One of the many undertakings of NCSU’s Cooperative Extension Service in the 1950s was youth citizenship education. In addition to providing basic lessons on government, the Cooperative Extension Service also sought to teach children acceptance of immigrants through programs such as a 1952 skit entitled “A Symphony in Citizenship.”1
“A Symphony in Citizenship” opens with a mother explaining to her two children – Skippy and Margaret Alice – that the United States is made up of immigrants just as an orchestra is made up of instruments. As she explains, various nationalities walk across the stage, bow, and sit down next to Uncle Sam and his wife, Columbia.
An American Indian is attributed with teaching the first immigrants how to live in the new land; Dutch, Italian, and Chinese characters follow, and all are honored for their diverse gifts and talents. When a “Negro” woman enters the stage, the names of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver are invoked. After the arrival of Iranian and Indian immigrants, the symphony concludes with the mother’s lesson that “Even as a great musical symphony is made up of many notes and played on many instruments, so is the symphony of America made up of many people from many countries – Americans all – building and working together for a greater America in a peaceful and better world.”
While hardly an all-inclusive look at the immigrant populations of the United States, for the 1950s this was a remarkably progressive skit: negative stereotypes are avoided, and the children in the skit are encouraged to think of everyone in America as a type of immigrant.
1. The full skit can be viewed at http://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/ua102_052-002-bx0021-001-000/pages/ua102_052-002-bx0021-001-000_0129.