We have grown so accustomed to thinking of New York as a multicultural mecca, it seems inconceivable that for a century, the city was home to — and often the spawning grounds for — a vibrant, and often vicious, nativist tradition.
The horrors of Nazi crimes committed in the name of racial purity, coupled with lower rates of immigration and postwar prosperity, led Americans to look more kindly on the nation's multicultural heritage. Nowhere was this shift more apparent than in New York, where the nativist tradition was replaced with a widely shared commitment to tolerance and diversity.
The Statue of Liberty was transformed from a symbol of republican values into one proclaiming immigration as a quest for freedom. Ellis Island was recreated as a museum to celebrate immigration. The iconic immigrant neighborhood, the Lower East Side, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Now, there are two possibilities here. On the one hand, American historian Edward T. O'Donnell could really be so dumb as to think the Statue of Liberty was transformed into a symbol of immigation only after World War II. On the other, he could be a damn sloppy writer, and his editors at the Times some damn poor readers. Which do you think is more likely? ("The New Colossus" has been on the Statue of Liberty since 1903, in case you were wondering.)
Based on years of reading the Times, I'm going with B).
Tags: immigration, New York Times