The OAH Magazine of History

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American Identity

from the editor

Debating Who “We” Are, by Kevin B. Byrne

Although the outcome of Congressional deliberations over immigration legislation is unclear at this juncture, it is evident that matters of national identity are once again playing a crucial role in our political conversation. In important respects, ever since Crèvecoeur posed his famous question in 1782–“What then is the American, this new man?”–national identity has remained a debatable issue for the people of the United States and those who would understand them. Today, the focus is on immigration, including the related matter of declaring an official national language. And the conversations are heated. Reminiscent of discussions that have recurred frequently in the twentieth century, we now hear, with particular emphasis on the Mexican border, questions such as how inclusive or restrictive should the United States be in allowing immigration? Should U.S. authorities erect a physical barrier in an effort to minimize if not eliminate illegal immigration? What is the appropriate means of handling the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country? Must all U.S. citizens acknowledge tacitly if not explicitly that there is one national language in the United States, and that it is English? Put differently, these inquiries ask, “Who can become an American, and how? And what exactly does it mean?” Read more >

foreword

Still Searching for America: Conversations on National Identity,
by Geoffrey Scheurman
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A “Canon” for American Identity,
by Geoffrey Scheurman
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articles

Freedom: America’s Evolving and Enduring Idea,
by Eric Foner
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Choosing Five Americans Who Got it Right, or History for Young Minds,
by Joy Hakim
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Who Makes History? A Response to Joy Hakim’s Heroes,
by Kurt E. Leichtle
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Cultural Pluralism and American Identity: A Response to Foner’s Freedom and Hakim’s Heroes,
by José E. Vega
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The Paradox of the Democratic Mind: Value Tensions and Argument,
by H. Michael Hartoonian and Richard Van Scotter
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teaching resources

America as Metaphor: Using Argument to Teach about American Identity,
by Geoffrey Scheurman
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Pictures that Changed Our Minds: Writing the History of the Sixties from Images,
by Mark Hamilton Lytle
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U.S. at War: Our Reasons, Our Motives, Our Mission,
by Keith Reynold
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The Russo-American Primer: Shaping Cultural Identity,
by Marion Menzin
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internet resources

U.S. History and American Identity
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teaching american history with documents from the gilder lehrman collection

“We, the People of the United States”: The Birth of an American Identity, September 1787,
by Carol Berkin
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america on the world stage

Globalizing Popular Culture in the “American Century” and Beyond,
by Penny M. Von Eschen
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