University of Minnesota

Civic Engagement and Americanization

New immigrants arriving to the United States participate in society in various ways. Many obstacles to full participation exist, however. In order to negotiate these hurdles of assimilation, many immigrants enroll in classes to help them study the English language and learn about the culture, expectations, and routine aspects of daily life in the United States. Education, for many newcomers, becomes a crucial component of Americanization: the cultural, social, and political process through which immigrants and refugees are incorporated into life as American citizens. 

English Language Class
Citizenship Class
Adult Immigrant Women Students
Franklin School
English Language Class
Citizenship Class
Adult Immigrant Women Students
Franklin School

 

The two images below depicting recently arrived refugees celebrating American Thanksgiving highlight how quickly recent arrivals may be thrust into American traditions. While the modern sentiments associated with Thanksgiving could be widely appreciated, it is worth considering why individuals so recently made “American” would celebrate a holiday with such specific historical roots.

Thanksgiving dinner for a "Displaced Persons" Family
Thanksgiving for New Immigrant Families
Thanksgiving dinner for a "Displaced Persons" Family
Thanksgiving for New Immigrant Families

 

Many women were actively involved in civic groups, or organizations that provided opportunities for individuals to work with one another to address the concerns of their communities. Some organizations also existed specifically to work with refugees and immigrants to the United States. The International Institute’s various chapters across the country have—and continue to—offer many services to  newcomers including citizenship classes, English language classes, and job placement programs.

Young Women’s Group
Indochinese Resettlement Program
New Patio at the International Institute
Young Women’s Group
Indochinese Resettlement Program
New Patio at the International Institute

 

Alice Sickels, director of the International Institute from 1931 to 1944 and organizer of the very first Festival of Nations celebration, once commented that Americanization is a two-way process. While immigrants adapt to ways of life in the United States, Americans born in the U.S. must also recognize that their communities are constantly evolving and that to be an American citizen could mean different things to different people. The photo below, depicting a diverse group of individuals sitting before a backdrop of flags from around the world, exemplifies this spirit of an international American citizenship.

Flag Room at the International Institute
Flag Room at the International Institute

 

Back to index


Back to all finding aids in IHRC VITRAGE.