“The culture of the Iron Range Fourth of July is a fascinating topic, and Nemanic has begun to elucidate its importance.”
“Nemanic begins by explaining how Independence Day developed nationally as a holiday and how it shifted from one of carnivalesque rituals that inverted the social order to one that focused on conformity and stability. Celebrations in the Iron Range, however, were slower in making this shift, which Nemanic explains by pointing to the region’s ethnic diversity, class tensions, and harsh physical environment.”
Michigan Historical Review
“The author uses the historical background of the American Revolution and early nineteenth-century Independence Day festivities to situate her twentieth-century Iron Range celebrations within rowdy Old World carnival traditions of resistance. Native-born members of the middle class were equally determined to transform the holiday into a venue of unity and decorum....”
The Annals of Iowa
Just before the turn of the twentieth century, immigrants from eastern and southern Europe who had settled in mining regions of Minnesota formed a subculture that combined elements of Old World traditions and American culture. Their unique pluralistic version of Americanism was expressed in Fourth of July celebrations rooted in European carnival traditions that included rough games, cross-dressing, and rowdiness.
In One Day for Democracy, Mary Lou Nemanic traces the festive history of Independence Day from 1776 to the twentieth century. The author shows how these diverse immigrant groups on the Minnesota Iron Range created their own version of the celebration, the Iron Range Fourth of July.
As mass-mediated popular culture emerged in the twentieth century, Fourth of July celebrations in the Iron Range began to include such popular culture elements as beauty queens and marching bands. Nemanic documents the enormous influence of these changes on this isolated region and highlights the complex interplay between popular culture and identity construction.
But this is not a typical story of assimilation or ethnic separation. Instead, One Day for Democracy reveals how more than thirty different ethnic groups who shared identities as both workers and new Americans came together in a remote mining region to create their own subculture.
Mary Lou Nemanic is an associate professor of communications at Penn State Altoona. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers and have been broadcast on television.
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