ILEEN DEVAULT: OK, I've been told that you're all here now and that we're supposed to get started. Good afternoon. I'm Ileen DeVault. I'm a professor of labor history in the ILR School, where I teach a section of the required first-year labor history course, if any of you are ILRees here-- although I won't be teaching it this semester-- as well as other courses I teach, all on the history of work and workers in general, including a course I teach on and off about immigration to the United States.
So I hope you're all getting settled into your dorms-- an easy process, right? Or at least you're a little relieved now that your parents have left campus and you're all on your own. And I hope that you're ready to begin thinking just a little bit this afternoon.
This afternoon I'll be talking on-- whoops, wrong thing. I'll be talking on "Defining Ourselves as Others-- Immigration, Class and the American 20th Century." And I'd like to start with Homer & Langley. The senior maid, Siobahn, pious Irish woman of a certain age, about whom Homer's mother had not only found her work exceptional, but had come to feel about her that she was like a member of the family.
Wolfgang, the butler chauffeur and sometime handyman, who was a German. And while his accent was slight, he could not put his verbs anywhere but at the end of the sentence. And we were, after all, at war with the Germans, and so Homer fired him. The younger Hungarian maid, Julia, who Homer eventually took to bed, had come to America under the auspices of a servant supply agency, arriving at our door with excellent references.
And the Hoshiyamas, a Japanese couple, who came to clean house for Homer and Langley some time in the late 1930s, although it's hard to figure out time in that book sometimes. They lived in Brooklyn, but one morning arrived for work in a cab, having been threatened by their neighbors after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. And finally, there's Mrs. Robileaux, the negro cook, who prepared what she wanted to prepare, and served what she wanted to serve, without advice from anyone.
So what do these six characters have in common with each other?
ILEEN DEVAULT: They're all immigrants. They're all servants. In fact, five of them-- not Mrs. Robileaux-- are the only immigrants in this book. And all six of them are the only workers who are described in any detail whatsoever in Homer & Langley In what follows, I'll be mostly talking about the immigrants among them. And maybe we can talk about Mrs. Robileaux a little in the question and answer period. How are immigrants to the United States and African Americans different? How are they similar? How are the reactions that Americans have to each of these groups both different and similar? However, in order to take only the time they asked me to take, we're going to focus on the immigrants today.
If the Collyer brothers were set apart from the average American by both their privileged background and their quirky habits of hoarding, these six characters are very much set apart from the Collyers. They are the others to the Collyers' very small two-person me. These are the characters of the book who possess the useful skills and, at least for the first 90 pages or so of the book, keep Homer and Langley alive living in some semblance of normalcy. Siobahn, Wolf, Julia, and the Hoshiyamas together represent three important waves of immigration to the US. They therefor demonstrate for us both the push and the pull of immigration, and the crucial roll that economics plays in both pushing immigrants out of their countries of origin and pulling them into this country specifically.
They also demonstrate the crucial roll that immigrants play in providing essential labor in the United States and in the industries of the United States. Simultaneously, these three groups also illustrate anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States, the ways that different generations of Americans always seem to see immigrants as the other, as different from themselves, as somehow totally alien individuals, even if the families of these Americans were, themselves, immigrants, or they were immigrants just a generation or two earlier.
So since I'm a historian, I'm of course going to start chronologically, so I'm going to start back in the 19th century. Siobahn the Irish maid and Wolf the German butler represent what was the first mass migration of immigrants to the United States. These are the immigrants historians have called the "old immigrants" of the mid-19th century, and 1854 was the peak year of immigration for these old immigrants.
And you can see here the countries. Germany had almost 1/2 of all immigrants in 1854. Ireland had the second largest chunk. Britain then had a fairly large group. There's a very small slice of the pie given to non-European immigrants and a larger slice given to other Northwestern European immigrants. And this is a map illustrating the same thing-- where the immigrants are coming from in Europe as they come to the United States.
Both Irish and German immigrants were propelled to immigrate to the United States by combinations of agricultural disaster-- things like the Potato Famine-- and this is a picture of a rotting potato. That's what it really looks like when your potato has potato famine. And if that's what you're counting on to feed your family, it gets unappetizing very quickly. This is a drawing of Irish searching for edible potatoes in their field in the 1840s. So it's agricultural disaster. The potato famine hit both Ireland and Germany at the same time in the 1840s. There was economic decline in both countries at the same time.
