Archive for February, 2022

Our All-American Aliens

From 1907 to 1931, an American woman would lose her citizenship if she married a non-American man, taking the husband’s nationality instead — even if she’d never visited the country in question or spoke the language.

This 1922 New York Times Magazine article explained the situation: 

Few people realize that there is in this country a group of individuals born here of native stock, many of whom have never left the shores of the U.S.A., even for a Cook’s tour, and who are, nevertheless, aliens. They are classified as such in the census returns. They cannot vote. They cannot take the civil service examinations. They cannot fill municipal, state, or federal positions. If they left this country it might be difficult for them to return. Some of them may not have moved from the village of their birth. They are indeed as American as the president himself, and yet overnight they have become German, Austrian, English, Russian, Italian, French, or Swedish.

No similar rules applied vice versa to American men who married non-citizen women.

Although the Supreme Court upheld the law’s constitutionality in 1915’s MacKenzie v. Hare, after women gained the right to vote nationwide in 1920, the loss of citizenship was being felt more acutely. In September 1922, a few months after this February 1922 article, Congress enacted the Cable Act which partially reversed the rules, though still leaving several exemptions in place allowing some married women to lose their U.S. citizenship upon marrying a foreigner. The law would be fully overturned in 1931.

 

Our All-American Aliens (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 26, 1922

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Written by Jesse Rifkin

February 27th, 2022 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Putting the Music Into the Jazz

In 1922, bandleaders like Paul Whitehead were transforming jazz from an art form some considered unrefined, into more classical-infused symphonic jazz like Rhapsody in Blue, the iconic piece Whitehead commissioned two years later.

Racial subtext was at play here, with “unrefined” and “refined” often serving as euphemisms for what was really going on: jazz originated in the black community and was altered to become more amenable to white sensibilities. As this 1922 New York Times Magazine article explained:

Jazz was offensive to the trained musical ear. The new dance music does not produce discords, because it is constructed in accordance with the laws of harmony. It might be called good music in slang — as O. Henry was good literature in slang.

Suddenly the flexible saxophone supplies a gay note of humor — but there is no tossing of instruments in the air. Nobody calls “O Boy!” Instead, color and contrast and rhythm are playing on the senses of the dancers by the perfectly good scientific rules of music.

Just speaking for myself, I would rather see the performance in which musicians tossed their instruments in the air.

 

Putting the Music Into the Jazz (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 19, 2022

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Written by Jesse Rifkin

February 20th, 2022 at 12:01 pm

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The Old Pope and Papal Prestige

In February 1922, there was a new pope: Pius XI. The man born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti would serve for 17 years and lead Vatican City’s creation as a sovereign state in 1929, separate from Italy.

This New York Times Magazine article wrote in February 1922 of the new pope, comparing and contrasting him with his just-deceased predecessor:

Benedict was less understood but better liked than Pius. In a Roman society, both ecclesiastical and secular, that loves a diplomat better than anything on earth, and an aristocrat next to a diplomat, the combination of the two is irresistible! Yet Rome, outside of the officials of his household, knew no more of the Pope than New York knew of him. He was more retiring than Popes must be by the restrictions of circumstance, but he went about his business — his business of knowing this rent and ragged world, of patching it up and drawing the seams together by small stitches wherever he could, of strengthening always the power of that spiritual kingdom which he ruled — with a skill and imperturbable concentration.

If the new Pope is as skillful as the last, the “Roman question,” which at present seems to bar non-Italians from the supreme office in the Catholic church, may be [dead].

In 1978, the Polish John Paul II would become the first non-Italian pope in 456 years — still several decades and five more popes after Pius XI, though. The current pontiff, Francis, is Argentinian, the first-ever pope of that nationality.

Fun fact: the first pope to visit the U.S. wouldn’t come until Paul VI made the trip in 1965.

The Old Pope and Papal Prestige (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 12, 1922

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Written by Jesse Rifkin

February 13th, 2022 at 12:01 pm