Digital History>Topics>Immigration & Ethnicity
Overview of Doing History Through Immigration
History TOPIC ID 60
America's cultural identity embraces people of diverse backgrounds: African, Asian, European, and indigenous American. Our culture has been shaped by the interaction of many different cultural and religious groups. Our art, clothing, holidays, language, literature, music, and sports reflect the commingling of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural groups within one nation.
From earliest settlement, ethnic diversity has been one of America's defining characteristics. No other part of the world has even begun to attract as many immigrants and refugees. The study of our country's diversity can correct many historical myths and misconceptions and help combat bigotry and ethnocentrism. Above all, it can help us understand how contemporary American culture emerged out of a complex process of interaction, blending, and adaptation among communities with diverse cultural heritages.
The question of how diverse people can live tolerantly and cooperatively with each other in multicultural societies is one of the most pressing issues in the world today. In societies as different as Canada, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia, ethnic antagonisms deeply divide nations. In a world in which mass migration is rapidly increasing ethnic diversity, American history can serve as a laboratory for exploring the problems of how people of differing racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds can interact in a single nation.