And in Germany there was also massive political upheaval that meant that many immigrants from Germany came here really as political refugees. Once in the United States the Irish would work as servants or common laborers. From 1851 to 1855, on historian has estimated that between 80% and 90% of all Irish immigrants either worked as domestic servants or as common laborers. While their women were feeding other Americans and cleaning their houses as servants, Irishmen built the nation's canal system, shown in the map here.
And if you want to go up to the north end of Cuyahoga Lake, you can see the Erie Canal itself, built in the 1820s. And Irish also built the nation's first railroads, as well as leveling out and paving the first city streets on the East Coast. German immigrants, on the other hand, moved largely to what is now known as the Midwestern part of the country. The darker the map is, the more Germans were in that area. And this shows their distribution across the country in 1900.
Many of them worked as farmers. They came to this country hoping to own land, which is why they all went out to the Midwest to try to become farmers. Many others arrived here with fairly high skills, and so they moved into skilled occupations in urban workshops. This meant that they not only established companies, like the Milwaukee breweries-- Budweiser, Pabst, all of those Milwaukee beers, Anheuser Busch. All of these are German names for a reason. They were established by German immigrants, and they were also staffed by German workers.
New York City cigar factories were largely the same, as were companies like Steinway Pianos, where the Steinway family established a piano company, and then hired highly skilled German workers to work in it. This describes, then, the push, what pushed them out of Ireland and Germany, and the pull of jobs in the US for this first mass migration of immigrants to the US.
Julia, the Hungarian maid, represents the second mass migration to the United States. And these are the immigrants that historians have generally called the "new immigrants," although that gets harder and harder as we go further ahead in history, and more and more immigrants keep coming in. But we historians are stuck with our old terms, so we're still calling these the "new immigrants."
These are the immigrants who came to this country roughly between 1880 and World War I. Very similarly to the case of Irish and German immigrants earlier, these immigrants were propelled by economic decline in Southern and Eastern Europe and, for the Eastern European Jewish immigrants among them, religious persecution.
The religious persecution of Eastern European Jewish immigrants meant that they were highly unlikely to return to their home countries. But setting aside those Eastern European Jews, man-- if not most-- of new immigrant groups ended up going back and forth across the Atlantic. One historian has called them proletarian blow poppers. In other words, these immigrants were going to take advantage of the new, reliable, and inexpensive steam ships to go back and forth across the ocean in response to economic swings, both in their home countries and in the United States.
So, for example, we have many examples in this immigrant group from Southern Eastern Europe of, say, Southern Italians who keep their farms in Southern Italy and would come to the United States in the winter to work and then return back to Italy in the summer, in order to harvest their crops or plant their crops-- help their families in other ways on the farm. So they would go back and forth, almost on a seasonal basis. And remember, they still don't have airplanes, right? So they're still taking very long trips across the Atlantic by sea.
After each of these mass migration-- both the Old Immigrants in the mid-19th century and the New Immigrants of the turn of the last century-- we see anti-immigrant sentiment rising in the United States. In the 1840s and '50s, faced with thousands of Irish and German immigrants, US citizens looked at both of these groups, and they were horrified. They said, these are non-English speaking. All of the Germans clearly spoke German. And even the Irish, who we tend to think of as an English-speaking group now-- 40% of the Irish immigrants in the 1840s and '50s-- 40% of them spoke Gaelic as their first language, not English. So they were both seen as non-English speaking.
The Irish were overwhelmingly Catholic immigrants at this time. And the German immigrants also had about a 50/50 split of Protestant and Catholic immigrants. And so these immigrants were all lumped together as, oh my God, they're Catholic. And this was in a country that was overwhelmingly Protestant at the time. In addition, they were both seen as having the terrible vice of consuming too much alcohol. Now that's represented in the cartoon here, showing the Irish whiskey and the German beer stealing American votes and loading that ballot box under the influence of the evils of alcohol consumption.
In the 1850s, then, in response to these immigrants coming into the country and seeming to be so different, so alien from preexisting Americans, the Know Nothing Party was formed. This was a party whose main goal was to try to deny citizenship to this group of immigrants. They wanted to either have laws passed that would say, these immigrants could never become citizens of the United States, or they wanted to extend the time that these immigrants would have to stay in the United States before they could become citizens.
They were called the Know Nothings because they were semi-secretive, and if anyone asked them, what's this party you're in, they were supposed to say, I know nothing-- kind of corny if you want people to join your movement, but that was very 19th century of them. They formed a fringe part of what was then the Grand New Republican Party of the 1850s.
