A forgotten dark chapter of American history with implications for the current day, The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law that Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America (Scribner) by Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of Last Call, Daniel Okrent tells the story of the scientists who argued that certain nationalities were inherently inferior, providing the intellectual justification for the harshest immigration law in American history. Brandished by the upper class Bostonians and New Yorkers — many of them progressives — who led the anti-immigration movement, the eugenic arguments helped keep hundreds of thousands of Jews, Italians, and other unwanted groups out of the US for more than 40 years. A work of history with stunning relevance to the present day, The Guarded Gate is an important, insightful, tale that painstakingly connects the American eugenicists to the rise of Nazism, and shows how their beliefs found fertile soil in the minds of citizens and leaders both here and abroad.
The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America
The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians and Other European Immigrants Out of America by Daniel Okrent is a work of history that illuminates the country and the world in which we live today. Okrent, a distinguished author, editor, and journalist, reveals how scientists of an earlier era provided lawmakers with a spurious rationale for barring “the golden door” of America to immigrants deemed to be undesirable, including two generations of European Jews. He tells a tale that “cut[s] close to my own bone” — Okrent is the child of a Jewish couple from Poland and Romania — but he widens the lens to include other families from southern and eastern Europe who were accused of falling into “the lowly ranks of the mongrel races.” The Guarded Gate looks to the recent past, but it also shines a bright light on the debate over immigration policy that figures so prominently in public conversation right now.
Help support the Jewish Book Council.