of the Commissioner General of Immigration).




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DBQ Question created by:  
Erin Fox
Class of 2001 
  Maria Regina H. S.  
Hartsdale, NY
created in:  April, 2000