As unsuccessful US Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln wrote privately in 1858, "As a nation, we began by declaring that all men are created equal. We now practically read it, all men are created equal except negroes. When the Know Nothings get control, it will read, all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics. When it comes to this, I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty."
This was the reaction, then, to these Old Immigrants in the mid-19th century. We also see similar reactions to the New Immigrants of the turn of the century. In the 1880s and 1890s, organizations such as the American Protective Association and the Junior Order of United American Mechanics would help being the discussion of restricting immigration to the US along the lines of nationality. In other words, they were the ones who first started talking about the idea that we should have some sort of either quota system or system that would say to have absolutely none of particular nationalities coming to this country.
And what I'd like to do now-- which I have to admit I've never done with this large a group, and we tested with what it was going to be like down on this floor, but I don't know how you guys up on the top floor will work out with this-- but I'd like to have you read a document titled, "Worse Than Chinamen." And here's the document. I was told you were young and had very good eyes.
Do you know how to read silently?
OK, have the people who can see it finished reading? Yeah? OK, so if you read this editorial in a newspaper, what's the problem that this author is presenting? What are they concerned about? Yeah?
ILEEN DEVAULT: OK, these immigrants are taking jobs that native Americans should be having. Is there any other problem they've identified? Yeah?
AUDIENCE: None of the intelligent and hardworking people are [INAUDIBLE].
ILEEN DEVAULT: OK. They're saying that it's not the smartest people and the hardest-working people who are immigrating, but it's the lazy, non-hard workers.
AUDIENCE: They're portrayed as barbarians.
ILEEN DEVAULT: What?
AUDIENCE: They're portrayed as barbarians.
ILEEN DEVAULT: These immigrants are portrayed, definitely, as barbarians. There's even that-- I don't know if you all got that far-- a reference they're like orangutans. So they're worse than barbarians. They're animals. Yeah?
ILEEN DEVAULT: OK, if we let these people in, then it's going to cut down the whole society and devalue everything. Yeah, you want to add something? No? OK. So what's their solution? What do you think the solution is that this article is proposing? Can anybody guess? Yeah?
ILEEN DEVAULT: To not let them into the country. Is there anything that tells you that that's the solution they're proposing?
ILEEN DEVAULT: OK, if you read this description of the Slovaks, surely you wouldn't object to passing a law that would stop their coming in. OK, so that's a pretty explicit reference to, let's have legislation that will cut down the entry of these lazy, non-hard working, non-intelligent immigrants who are going to deface the society otherwise. Yeah?
AUDIENCE: Possibly maybe having the government move them in a different area, like separate them from Americans so that it won't have an influence.
ILEEN DEVAULT: OK, she was saying, maybe they're proposing to separate these immigrants from the rest of Americans so that their mad influence doesn't spread to other people. What makes you think that's a solution they're proposing?
AUDIENCE: Well, they kind of say up there that maybe to keep them apart from the rest.
ILEEN DEVAULT: OK, they do have some places where they say, keep them apart. That's true.
AUDIENCE: They're saying we should not pay them for the work that they're doing, because they could just be slaves. It says that [INAUDIBLE].
ILEEN DEVAULT: OK, they're claiming that these people are being brought in by employers specifically to undercut the wages of American workers. And so they say we shouldn't allow that either. Now one of the most interesting things about this article is that it comes from a newspaper called The National Labor Tribune, which was the newspaper of Pittsburgh's labor movement in 1880, when the article was published. And that labor movement was made up almost entirely of Irish and German immigrants and their children.
So here we have first generation Americans who are already forgetting what it was like to be an immigrant and turning against these new immigrants. Given the oblique reference in this article to the Irish-- because they say one of the problems with this group is that they subsist on potatoes, which was what the Irish did, which is why the Potato Famine, and they had to leave Ireland, if you didn't have what you subsisted on to eat anymore.
Why is the title of this anti-New Immigrant article "Worse Than Chinamen"? That's the next question we have to ask. Asian immigration to this country began in the 1840s, when population pressures, economic crises, natural disasters, and politics in China pushed some Chinese out of that country while the Gold Rush in California attracted them, pulled them to the United States.
Chinese immigrants in the 19th century were overwhelmingly concentrated in the Western United States. And I don't know if you can read these numbers either. The total number of Chinese immigrants in the US in 1880 was 105,465. 75,000 of those lived in California, in that one state. So Chinese immigrants are overwhelmingly located in the Western part of the country. Even New York State only had 909 Chinese people living in the state in 1880.
