Streetcar Parishes: Slovak Immigrants Build Their Nonlocal Communities,
Prof. Robert Zecker
Saturday, June 10, 2023
In Streetcar Parishes: Slovak Immigrants Build Their Nonlocal Communities, 1890-1945, Prof. Robert Zecker examines how a small immigrant group created a community for itself, despite not controlling its own piece of the city (an ethnic ghetto) in which all or nearly all residents shared the same Old Country home. The book examines the case of the Slovaks of Philadelphia, who never had the numbers to dominate any one neighborhood, and were scattered across Philadelphia, with other sub-communities in nearby cities. The Philadelphia community expanded to contain people who were miles, or even states apart, but contracted to exclude from social, worship, and job networks non-Slavs living around the corner.
Community was not geographically defined for many immigrant groups, not just Slovaks. Instead, these groups used creative means to draw widely dispersed people back into an institution-based community centered on churches, social clubs, fraternal societies, and sporting leagues. This non-localized process of community formation was repeated across industrial America, and thus tells us much about the immigrant experience.
Robert Zecker is a professor of history at Saint Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he teaches courses in race, immigration, social movements, and U.S. history. His research includes immigration, radicalism, and the popular culture of immigrants on the left. He is the author of many articles in journals, such as the Journal of American Ethnic History. He is the author of four books, most recently “A Road to Peace and Freedom”: The International Workers Order and the Struggle for Economic Justice and Civil Rights, 1930-1954 (Temple University Press). He also has a chapter, “‘Spotlight on Jim Crow’: Radical Immigrant Papers Cover Race and Civil Rights,” in Immigration and Exile: The Foreign-Language Press in the U.K. and U.S., forthcoming from Bloomsbury. Before entering academia, Prof. Zecker was a journalist in his native New Jersey.
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