What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Ideas

Why Americans Love Andy Griffith’s Toothy Grin

In the Post-Civil Rights Era, Images of Southerners as ‘Slow-Witted Rubes’ Soothed White Anxieties

by Sara K. Eskridge

Today, when many Americans think of the “good old days”—when neighbors knew each other and the world seemed safer and simpler—they often conjure visions of the 1950s and early 1960s, as expressed in old TV comedies like The Andy Griffith Show.

But those times were not really simple: Americans were then gripped by Cold War fears and the Red Scare, and buffeted by new economic pressures. The entertainers who most successfully created sunny visions for anxious Americans of that era—our …

Encounters

When Americans Feared an Invasion From Their Northern Border

In the Late 19th century, the French Canadians Who Came to Work in Cotton Mills Were Treated as ‘Pawns in a Catholic Plot’

by David Vermette

In 1893, Clare de Graffenried, special agent of the United States Department of Labor, published an article in The Forum describing an invasion of America’s northeastern border. For 30 years, Graffenreid observed, hundreds of thousands of French Canadians had been pouring into states like Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, finding work in the region’s burgeoning industries. “Manufacturing New England, Puritan and homogeneous no longer, speaks a French patois,” she wrote.

Furthermore, Graffenreid continued, French Canadian workers huddled in …