HS – Beware Thy Neighbor? German Americans in Connecticut during WWI

Detail of the pamphlet American Ideals

TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
World War I
Theme
Cultural Diversity and an American National Identity
Town
Middletown, Statewide
Related Search Terms
World War One, WWI, Great War, First World War, Flag, How Lives Changed, Immigrants, Enemy Aliens, Home Front, German Americans, Foreigners, Internment
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – United States History

Historical Background
In his April 6, 1917, proclamation declaring war on Germany, President Woodrow Wilson laid out regulations pertaining to non-naturalized men (over age 14) of German origin in the United States. These regulations were later expanded to include Austro-Hungarians and women. They were summarized in publications such as the one from the Connecticut State Council of Defense included in this activity. German citizens living in the United States were required to register at their local post office, carry registration cards, and inform authorities if they intended to change residences or employers. During the course of the war, around 2,300 German-born civilians were interned as “dangerous enemy aliens” at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and Fort Douglas, Utah. It was not only non-naturalized Germans who faced suspicion and mistreatment, however, as evidenced by the case of Carl Herrmann and the anti-German riot in Middletown, Connecticut, in the summer of 1918.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

Has America always been a “Land of Opportunity” for immigrants?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What makes someplace a “Land of Opportunity”?
  • In what ways did World War I affect attitudes towards foreign-born immigrants in Connecticut?
  • To what extent were the public messages about treatment of immigrants—both “official” and unofficial—consistent?
  • In what ways were the rights of Connecticut residents restricted during World War I?
  • Why has immigration been such a controversial issue throughout American history?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Part 1

Detail of the pamphlet American Ideals
Detail of the pamphlet American Ideals, “For Native-born American Women: What you can do for Americanism, ” produced by the Connecticut State Council of Defense, ca. 1917-18. Click on the image above or HERE to download the entire PDF – Connecticut State Library Digital Collections

 

Detail of the bulletin Suggestions and Requirements for Enemy Aliens Contained in the President's Proclamation of War, April, 1917
Detail of the bulletin “Suggestions and Requirements for Enemy Aliens Contained in the President’s Proclamation of War, April, 1917,” produced by the Connecticut State Council of Defense, ca. 1918. Click on the image above or HERE to download the entire PDF – Connecticut State Library Digital Collections

Part 2

page Germans Forced to Kiss Flag by Mob.Middletown Evening Press. August 3, 1918. 8:1-2.
page  “Millane is Freed; Three Others Held.”  Middletown Evening Press. August 5, 1918. 8:1-2.
page  “Local Rioters are Scored by Court.”  Middletown Evening Press. August 6, 1918. 8:2
page  “Public to Pay Rioters’ Fines.”  Middletown Evening Press. August 7, 1918. 8:1
page  “Law or Mob Law?”  Middletown Evening Press. August 8, 1918. 8:2
page Casper Schmidt is Loyal to America.”  Middletown Evening Press. August 7, 1918. 8:2
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY
  1. As a class, discuss the compelling and supporting questions that will guide the inquiry.
  2. In group discussion or individually, have students examine the two sources in Part 1 of the activity toolkit:
    • “For Native-born American Women: What you can do for Americanism.” Connecticut State Council of Defense. 1917-18.
    • “Suggestions and Requirements for Enemy Aliens Contained in the President’s Proclamation of War, April, 1917.” Connecticut State Council of Defense.
  3. For each of the two sources, ask students to apply the SOAPStone analysis technique, being sure to identify the author/issuing body; intended audience; occasion/reason for the document; and main points being communicated. What does each document say explicitly OR imply about the “official” position towards immigrants at the time? Revisit the supporting questions and add new student-generated questions that arise from the examination to the list.
  4. For Part 2 of the inquiry, students will examine (individually or in small groups) a series of articles published in the Middletown Evening Press about an incident that occurred in August 1918. Keeping the supporting questions in mind, students should make notes about the facts recorded in the newspaper, opinions/attitudes (stated or implied), and questions that they have about—or inspired by—what they have read.
  5. Students will share what they found most interesting about the incident and the newspaper coverage, as well as their new questions.
  6. As a class, revisit the supporting and compelling questions and discuss additional avenues for inquiry, if students wish to learn more.
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  • Imagining themselves as Middletown residents in the summer of 1918, students will write two letters to the editor of the Middletown Evening Press. The first will explain why she or he intends to contribute to the public collection taken up to pay the rioters’ fines. The second will explain why she or he intends not to contribute.
  • Students will use contemporary newspapers and additional sources to investigate immigration issues today and will create a graphic organizer illustrating similarities and differences between issues today and those during WWI. These may include the cultural/racial/religious background of the immigrants in question, the language/words used in the public discourse, proposed actions or “solutions,” etc.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Articles & Books to READ

This TeachITCT.org activity is sponsored in part by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Program, coordinated by Waynesburg University.

