Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Americanization from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1853) 1 : the act or process of Americanizing 2 : instruction of foreigners (as immigrants) in English and in U.S. history, government, and culture


Summary Article: Americanization
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

term used to describe the movement during the first quarter of the 20th cent. whereby the immigrant in the United States was induced to assimilate American speech, ideals, traditions, and ways of life. As a result of the great emigration from E and S Europe between 1880 and the outbreak of World War I (see immigration), the Americanization movement grew to crusading proportions. Fear and suspicion of the newcomers and of their possible failure to become assimilated gave impetus to the movement. Joined by social workers interested in improving the slum conditions surrounding the immigrants, and by representatives of the business and industrial world, organizations were formed to propagandize and to agitate for municipal, state, and federal aid to indoctrinate the immigrants into American ways. The coming of World War I with the resultant heightening of U.S. nationalism strengthened the movement. The Federal Bureau of Education and the Federal Bureau of Naturalization joined in the crusade and aided the private Americanization groups. Large rallies, patriotic naturalization proceedings, and Fourth of July celebrations characterized the campaign. When the United States entered into the war, Americanization was made an official part of the war effort. Many states passed legislation providing for the education and Americanization of the foreign-born. The anti-Communist drive conducted by the Dept. of Justice in 1919–20 stimulated the movement and led to even greater legislative action on behalf of Americanization. Virtually every state that had a substantial foreign-born population had provided educational facilities for the immigrant by 1921. The passage of this legislation and the quota system of immigration caused the Americanization movement to subside; private groups eventually disbanded.

  • See Higham, J., Strangers in the Land (1963).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Articles


Full text Article Americanization
Germany and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History

Americanization refers to a process by which ideas, practices, and patterns of behavior that were developed and widely spread in the United...

Full text Article Americanization
Britain and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History

“Americanization” is a complex term for ways in which the influence of the United States pervades, and is experienced, desired, and resisted by,...

Full text Article AMERICANIZATION
The Praeger Handbook of Latino Education in the U.S.

“Americanization” has been a central tenet of programs for immigrant and non-white populations in the U.S. throughout the twentieth century....

See more from Credo