Adamic, Louis

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ADAMIC, LOUIS

The writer Louis Adamic (March 23, 1898–September 4, 1951) played a key role in the 1930s movement for ethnoracial democracy. A Slovenian immigrant, Adamic came to New York in 1913, but moved to southern California in the 1920s, where he made a name for himself as a chronicler of Los Angeles and established a lifelong friendship with the California leftist Carey McWilliams before moving back to New York in 1929. Like many intellectuals, Adamic was attracted to left-wing ideas during the Great Depression, though he was suspicious of the Communist Party. In the 1930s, Adamic became one of the most prominent advocates of American immigrant groups. Traveling across the United States, he chronicled the experiences of "new Americans" from southern and eastern Europe, concentrating his attention on second-generation Americans. His Depression-era books, My America: 1928–1938 (1938) and From Many Lands (1940), were combinations of autobiographical writings, political journalism, and stories he had collected in his journeys.

Though Adamic was a cultural pluralist who sought to win respect and tolerance for ethnic minorities, he bemoaned the cultural fragmentation of American life. He thus sought both to combat the discrimination faced by ethnic minorities and to craft a notion of American identity that associated the nation not with its Anglo-Protestant roots but with ethnoracial diversity and democratic norms. Like other left-liberals in the 1930s, Adamic saw the labor movement as the most significant political agency capable of achieving his goals. He believed that the new labor federation, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), much of whose membership came from the "new American" groups Adamic championed, would be an "important factor in the delicate and vital process of integration of our heterogeneous population" (My America). In 1940 Adamic founded Common Ground, the most significant World War II-era journal advocating ethnoracial democracy.

See Also:CONGRESS OF INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATIONS (CIO); MCWILLIAMS, CAREY; RACE AND ETHNIC RELATIONS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Denning, Michael. The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century. 1997.

Weiss, Richard. "Ethnicity and Reform: Minorities and the Ambience of the Depression Years." Journal of American History 66 (1979): 566–585.

Daniel Geary