Becoming American Series

Becoming American: A Documentary Film and Discussion Series on Our Immigration Experience is designed to engage and enlighten audiences by screening documentary films that represent a selection of diverse immigration experiences drawn from both the past and the present. This series is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Miriam Cohen will be our moderator and discussion leader. Dr. Cohen is the Evalyn Clark Professor of History at Vassar College where she teaches American history, including immigration and industrialization.

Select Wednesdays, 6:30 pm, Adriance Memorial Library

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October 24: The Century of Immigration: 1820-1934

Examining the period when 40 million immigrants entered the U.S., making immigration a major and defining aspect of American life. [Films: New York: A Documentary Film, Episode 4, The Power and the People; and The Jewish Americans, Episode 2, A World of Their Own.]

October 31: Promise and Prejudice

Exploring the tension – historic and current – between Americans’ acceptance of immigrants, including the celebration of their own immigrant heritage, versus the periodic backlash prompted by concern about the economic and cultural effects of newcomers. [Film: Welcome to Shelbyville]

November 7: Between Two Worlds: Identity and Acculturation

Looking at how immigrants react and adjust to living in a new country and culture, and how they bridge the divide between their adoptive and their native countries. [Film: The New Americans, Episode 1, The Nigerians.]

November 14: Help Wanted? Immigration and Work

Examining the economic side of immigration, chronicling the essential part immigrant labor has played in building America, as well as the conflicted relationship American workers have had with immigrants. [Film: Destination America, Episode 1, The Golden Door.]

November 28: Family and Community

Exploring how family ties and community institutions have played an essential role in successful migration and adaptation to American life. [Film: My American Girls.]

December 5: Immigration and Popular Culture

Considering the ways the media and popular culture have historically taught newcomers how to “be American,” and how the rich contributions of different immigrant groups have transformed American culture
and art. [Film: The Search for General Tso.]