Not a Nation of Immigrants: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion

Beacon. Aug. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9780807036297. $29.95. SOC SCI
The latest book by historian Dunbar-Ortiz (professor emerita, ethnic studies, California State Univ., Hayward; An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States) provides a critical reframing of U.S. history, specifically analyzing how immigration narratives have impacted and continue to shape the country. She challenges readers to question their beliefs and consider what it means when the United States lauds its immigrant roots—and what that narrative leaves out. After beginning with a critique of the musical Hamilton, the author examines genocidal treatment of Indigenous peoples in the U.S. over the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and of people from the African continent who were violently transported to the American colonies. Dunbar-Ortiz also discusses the experiences of race and assimilation of various immigrant groups from Europe, Asia, and Latin America, plus a brief section on Jewish immigration to the U.S. during the 19th century. Dunbar-Ortiz’s message is clear: uplifting narratives about the United States as a “nation of immigrants” allow the country to hide from its history of colonialism, genocide, slavery, and racism.
VERDICT A dense account covering a vast range of topics; overall, a great contribution to the study of U.S. history. Though it’s better suited to scholars than casual readers, this thought-provoking account will prove insightful for all.
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