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Race in the United States, 1880-1940

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, massive social, economic, and political shifts forced a radical reorientation of American identity. Mass immigration, rapid industrialization, and the rise of American imperialism occasioned new debates about the definition of American identity. In the face of an increasingly diverse citizenry, popular culture began to reflect new images of the nation, beyond the white American ideal.

Illustrating popular culture's widespread cultural influence, this exhibit brings together materials from a variety of sources, including magazine articles, sheet music lyrics and illustrations, advertising trade cards, and nickel weeklies, as well as government documents.

This digital exhibit is the result of a collaboration between the Bowling Green State University Libraries and a cohort of interdisciplinary scholars within the fields of English, Theatre, Popular Culture, German, and American Culture Studies. Our goal is to explore racial depictions in various popular cultural forms. The Library's special collections provided source material from the 1880s to the 1940s that we have curated in the following pages. After you have explored this material, we hope you will have a better understanding of historical representations of race and their implications. We encourage you to visit the suggested readings page to see other ways in which these depictions have influenced our perceptions of race today.

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