So what kinds of jobs did these Chinese immigrants take? Chinese immigrants began working in gold mining in this country, usually taking gold finds of previous goldminers, and then they would come in and do the very hard hand gold panning after the others had left. Then they moved into railroad construction, when they built the western half of the Continental Railroad, blasting through the Sierra and the Rocky Mountains. And ultimately, Chinese moved into a whole range of semi-skilled manufacturing jobs.
It was in these semi-skilled manufacturing jobs that they came into competition with semi-skilled workers-- again, many of them the children of Irish and German immigrants-- on the West Coast, so that it's on the West Coast where there's no conflict, because as you saw on that map, there are very few Chinese anywhere else. Most people outside of the West Coast had never seen an Asian person in their lives. But in the West Coast, there was major economic competition.
Therefore, the West Coast labor movement was very closely connected to a national campaign for Chinese exclusion, for passing legislation that would forbid any Chinese immigration to the United States. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress. This was the first time that any nationality had been specified in any immigration legislation in this country at all. In addition, the Chinese Exclusion Act declared that Chinese immigrants were never eligible to become citizens of the United States.
No Asian could become a citizen. White immigrants were eligible to be naturalized as citizens. African Americans were eligible under the 14th Amendment. But under the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese were not ever allowed to be citizens. The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed as a temporary act, and it was renewed every 10 years, for the next 60-- six zero-- years. Every 10 years, the US Congress would vote, no Chinese can come into this country.
The Chinese Council in San Francisco-- in 1886, a man by the name of Colonel Bee stated, "If you drive the Chinese out now, who is going to gather the fruit and the harvest of next summer and fall?" In other words, you're relying on the work of these Chinese immigrants, and yet you're now saying you're going to have no more Chinese immigrants. The ultimate answer to Colonel Bee's question came in the form of Japanese immigrants. In the early 20th century, Japanese began to come to the United States and work in West Coast agriculture, both as migrant farm laborers and as tenant farmers.
Ultimately, though, the idea behind Chinese exclusion was spread to other Asians as well. And in 1917, this country created the Asiatic Barred Zone. This was a statement that no immigrant who was ineligible for citizenship, which has been defined as Asians, could come to the United States from the entire area from what is now Afghanistan all the way to the Pacific. In other words, all of Asia was now going to be excluded from immigration to the United States, and all of Asian immigrants would also now not be able to be naturalized as citizens.
So this, then, squarely brings us back to "Worse Than Chinamen," right? This is the labor movement that's going to push for Chinese Exclusion, and here in this document we see them also making one of the earliest calls for the restriction of immigration to be placed on European nationalities, as well as on Asian nationalities. The main push against the New Immigrants of the turn of the century was going to be this call for restriction.
So how did we deal with immigrants in the early 20th century? These were basically the laws that covered immigration to this country in the early 20th century. We have the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, renewed in '92, in 1902, in 1912, 192-- for 60 years. And I've put under that the 1875 Page Act. This was an act saying that no woman who was brought to this country in order to be a prostitute was allowed into the country. And I put it under the Chinese Exclusion Act, because the arguments in Congress when they passed this law were all about, Chinese women are being brought in to be prostitutes in California, and that's why we have to pass this law.
The 1882 Immigration Act set up a system whereby any immigrant ship passenger now had to be examined. And as the act said, "If on such examination there shall be found among such passengers any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge, or any persons who are likely to become a public charge, such persons shall not be permitted to land, but shall be returned to the countries from whence they came." In other words, we're going to go on the ships, and interview everybody, and say, are you a convict? See how smart people appear to be, to see if you look healthy enough to get a job.
In 1885, the Alien Contract Labor Law was passed. This was another law that the labor movement pushed for very hard. This law stated that, "It shall be unlawful for any person, company, partnership, or corporation, and any man whatsoever, to prepay the transportation or in any way assist or encourage the importation or migration of any alien or aliens under contract or agreement made previous to the importation or migration of such alien to perform labor or service of any kind in the United States."
