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Historical Insights The Americanization Movement

In 1918, more than 75,000 immigrants marched in Cleveland, Ohio's Americanization parade and celebrated being part of their newly adopted country. 1918, USA. Credit: FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The Americanization Movement

The United States dealt with a flood of immigrants during the early 20th century through the Americanization Movement—a variety of programs and campaigns aimed at turning foreigners into Americans.

At the turn of the 20th century, millions of immigrants poured into the United States. Faced with the challenge of integrating the newcomers into the national fabric, the Americanization Movement sought “to change the unskilled inefficient immigrant into the skilled worker and efficient citizen” and to show them “the spirit of America, the knowledge of America, and the love of America.” Many government leaders felt that the best way to turn immigrants into Americans was through education. In response, local community centers and organizations like the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) offered free classes on everything from citizenship requirements and American history to sewing and hygiene. Many immigrants couldn’t speak English, which left them ill equipped for available jobs, so some businesses even taught their own language classes when the workday was over. In addition to education, the movement wanted to celebrate the American way of life. Americanization Days were used to promote patriotism in new immigrants, and parades were held to honor those who became citizens.