Melting Pots, Mosaics and Walls: Immigration and Diversity in American History

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Course Number: 
HIST 455 941
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Course Description: 

In his classic The Uprooted, historian Oscar Handlin said:  “Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history.” Among all the concerns of every new immigrant group, establishing a place of worship is often of primary importance so that it may sustain and nurture the transplanted community. As successive waves of different immigrant groups brought different traditions to America, the increasing diversity would have certain consequences and directly affect ethnic relations around the country. As obvious as these three points may seem, however, they are rarely treated effectively in connection with one another — a fact that has distorted perception of the past and present. Recent hysteria over illegal immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment is nothing new: reexamining different periods of immigration, we may discern certain patterns of nativism in American history. Intended as an introduction to American immigration history and American religious history, this interdisciplinary course aims to clarify and stress the linkage of these themes and, further, to address the factors and issues involved with living in a pluralist society that, to some extent, has been defined literally by immigration and religious freedom. We will focus on the history of immigration and religion in America from the pre-Colonial era to the present and explore the history of Native American religious traditions, the Spanish and French Catholic missions, the rise of Protestantism, Judaism, and African American religious experience in the colonies and subsequent change over the centuries, as well as new religious movements and the more recent arrival of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam in the U.S. We will also explore various themes and topics in American religious history including religion and politics, religion and science, and religious pluralism. This course fulfills the following History major and minor requirements: U.S. geographic and concentration; seminar. 

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