Race & America's Immigrant Press: How the Slovaks Were Taught to Think Like White People

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Race was all over the immigrant newspaper week after week. As early as the 1890s the papers of the largest Slovak fraternal societies covered lynchings in the South. While somewhat sympathetic, these articles nevertheless enabled immigrants to distance themselves from the blackness of victims, and became part of a strategy of asserting newcomers' tentative claims to whiteness. Southern and eastern European immigrants began to think of themselves as white people and assert their place in the U.S. and demand the right to be regarded as Caucasians, with all the privileges that went with this designation. Circa 1900 eastern Europeans were slightingly dismissed as Asiatic or African, but there has been insufficient attention paid to the ways immigrants themselves began the process of race tutoring through their own institutions. Immigrant newspapers offered a stunning array of lynching accounts, poems and cartoons mocking blacks, and paeans to America's imperial adventures in the Caribbean and Asia. Immigrants themselves had a far greater role to play in their own racial identity formation than has so far been acknowledged.