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TitleThe Columbia Documentary History of Race and Ethnicity in America
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Page 2

 

 

   

 

Page 511

[484] the crit ical period, 1901–1929

which would invite war and by keeping
our Navy so strong that war may not
come or that we may be successful if it
does come.

Sincerely yours,
Theodore Roosevelt

[Handwritten] P.S. I enclose a copy of my
telegram to the speaker of the California
Lower House; this was really meant al-
most as much for Japan as for California,
and sets forth, seemingly as incidental,
what our future policy must be.

[Handwritten] If possible, the Japanese
should be shown, what is the truth, that
our keeping them out means not that
they are inferior to us—in some ways
they are superior—but that they are dif-
ferent; so different that, whatever the fu-
ture may hold, at present the two races
ought not to come together in masses.

Letters to Forverts (Jewish Daily-
Forward), 1909

The Yiddish newspaper Forverts, known in
English as the Jewish Daily Forward, was
founded in New York City in 1897. Under
the editorship of Abraham Cahan, one of the
premier immigrant writers in the U.S., the
Forward became America’s most popular
foreign-language newspaper. By the 1920s it
had more than a quarter of a million readers.
Both in his fictional works and in his han-
dling of the Forward, Cahan showed a great
sensitivity to the details of Jewish immigrant
life in New York City. In order to allow the
masses of Yiddish readers to express themselves
through the press, Cahan created the “Bintel
Brief” (“bundle of letters”) in 1906. In this
popular daily column, immigrants asked for

advice about a great variety of personal prob-
lems. Their letters, and the Forward’s re-
plies, provide a unique view into the struggles
and hopes of Eastern European Jews, one of
the largest groups of immigrants to America
in the early twentieth century. The letters that
follow were written to the Forward in 1909.

Source: Forverts (Jewish Daily Forward), ex-
cerpted from Isaac Metzker, ed., A Bintel Brief:
Sixty Years of Letters from the Lower East Side to

the Jewish Daily Forward (Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday, 1971), pp. 86–101.


Dear Editor,
Please print my letter and give me an
answer. You might possibly save my life
with it. I have no peace, neither day nor
night, and I am afraid I will go mad be-
cause of my dreams.

I came to America three years ago
from a small town in Lithuania, and I was
twenty years old at that time. Besides me,
my parents had five more unmarried
daughters. My father was a Hebrew
teacher. We used to help out by plucking
chickens, making cigarettes, washing
clothes for people, and we lived in pov-
erty. The house was like a Gehenna.
There was always yelling, cursing, and
even beating of each other. It was bitter
for me till a cousin of mine took pity on
me. He sent a steamship ticket and
money. He wrote that I should come to
America and he would marry me.

I didn’t know him, because he was a
little boy when he left our town, but my
delight knew no bounds. When I came
to him, I found he was a sick man, and
a few weeks later he died.

Page 512

   , – [485]

Then I began to work on ladies’
waists. The “pleasant” life of a girl in the
dreary shop must certainly be familiar to
you. I toiled, and like all shopgirls, I
hoped and waited for deliverance
through a good match.

Landsleit and matchmakers were busy.
I met plenty of prospective bride-
grooms, but though I was attractive and
well built, no one grabbed me. Thus a
year passed. Then I met a woman who
told me she was a match-maker and had
many suitors “in stock.” I spilled out all
my heartaches to her. First she talked me
out of marrying a work-worn operator
with whom I would have to live in pov-
erty, then she told me that pretty girls
could wallow in pleasure if they made
the right friends. She made such a con-
nection for me. But I had not imagined
what that meant.

What I lived through afterwards is
impossible for me to describe. The
woman handed me over to bandits, and
when I wanted to run away from them
they locked me in a room without win-
dows and beat me savagely.

Time passed and I got used to the hor-
rible life. Later I even had an opportu-
nity to escape, because they used to send
me out on the streets, but life had be-
come meaningless for me anyway, and
nothing mattered any more. I lived this
way for six months, degraded and de-
jected, until I got sick and they drove
me out of that house.

I appealed for admission into several
hospitals, but they didn’t want to take
me in. I had no money, because the
rogues had taken everything from me. I
tried to appeal to landsleit for help, but
since they already knew all about me,

they chased me away. I had decided to
throw myself into the river, but wan-
dering around on the streets, I met a
richly dressed man who was quite
drunk. I took over six hundred dollars
from him and spent the money on doc-
tors, who cured me.

Then I got a job as a maid for fine
people who knew nothing about my
past, and I have been working for them
for quite a while. I am devoted and dil-
igent, they like me, and everything is

A short time ago the woman of the
house died, but I continued to work
there. In time, her husband proposed
that I marry him. The children, who are
not yet grown up, also want me to be
their “mother.” I know it would be good
for them and for me to remain there.
The man is honest and good; but my
heart won’t allow me to deceive him and
conceal my past. What shall I do now?



