1940 Map Depicts America as a Nation of Immigrants
This 1940 map depicts America as a nation of immigrants and the idea behind it is to prove that all US residents have a unique heritage that should be accepted and respected by everyone else. The map was created by the Council Against Intolerance before the US joined World War II to fight with the Allies.
Titled “America-A Nation of One People From Many Countries”, the map shows the diversity of ethnic and national groups all across the country, in a very ornate way, making it easier for everybody to understand how diverse the country actually is.
“With the exception of the Indian, all Americans or their forefathers came here from other countries,” the illustrator Emma Bourne inscribed on the map.
Emma Bourne erased all the state borders and opted to design the map strictly by ethnic and religious groups. Her visual attempt to show that America is one country formed out of a large variety of different populations made waves back then and it is certainly useful to look at it now, especially if we take in consideration the current US immigration policy.
To show how much diversity has influenced America for the good, the map lists American personalities and their ethnic background, including George Gershwin and Albert Einstein, who both became US citizens the year the map was published.
The map portraying America as a ‘Nation of Immigrants’ is “a relatively early example of an idea that’s become popular in recent decades,” writes Dara Lind for Vox. “That diversity itself is what makes America strong, and that difference is something to be celebrated rather than eliminated.”
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“Maps of this kind were not particularly common and especially not at this scale,” says Ian Fowler, Director of Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine. He added that the physical map is actually quite big. “While this map does borrow stylistic elements from pictorial maps produced during the 1920s and ‘30s, it is very unique in its emphasis and display of information.”
“The map accomplishes these objectives by showing a United States without state boundaries,” says Ian Fowler. “It uses the history of immigrants to heighten awareness of the strengths of cultural diversity and to show visually the diversity present in the country.”
“It’s important to note that everyone on the map is engaged in industry or labor, which I conjecture is on purpose to show that immigrants are not ‘lazy,’ which was (and unfortunately still is) a damaging stereotype used by nativists and isolationists,” Ian Fowler added.
While the map was, without a doubt, a big step in fighting intolerance in America during the 1940’s, at the same time, African American populations are poorly represented and Native Americans are completely missing from the illustrations.
“Unfortunately, the depiction of the immigrant as evil and as a scapegoat for the problems facing the United States is something that has persisted throughout our history and still pollutes our social and political discourse,” concluded Ian Fowler.