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Feature

The cover of the November-December 2007 issue of Minnesota magazine

Members of the University Alumni Association receive Minnesota six times a year.

The inside story/M, winter 2008

From M, winter 2008

The November-December 2007 issue of Minnesota magazine features an interview with Donna Gabaccia, a professor of history at the University of Minnesota and director of the U's Immigration History Research Center, about immigration in the United States and around the world. Below is an excerpt from the interview:

Is it accurate to call the United States "a nation of immigrants"?

"First of all, it is not true that the United States has always called itself a nation of immigrants. The phrase was not used until the 1880s and it came into popular usage only 60 years ago, when the numbers and proportions of immigrants had reached their lowest point in U.S. history. "The problem with the phrase is that many Americans don't think of themselves as descendents of immigrants. [Many] African Americans don't because their ancestors did not choose to come here. Native Americans clearly do not think of themselves as immigrants. Many Hispanics of the Southwest don't think of themselves as immigrants, because the United States conquered that territory. They didn't cross the border; the border crossed them. Many of the Americans descended from the English who arrived in the 1600s and 1700s don't think of their forefathers as immigrants either. "So, calling the United States a nation of immigrants is a very recent development. We have to be aware of who is included and who is excluded if we use this phrase. Look at groups who don't identify with the term and you'll see that most of them are peoples of color who were excluded from the nation and from citizenship and its rights because they were slaves or conquered peoples. Whether or not the phrase "nation of immigrants" is flexible enough to accept the growing racial diversity among today's immigrants will be the question of the 21st century."

The same issue of Minnesota also contains a fascinating story on the history of smoking on campus. Here is an excerpt of that story: "Future New York Times editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Harrison Salisbury was editor of The Minnesota Daily in January 1930 when University President Lotus Coffman, responding to complaints about smoking in the University Library, issued a ruling that banned the activity. Editorial comments in the Daily suggested that Coffman had little authority to make his declaration, speculating: 'What can the University do about it?' "Salisbury, who years later would describe himself as 'a person who [tended] to be against the conventional way,' decided to challenge the administration in as direct a way as possible. Just a few days later, he lit up a cigarette in the library. Two campus employees, designated by Coffman to keep an eye out for smokers, fingered Salisbury, and a couple of days later, Harold Nicholson, the dean of students, acted. The editor of the Daily was suspended for a full school year. The dean, defending his drastic punishment, said it was due to the 'deliberateness and publicity of the defiance.' "Praise for Nicholson's actions came from alumni, editorial writers, and public officials from around the state. The Waseca Herald, the Minneapolis Journal, and the Willmar Daily Tribune all gave the dean their blessings, as did--in letters to Nicholson--a pastor from Austin, Minnesota; the St. Anthony Falls Study Club; and the Women's Christian Temperance Union, among others. The fact that the expulsion was reported in both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune suggests that the problem of insolent smokers on campus was not unique to Minnesota." To read both articles in their entirety, go the Minnesota Web site. Members of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association receive Minnesota six times a year. To receive a sample copy or to join the UMAA, call 612-624-2323 or 800-862-5867 or visit www.alumni. umn.edu