The Powerful 1940 Map That Depicts America as a Nation of Immigrants

by Tammy Levent

Before World War II in 1940, the United States started becoming wary of immigrants. In regards to this, the Council Against Intolerance in America published a map of the United States depicting how all Americans, except Native Americans, are immigrants. This map shows how America has thrived on immigrants, and how diversity should be celebrated, not hated.

Key Takeaways:

  • In the years leading up to the Second World War, isolationist sentiment coursed pretty strongly throughout the United States. Some Americans feared that immigrants were a threat to the country.
  • Bourne illustrates America’s unique ethnic and religious diversity by erasing state borderlines and showing the nation as one unit. Long red ribbons weave through the landscape to show clusters of immigrant groups and where they settled, from Japanese in the West to Italians in the East.
  • Between the late 1930s through the mid-1940s, the Council Against Intolerance’s educational department produced an array of materials, including books, manuals, and posters used in adult reading groups.

““With the exception of the Indian, all Americans or their forefathers came here from other countries,” the illustrator Emma Bourne inscribed on the map. The Council Against Intolerance commissioned Bourne’s work in an effort to remind Americans that the U.S. had always defined itself as a country of varied national origins and religious backgrounds.”

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