So on the one hand, the 1882 Immigration Act basically asked that people be healthy enough to get a job. But under the Contract Labor Law, they're also going to be asked, do you already have a job in the United States? And if you made the mistake of saying, yes, I'm going to go work at Arthur Hotdogs in Chicago as my job, you would be sent back, because they would say, no, you already have a job. So you're supposed to be able to get a job, but you were not supposed to prearrange a job as you came in. The 1891 Immigration Act combined and strengthened both the 1882 act and the Contract Labor Law. It added to the list of things that immigrants would be examined for "contagious and loathsome diseases." Polygamists would no longer be allowed in, and those convicted of crimes involving "moral turpitude."
So in summary, why were immigrants not allowed into this country? They could be excluded on economic grounds-- either they already had a job and they weren't supposed to already have a job or they weren't healthy enough to get a job, and so they would end up having to be supported by charities in this country. They could also be excluded for medical, mental, and criminal reasons. But other than the Chinese-- and, eventually, an all other Asians, after 1917-- no group was excluded from immigration to this country simply because of where they came from.
After World War I, people began talking about whether that should change too. In 1919, one US congressman noted that practically all the IWW-- a radical labor organization-- and Bolsheviki-- supporters of the Russian Revolution-- practically all are foreigners. In 1921, another congressman said, "We should formulate and enforce a genuine, 100% American immigration law. The incoming flood remains dangerously alien. It is our business to see that the flood is barred to our shores."
And Frederick Wallace, who was the immigration commissioner in New York City-- he was the man in charge of examining all of these immigrants as they came into Ellis Island. His statement was, "If among 1,000 aliens seeking entrance to America we suspect that there is even one who is plotting against America, I would rather refuse admittance to the 999 worthy than to take the chance of admitting the unworthy one. So long as I am in charge here, my slogan shall be, 'When in doubt, deport!'" Welcome to Ellis Island and America. The man in charge says, "When in doubt, deport!"
What we see in all of these calls for the restriction of immigration is the fear of radicalism combined with the eugenics movement of the time. The eugenics movement combined Darwinism-- the idea of the survival of the fittest-- with the study of genetics, and came up with the idea that all sorts of characteristics were inherited, including things like radical political ideas. And if you knew those were inherited, and if you knew that, say, Jewish people tended to inherit that radical political viewpoint, then obviously what you had to do was limit the number of that group to be allowed in.
In 1921, during an economic recession after World War I, Congress passed a temporary act restricting immigration and setting the first quotas for immigration to this country. The 1921 Immigration Bill said that there were going to be quotas equal to 3% of the number of people from that country who were present in 1910, when the census was taken. So in other words, they were going to look at the numbers they had after this decade of immigration-- when 24.4% of immigrants came from Austria-Hungary, 23% from Italy, 18% from Russia-- and they were going to say only 3% of the number allowed in then are going to be allowed in every year.
However, this wasn't enough for anti-immigrant campaigners, and 1924, they set a new act, which set the quotas at 2%, but they also said, we picked the wrong year. We shouldn't do it as the percent that were here in 1910. Let's go all the way back to the 1890 numbers. And if you look at those numbers, we find that there are very few people coming in from Southern and Eastern European in the 1890 census, and many more from Ireland, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia.
So this was the decision about how they were going to change the quota system. And it changed it in this way, noted visually here. The darker the country is, the more immigrants-- the more their quota would be for each year. This is the 1921 map. This is the 1924 Act. The quotas were cut dramatically. The Italian quota, for instance, went from 42,000 under the 1921 Act to just 4,000 in 1924. Polish went from 31,000 to 6,000. And the Greek quota plummeted from 3,000 under the 1921 Act to just 100 immigrants a year allowed in from Greece. The 1924 Act also confirmed the exclusion of all Asians from immigration and from citizenship. And therefore, the 1924 Act very much laid the groundwork for the reaction to those of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
The story that is told in Homer & Langley about the Hoshiyamas is accurate in its portrayal of threats made against the Japanese at the time. In many places across the country, neighbors would put up signs like this one, after Pearl Harbor. In addition, many of their stores were no longer patronized as well. Both of these are pictures from LA, though, not from New York.
Doctorow-- while he's right about the possibility of threats from neighbors against Japanese-- he's much less accurate in his story when the FBI shows up knocking on the Collyers' door to get the Hoshiyamas. Japanese internment after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 only took place on the West Coast of this country, and the dark line you see here marks the area from which all Japanese would be excluded during World War II. So any Japanese or person of Japanese ancestry who was living in this area would have to be moved to an internment camp, and those internment camps are marked on this map as well.
