In 1940, there were nearly 1900 daily newspapers in the United States read and shared by millions of Americans. These periodicals give us a glimpse into the intense struggles in the American heartland over arguments promoting racism, discrimination, antisemitism, and isolationism during the 1930s and 1940s. What role did antisemitism play in the general American cultural landscape? How did ordinary Americans in the Midwest and the rest of the country react to antisemitic rhetoric by political and religious leaders?
This talk addresses the landscape of the United States from the end of World War I to 1941, identifying the historical and social context in which Americans lived. It will also examine the role media played in what Americans knew about the world around them. It concentrates on three influential American leaders, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin, and Charles Lindbergh, who were all involved with the America First Committee and who all spread antisemitic vitriol to millions of supporters. The talk concludes with generalizations from this period and lessons for the post-war era.
Eric Schmalz is the community manager for the History Unfolded project at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. This program is made possible by the Campus Outreach Lecture Program of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, supported by the Leonard and Sofie Davis Fund.