Melting pot revisited

The melting pot. Few concepts are more familiar than this one, at least among Americans educated in the nation’s public schools during most of the 20th century. The melting pot appeared to be the ideal metaphor for the blending of immigrant peoples and cultures into a new unity: the American people, the American culture.

Rare were those among us who learned the source of the term, namely a play called “The Melting Pot,” written by Israel Zangwill, an English Jew, who had visited New York City in 1908.  Sources note Zangwill saw the various peoples of Europe melded into a new people, leaving their old prejudices behind. [See Melting Pot]. 

The concept in its time was extraordinary influential, creating a mindset that spurred newcomers to learn English and adopt the American way of life. Many people did assimilate, especially the immigrants’ children.

In that assimilation process, however, something very important was lost. Many families focused on being Americans in the here and now, largely ignoring their ancestral histories. Broad brush strokes of origins remained, but the retelling of ancestors’ stories was seldom an important element of family life and legacy.

Alex Haley’s book and television series, Roots, the latter in 1977, helped galvanize people’s interests in their own roots, their own family stories.  Then the efforts of the Church of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, to record the marriages and families of many Americans’ ancestors made a wealth of genealogical information available.  Then the Internet put that information within reach, right at home.

 Today I am one of the many people captivated by genealogy research, discovering aspects of themselves as they learn about their ancestors and their lives.  This blog, Relative Musings, is about genealogy research and some of my own discoveries that I want to share.  This is a beginning.

Published in: on October 24, 2006 at 5:50 am  Leave a Comment  

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