Off the Shelf: “Becoming American”

Documentary Film and Discussion Series on Immigration Experience

New Ulm Public Library, in partnership with The Grand Center for Arts and Culture and Brown County Historical Society, will be hosting a six-week program series called “Becoming American: A Documentary Film and Discussion Series on Our Immigration Experience” This six-week series will feature documentary film screenings followed by discussions led by historian Daniel Hoisington, which are designed to encourage an informed discussion of immigration issues against the backdrop of our immigration history and the present discussion of immigration in the United States.

The series, which begins on Thursday, February 21 and continues for the following five consecutive Thursdays, concluding on March 28, will discuss the following topics: “The Century of Immigration: 1820-1934” (February 21) chronicles the period when 40 million immigrants entered the U.S., making immigration a major and defining aspect of American life. “Promise and Prejudice” (February 28) explores the tension – historic and current – between Americans’ acceptance of immigrants, including the celebration of their own immigrant heritage, versus the periodic backlash prompted by concern about the economic and cultural effects of newcomers. “Between Two Worlds: Identity and Acculturation” (March 7) looks at how immigrants react and adjust to living in a new country and culture, and how they bridge the divide between the traditions and values of their native countries. “Help Wanted? Immigration and Work” (March 14) looks at the economic side of immigration, chronicling the essential part immigrant labor has played in building America, as well as the conflicted relationship American workers have had with immigrants. “Family and Community” (March 21) explores how family ties and community institutions have played an essential role in successful migration and adaptation to American life. Finally, “Immigration and Popular Culture” (March 28) examines the ways the media and popular culture have historically taught newcomers how to “be American,” and how the rich contributions of different immigrant groups have transformed American culture and art.

All programs begin at 6 p.m. and are free and open to the public. Supplemental reading materials for each program are available at; choose “Program” and the topic you would like to explore. Call the library at 507-359-8331 for more information.

The Grand Center for Arts and Culture will be exhibiting the Green Card Voices Youth Exhibit, “Immigrants Telling Their Life Stories,” from February 7-27. This exhibit explores the immigration stories of young immigrants from the Twin Cities from the individuals’ perspectives. Call the Grand Center for Arts and Culture at 507-359-9222 for more information.

This program series is made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor. “Becoming American” is a project of City Lore in collaboration with the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.