Betti VanEpps-Taylor

Fenced in or Fenced Out? American Diversity in a Racist Century

This presentation examines the worldwide influences of the early 20th century that created the illusion of a melting pot while encouraging us to build fences to protect us from diversity. The widespread myth of a melting pot society was not as strong as the need to retain group identity through de facto and de jure customs of segregation, especially when newcomers were perceived as just “too different”. Tracing the confluence of the post-Civil War “reunion” efforts with the tide of immigrants and freed slaves, the emergence of Jim Crow customs, the effects of pseudo-science, the worldwide struggles of nation building, and the way history was taught, VanEpps-Taylor examines the forces that made reconciliation so difficult during the first half of the century. She then explores the changes that came with World War II through mass education, the civil rights struggle, foreign and domestic policy decisions, television and the media – and suggests some ways of coming to terms with an America that is becoming increasingly diverse, legally and illegally.