Guiding Question:

How did the North American Civic League and its response to the Immigration Restriction League create civic pride in cities like Everett, MA?


Everett Square


At the turn of the century from 19th to 20th, forces were at work in Boston that would define the future of immigration in America. The descendants of Revolution and the wealthy merchant class, such as Henry Cabot Lodge, Charles Warren and Prescott Farnsworth Hall, noticed a change in the power politics of Boston. The decline of power of this wealthy class was the result of several factors, but the source of the blame was rested on the shoulders of the new immigrants by Lodge and Hall.

Hall formed a group, the Immigration Restriction League ("IRL"), to do just that: restrict immigration. Henry Cabot Lodge championed the cause in Congress and in speeches to the public. The need for restriction was based on the idea that the new immigrants were coming from countries in Europe and Asia which, because the politics, religion or just genetics of these countries, made the immigrants ill-prepared or incapable of democracy.

Groups arose throughout the Boston area in support and opposition of immigration. The groups opposing the IRL, such as the North American Civic League for Immigrants ("NACLI"), focused on teaching new immigrants the fundamentals of life in America: learning English, American culture, and learning the basics of democratic government. Both those in favor of restriction and those opposing restriction used a basic part of democracy -- public campaigns -- to gather support for their viewpoints.

In the present, the country is still debating immigration policies. As you watch television, you are being asked to support or oppose many political ideas, not just on immigration, through Public Service Announcements or "PSA". PSAs are a type of advertising. A group, organization or political party is campaigning in some way for your support of their position. The PSA is typically brief, and provides facts, statistics and images to convince the viewer of the importance of the issue, and the need to support the group or organization's viewpoint.

We have seen a few PSA's at Everett High School for campaigns against bullying, drunk driving and drugs. Can you imagine what the IRL and the NACLI could have accomplished with PSA's? Together with your assigned group, you will explore modern immigration issues through the lens of 1910, and prepare a PSA to convince the American Public of the importance of your issue, and how the public can respond.



Image Credit: Everett Square c. 1905, Reproduced from an original postcard by an unknown publisher, from Wikimedia Commons