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The Autobiography of Citizenship

The Autobiography of Citizenship: Assimilation and Resistance in U.S. Education

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Autobiography of Citizenship
    Book Description:

    At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States was faced with a new and radically mixed population, one that included freed African Americans, former reservation Indians, and a burgeoning immigrant population. InThe Autobiography of Citizenship, Tova Cooper looks at how educators tried to impose unity on this divergent population, and how the new citizens in turn often resisted these efforts, reshaping mainstream U.S. culture and embracing their own view of what it means to be an American.

    The Autobiography of Citizenshiptraces how citizenship education programs began popping up all over the country, influenced by the progressive approach to hands-on learning popularized by John Dewey and his followers. Cooper offers an insightful account of these programs, enlivened with compelling readings of archival materials such as photos of students in the process of learning; autobiographical writing by both teachers and new citizens; and memoirs, photos, poems, and novels by authors such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Jane Addams, Charles Reznikoff, and Emma Goldman. Indeed, Cooper provides the first comparative, inside look at these citizenship programs, revealing that they varied wildly: at one end, assimilationist boarding schools required American Indian children to transform their dress, language, and beliefs, while at the other end the libertarian Modern School encouraged immigrant children to frolic naked in the countryside and learn about the world by walking, hiking, and following their whims.

    Here then is an engaging portrait of what it was like to be, and become, a U.S. citizen one hundred years ago, showing that what it means to be "American" is never static.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-7016-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    In his 1867 poem “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” Walt Whitman rejects the academic structure of American education, which was undergoing a sea change in the period following the Civil War. The poem’s speaker becomes “tired and sick” after hearing a popular lecture on astronomy and leaves the lecture hall for the great outdoors, where he can learn by gazing “in perfect silence at the stars.”¹ Emily Dickinson similarly rejects a hierarchical educational model in “If the foolish call them ‘flowers,’” a poem whose speaker suggests that educated people—mere “Stars, amid profound Galaxies”—should not assume that their...

  6. 1 On Autobiography, Boy Scouts, and Citizenship: Revisiting Charles Eastman’s Deep Woods
    (pp. 31-66)

    Educational efforts to assimilate American Indians took place roughly between 1879–-when Captain Richard Henry Pratt opened the Carlisle Indian Industrial School—and 1924, when the US government finally granted them citizenship rights. Carlisle was the first of many boarding schools that operated as total institutions, regulating and transforming the bodies and identities of native students.¹ These Americanization efforts were relatively successful as a result of a multipronged approach that included the replacement of tribal dress with American dress, the prohibition of native languages, the subjection of students to a culture of surveillance, and the institution of a curriculum that...

  7. 2 The Scenes of Seeing: Frances Benjamin Johnston and Visualizations of the “Indian” in Black, White, and Native Educational Contexts
    (pp. 67-98)

    Chapter 1 argues that Charles Eastman’s educational autobiography,From the Deep Woods to Civilization, reveals his ambivalent embrace of the civic republican ideology he internalized at assimilationist boarding schools. It also demonstrates how in his procitizenship essays and curricular writing Eastman overcomes his ambivalence and attempts to infuse mainstream US culture with Sioux values. Eastman’s formal choices reflect both his overdetermined identity and his awareness of the demands of genre and audience. Like Eastman’s writing, Frances Benjamin Johnston’s educational photographs—the subject of this chapter—reveal her multiple loyalties, as well as her awareness that framing and audience are central...

  8. 3 Curricular Cosmopolitans: W. E. B. Du Bois and Jane Addams
    (pp. 99-132)

    As chapter 2 demonstrates, Frances Benjamin Johnston’s symbolization of the “Indian” at Hampton—as well as at other institutions—evokes the teleological structure of social Darwinist ideology. Hampton is also famous for being the school that Booker T. Washington attended and used as a model for Tuskegee, the Normal Institute he opened in 1881. Like Johnston, Washington portrays citizenship education with temporal metaphors that reveal the influence of evolutionary theory on his pedagogy. InUp from Slavery(1901) andWorking with the Hands(1904), Washington reveals his commitment to embodied education for African Americans, with the goal of improving the...

  9. 4 Educating the Ostjuden: Abraham Cahan and Gestures of Resistance
    (pp. 133-166)

    As chapter 3 demonstrates, Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois defined success differently: Washington viewed it as freedom from material cares, whereas Du Bois envisioned it in terms of intellectual freedom. While both educators projected these ideas of success onto their students, their pedagogies also reveal traces of elitism—of wealth in Washington’s case, and of talent in Du Bois’s. At the same time that Washington was promoting manual labor at Tuskegee, in the service of cultivating a working-class ideal of capitalist success, German Jewish educators were pursuing a similar agenda for their eastern European coreligionists in...

  10. 5 Emma Goldman, the Modern School, and the Politics of Reproduction
    (pp. 167-192)

    Emma Goldman begins her autobiography,Living My Life(1931), not with the story of her childhood in Russia or her immigration to the United States but rather with the tale of her dramatic exodus from a traditional Jewish marriage at the age of twenty. Announcing that her “entire possessions consisted of five dollars and a small hand-bag,” Goldman calls attention to the economic instability that results from leaving her husband.¹ Yet she also suggests that her life need not climax or dead-end in marriage. In fact, her life only really begins once she is able to leave the marriage. Not...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 193-206)

    This book has examined the role that progressive educational practices played in cultivating US citizenship between 1880 and 1920. Focusing on both educational archives and autobiographical accounts of citizenship education, the book illustrates how the practices of citizenship education did not always reflect the theories articulated by citizenship educators. The book also identifies commonalities and differences within the progressive approach to citizenship education. Though citizenship educators across the political spectrum adopted hands-on education in place of an outdated method of rote learning, they invariably yoked these methods to different ideas about success and citizenship.

    As the dominant citizenship ideology during...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 207-256)
  13. Index
    (pp. 257-264)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-265)