HS – African Americans in Progressive-Era CT: The Battle over the Jack Johnson Fight Film

Frank Jonientz, Library Technical Assistant, Connecticut Digital Newspaper Project
Connecticut State Library


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Popular Culture, Social Movements, Sports & Recreation
Theme
Cultural Diversity and an American National Identity
Town
Bridgeport, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Censorship, Racism, Morality, African American, Sports, Civil Rights, Progressive Era
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What does the battle over the Johnson-Jeffries fight film tell us about the social position of African Americans in Progressive-Era Connecticut?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • Why was the film censored?
  • Who was pushing for censorship?
  • What were some of the responses by government officials to the controversy?
  • How did the companies that controlled the film respond to the banning of the film?
  • How did the African American community respond to the censorship of the film?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

"Portion of the Crowd Listening to The Bulletin's Fight Returns". Norwich Bulletin, July 6, 1910
“Portion of the Crowd Listening to The Bulletin’s Fight Returns,” Norwich Bulletin, July 6, 1910 – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download the image “Portion of the Crowd Listening to The Bulletin’s Fight Returns,” Norwich Bulletin, July 6, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the newspaper.
Detail of the article "Buckingham's Attitude On Fight Pictures," Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 6, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article. - Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail of the article “Buckingham’s Attitude On Fight Pictures,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 6, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “Buckingham’s Attitude On Fight Pictures,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 6, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “Buckingham’s Attitude On Fight Pictures,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 6, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail of the article "Jeffries-Johnson Fight Pictures," Norwich Bulletin, July 8, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article. - Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail of the article “Jeffries-Johnson Fight Pictures,” Norwich Bulletin, July 8, 1910 . Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Download an image of the article “Jeffries-Johnson Fight Pictures,” Norwich Bulletin, July 8, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “Jeffries-Johnson Fight Pictures,” Norwich Bulletin, July 8, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
"Negro Parson Wants Fight Pictures Shown," Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910. - Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
“Negro Parson Wants Fight Pictures Shown,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download the image of the article “Negro Parson Wants Fight Pictures Shown,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail from the article "War Against Pictures Leads To Prohibition Before 25,000,000, People ," Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail from the article “War Against Pictures Leads To Prohibition Before 25,000,000, People,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “War Against Pictures Leads To Prohibition Before 25,000,000, People,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910 , or click on the image above to link to the article.
Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “War Against Pictures Leads To Prohibition Before 25,000,000, People,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910 , or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail of the article "The Aftermath of the Great Johnson and Jeffries Fight at Reno, Nevada". Broadax (Salt Lake City UT), July 16, 1910 - Click on the image to read the entire article. - Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail of the article “The Aftermath of the Great Johnson and Jeffries Fight at Reno, Nevada,” Broadax (Salt Lake City UT), July 16, 1910 – Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “The Aftermath of the Great Johnson and Jeffries Fight at Reno, Nevada,” Broadax (Salt Lake City UT), July 16, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “The Aftermath of the Great Johnson and Jeffries Fight at Reno, Nevada,” Broadax (Salt Lake City UT), July 16, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson, Bain News Service, ca. 1910-1915 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

In July 1910, Jack Johnson, an African American prizefighter, beat Jim Jeffries, a white prizefighter, for the World Heavyweight Championship. A commercial film of the bout was made and distributed. Before the film could be widely shown, state and local governments passed laws banning it.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

If you choose, start by showing the 3:37 clip of the Johnson-Jeffries fight from 1910.

You may choose to use the full set of resources provided or focus on two or three articles. There is also a photograph of Jack Johnson available to share with the class.

Break the students into groups and have each group work with one or even a set of resources. Have students gather evidence and inferences about the controversy over the Johnson-Jeffries fight film. You may wish to use some of the supporting questions to guide the inquiry:

  • Why was the film censored?
  • Who was pushing for censorship?
  • What were some of the responses by government officials to the controversy?
  • How did the companies that controlled the film respond to the banning of the film?
  • How did the African American community respond to the censorship of the film?

Bring the class together to share their findings and remaining questions. Discuss how or where students could find answers or learn more.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Students, acting as if they were living in Connecticut in 1910, will write a letter to the editor of the Bridgeport Evening Farmer or the Norwich Bulletin in response to any of the articles provided, arguing for or against the showing of the film in their town or in the state.

Students will compare the Johnson fight film controversy to a contemporary controversy over popular culture or censorship and prepare a short oral or written presentation on the comparison.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