On March 3, 1942, the government announced the evacuation of all alien and American-born Japanese in California, Washington, Oregon, and along Arizona's Mexican border. In April and May of that year, Japanese families were told to report to civil control stations in these states, bringing with them bedding, clothing, toiletries, plates and cutlery, and personal affects. That was all you could bring. You had to be able to carry it yourself. All other belongings you had would be stored by your government, the US government.
The story of Japanese internment during World War II is one of the saddest stories in US history. It required that these individuals, for example, be put in these temporary centers. This one was in a horse racing stables, and each stall would hold a Japanese family. And eventually, of course, they would be sent off to the internment camps across the country. And I must admit, while this is a beautiful scenery here, living in a barracks, out underneath those beautiful mountains, especially with barbed wire fences around the housing area, looks less attractive, let alone Granada, Colorado internment center. This is where Japanese and those of Japanese ancestry would spend World War II, and all of this occurred even though only 10 people were ever arrested for espionage for Japan during the war, and they were all Caucasian.
No Asians of any sort would be arrested. During World War II, though, while the US government was busy kicking Japanese out of their homes on the West Coast, Congress finally declared that Chinese would be allowed to come to the US as immigrants. This was because the Japanese were using the Chinese Exclusion Act as propaganda against the United States in China. After World War II, various countries in that Asiatic Barred Zone would be allowed, one country at a time, to have immigration quotas as well.
The first quota given to Chinese immigrants in 1933 was a quota of 105, because it was based on how many Chinese were in the country, and they had not been allowed to come to the country for 60 years. So 105 Chinese would be allowed in each year. Like the Chinese quotas, the quotas for all the other Asian countries would also be really tiny quotas. It was not until 1952 that Japanese immigrants were allowed to go through the naturalization process and become US citizens. It was not until 1965 that the US finally passed a new immigration law that changed immigration quotas to the US, and this was the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, or INAct.
This said, finally, that it's ridiculous for us to base our quotas on who's already here, and it instead took the entire world and assigned an identical quota to every country in the world, and said, OK, we'll still have quotas. You still have to apply for a visa to get in here, but we'll have the same quota for every country. Instead of nationality preferences, then, we'll have a system of preferences based on reunifying families in this country, and needed skills, so that you would go to the top of the visa list if you had family members already in the US or if you had a skill that was needed in this country.
Each country, as I said, was given the same quota, and then there was a maximum quota for the entire world. Over the next few decades, this act was going to change the face of immigration to the US. Finally, under this act, both Asians and Africans could immigrate to the United States. And while the act has been tweaked in many small ways over the intervening years, this is basically still how immigration to this country functions.
So where does all of this leave us, then? I'd like a show of hands here. How many of you are immigrants yourselves, and you came from a foreign country? OK. How many of you think of yourselves, among other things, as being the children or grandchildren of immigrants? OK. How many of you don't think of yourselves as having any relationship at all to immigration?
A brave man. OK. EL Doctorow, in Homer & Langley, and I, in today's talk, have only scratched the surface of the history of immigration to the United States. I do hope that both of us have made you think, though, why is it that this nation of immigrants has had such problems with questions about immigrants? Immigrants have come to this country since the 1600s to make homes, live, and work in this country. And then we see those immigrants, or their children, or their grandchildren turn around and worry about the newer immigrants coming in, and I'd like us to rephrase that and think about it for a minute.
We see ourselves, or our children, or our grandchildren turning around and worrying about the newer immigrants coming in. In other words, just as-- whoops. That was too bad. Just as Homer and Langley ultimately defined the world as other, saying, everyone else is different from us-- did they turn this off? Well, sorry, you have missed the last slide. It was a really great one, too. Sorry about that.
Just as Homer and Langley Collyer ultimately defined the entire world as other than themselves, we, as US residents, also continue defining ourselves as somehow other and different than the immigrants around us. And that's what we all need to think about as we think about being citizens of this country and think about how we deal with immigration policy and questions of immigration today. So thank you very much for coming.
I'm supposed to let you ask questions. If you have any questions or comments to make, I welcome any of them.
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The New Student Reading Project at Cornell University is celebrating its 11th anniversary this year with E.L. Doctorow's novel Homer and Langley.
Homer and Langley provides a fictionalized redaction of the lives of the renowned Collyer brothers, whose story became a New York urban legend. After their parents' death in the flu pandemic of 1918, within the family mansion on Fifth Avenue Homer and Langley compile a world of their own, apart from but intimately and paradoxically connected with the transformative events of twentieth-century American history.