Such letters from victims of “white slav-
ery” come to our attention quite often,
but we do not publish them. We are dis-
gusted by this plague on society, and dis-
like bringing it to the attention of our
readers. But as we read this letter we
felt we dare not discard it, because it can
serve as a warning for other girls. They
must, in their dreary lives, attempt to
withstand these temptations and guard
themselves from going astray.

This letter writer, who comes to us
with her bitter and earnest tears, asking
advice, has sufficient reason to fear that

Page 1022

Antonio Marı́a Osio, excerpt from The History of

Alta California: A Memoir of Mexican California.

Copyright � 1996. Reprinted with the permis-

sion of The University of Wisconsin Press.

Timothy Pickering, letter to Anthony Wayne (8

April 1795) from Anthony Wayne, A Name in

Arms: The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Corre-

spondence. Copyright � 1959 by the University

of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with the permis-

sion of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Harry Ploski and James Williams, eds. Discussion

of Plessy v. Ferguson. Reference Library of Black

Americans, vol. 1. New York: Afro-American

Press, 1990, pp. 1506–1529. Reprinted by

permission of the publisher.

Excerpts from Detailed Reports on the Salzburger Em-

igrants Who Settled in America. Edited by Samuel

Urlsperger, Volume XIII, 1749, translated by Da-

vid Roth and George Fenwick Jones, edited by

George Fenwick Jones. Reprinted with the per-

mission of Picton Press, Rockport, ME.

Robert Scheer, “Cecil Murray; A Voice of Reason

in a Time of Troubles” from Los Angeles Times

(May 3, 1992) and “Jesse Jackson; A Commu-

nity Leader Speaking for Those Who Have No

Voice” from Los Angeles Times (May 15, 1992).

Copyright � 1992. Both reprinted with the

permission of Creators Syndicate.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., “A Dissenting Opin-

ion.” Reprinted with the permission of the au-

thor. “The Decomposition of America” from

The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multi-

cultural Society. Copyright � 1991, 1992 by

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Reprinted with the

permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Juan Seguin, excerpt from “Personal Memoirs”

(1858) from Seguin Family Historical Society

web site

html_personal. Copyright � 1995 by the Se-

guin Family Historical Society (Albert Seguin

Gonzales, Founder). Used by permission.

Rev. Alexander Stewart, letter to Rev. John War-

ing (May the 1st 1764), and Rev. Samuel

Auchmuty, excerpt from letter to Rev. John

Waring (October the 7th 1761), all from Reli-

gious Philanthropy and Colonial Slavery: The Ameri-

can Correspondence of the Associates of Dr. Bray,

1717–1777, edited by John C. Van Horne (Ur-

bana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press,

1985). Reprinted with the permission of the

American Papers of the Associates of the Late

Dr. Bray, United Society for the Propagation of

the Gospel.

George Templeton Strong, “Mass at St. Patrick’s,

1836” from The Diary of George Templeton Strong,

Volume I, Young Man in New York, 1835–1849.

Copyright 1952 by Macmillan Publishing Com-

pany, renewed � 1980 by Milton Halsey

Thomas. Reprinted with the permission of

Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster Adult

Publishing Group.

Amy Uyematsu, excerpt from “The Emergence of

Yellow Power in America” from Gidra (Octo-

ber 1969). Also appeared in Roots: An Asian

American Reader (University of California at Los

Angeles, 1971). Copyright � 1969 by Amy

Uyematsu. Reprinted with the permission of

the author.

“(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue?”

(music by Thomas “Fats” Waller and Harry

Brooks—words by Andy Razaf). Copyright

1929 EMI Mills Music, Inc., renewed and as-

signed to Razaf Music Co., c/o Songwriters

Guild of America, EMI Mills Music, Inc. and

Chappell & Co., Inc. All rights reserved. Used

by permission of Warner Bros. Publications

U.S. Inc., Miami, FL 33014.

Martin Weitz, letter to relatives in Schotten, Vo-

gelsberg, Germany (July 29, 1855) and Angela

Heck, letter to her relatives in Irrel, Trier,

Germany (October 26, 1862) from News from

the Land of Freedom: German Immigrants Write

Page 1023

ter” from Thomas B. Marquis, Wooden Leg, A

Warrior Who Fought Custer. Reprinted with the

permission of the University of Nebraska Press.

Malcolm X, “The Black Revolution” from Two

Speeches by Malcolm X. Copyright � 1965,

1990 by Betty Shabazz and Pathfinder Press.

Reprinted with the permission of Pathfinder


Home, edited by Walter D. Kamphoefner,

Wolfgang Helbich, and Ulrike Soommer.

Copyright � 1988 by C.H. Beck’sche Verlags-

buchhandlunug (Oscar Beck), Munich. Transla-

tion copyright � 1991 by Cornell University

Press. Reprinted with the permission of Verlag

C. H. Beck.

Wooden Leg, “Account of the battle against Cus-

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