This historic image was shown in a humor magazine in 1903 – “The High Tide of Immigration.” You will notice that, Uncle Sam, is hanging onto the cliff as immigrants are floating offshore. This image clearly portrays immigrants as symbols of danger to the American ideals. Uncle Sam’s hand is carefully placed on the American flag, so as to protect it from being ‘influenced’ – figuratively speaking. It is interesting that there are no women or children shown in the water.
The audience for this image seems to be targeted for those that do not see immigration as a setback to the U.S.’ culture, ideas, and institutions…perhaps, those that are considered less patriotic in the eyes of some. However, I strongly disagree with the purpose of this image. It reminds me of Trump’s wall but in historic time because of the strong poise and mannerism that is portrayed in this picture. Uncle Sam is standing tall with the American flag, wearing striped pants. The words “Danger to American Ideas…Institutions” are carved on the rock. It is clear that the message was intended to keep immigrants away from the United States of America at the time.
This contemporary piece is quite ironic, because it presents the idea of instilling a border for immigrants – only it’s for colonists not for immigrants entering the U.S. today. In this image, Native Americans are ‘building a wall’ to keep the settlers from invading their land. The caption reads: “They say they’re building a wall because too many of us enter illegally and won’t learn their language or assimilate into their culture…”. This image hints at Trump’s idea to build a wall between the U.S.-Mexico border when he took office. The intent of this propaganda piece is to focus on the current occurrences in the United States in comparison to Native American history. Native Americans did not take the drastic measures that the Trump administration intends to take against immigrants that wish to migrate to the United States. This image demonstrates what it would have been like if Native Americans had built a wall – just like Trump intends to do to keep immigrants from entering the U.S. border illegally.
The caption also touches on the lack of assimilation that the colonists had with the Native American culture and language – what did colonists fail to do themselves when they arrived to Native American lands? It is a message – how can the U.S. ask immigrants to assimilate to their culture and language, when they disregarded to do so upon their own arrival? The audience for this image is for those that do not realize that the colonization in America was the same (or worse) than illegal immigration present day.
In conclusion, I argue that these images are similar as they show important messages to people who have no visual context on what ‘building a wall’ to keep human beings out looks like. It is hypocritical to ask for culture and language assimilation when there is no authentic Native American resemblance in present day United States. Not only did colonists disregard Native Americans, but the U.S. has yet to honor Native American history the way it occurred.
Luz Diaz is currently a student in the Graduate Program in International Studies. She loves to spend time with her loved ones, travel and taste delicious food (usually ethnic food). After graduating, Luz aspires to dedicate her time assisting refugees and migrants. She has been involved in research/fieldwork in refugee crises in Greece and South America. Her passion for inclusivity and cultural awareness has lead her to immerse herself in what she truly loves.