Between the Civil War and World War I the United States underwent the most rapid economic expansion in history. At the same time, the country experienced unparalleled rates of immigration. In The Rise of Multicultural America, Susan Mizruchi examines the convergence of these two extraordinary developments. No issue was more salient in postbellum American capitalist society, she argues, than the country's bewilderingly diverse population. This era marked the emergence of Americans' self-consciousness about what we today call multiculturalism.
Mizruchi approaches this complex development from the perspective of print culture, demonstrating how both popular and elite writers played pivotal roles in articulating the stakes of this national metamorphosis. In a period of widespread literacy, writers assumed a remarkable cultural authority as best-selling works of literature and periodicals reached vast readerships and immigrants could find newspapers and magazines in their native languages. Mizruchi also looks at the work of journalists, photographers, social reformers, intellectuals, and advertisers. Identifying the years between 1865 and 1915 as the founding era of American multiculturalism, Mizruchi provides a historical context that has been overlooked in contemporary debates about race, ethnicity, immigration, and the dynamics of modern capitalist society. Her analysis recuperates a legacy with the potential to both invigorate current battle lines and highlight points of reconciliation.