What is an American?

Who gets to say what an American is?

What is un-American?

When did Americans become Americans?

Where is the center of American identity?

At the start of the twentieth century, questions about the nature of American identity haunted the people of the United States. Suddenly an imperial power, overwhelmed by waves of immigrants across the Atlantic and the Pacific, stunned by the effects of urbanization and industrialization, the nation needed an identity. It is this crisis of the soul which Pluralism and Unity explores.

For some, the complexity of the society, its multiple layers, its many parts, made the nationís character. The United States is plural, and pluralism is the American identity. Others insisted upon a unitary, singular view, a way to sort out who belongs and who does not. The struggle between these two visions, one of pluralism, one of unity, is the tale told by the images, the sounds and the words throughout this site.

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© David Bailey, David Halsted and Michigan State University. May be reproduced for non-profit or educational purposes (though we'd like to know about it); all other uses require permission of the authors.