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The legacy of Harry Truman on immigration and Native American policies.

Native Americans and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman. Edited by Brian Hosmer. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2010. 168 pp.

Immigration and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman. Edited by Roger Daniels. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2010. 211 pp.

Among the many critical issues that stopped on the desk of President Harry S. Truman, one would not consider placing American Indians and immigrants near the top of the pile. But as we see in the two most recent additions to the Truman Legacy Series, in both cases we find issues and policies worthy of more scholarly attention than they have heretofore received. As with the other books in this useful series that follow a similar format (National Security, Civil Rights, Israel, and the Environment), each collection is composed of an assortment of essays by a diverse group of authors and a contribution by Ken Hechler, a Columbia Ph.D. who served as a special assistant to Truman.

Based on the Fourth Truman Legacy Symposium, held at Key West, Florida, in May 2006, Native Americans and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman begins with two strong and useful essays: the first, a fine introductory piece by the volume's editor Brian Hosmer, and the second, "Seeing and Not Seeing: American Indians in the Truman Era," by Frederick E. Hoxie, a distinguished University of Illinois professor and noted authority on the history of American Indians. Hosmer explains that Indian policy during the Truman era transitioned from the "New Deal" to termination--from the well-intentioned, if misguided, polices of John Collier, the Roosevelt administration's commissioner of Indian affairs, to an approach that "represented a return to policies that promoted assimilation and constituted a thorough repudiation of Collierism" (p. xv). Termination meant a final settlement of Indian claims, relocation, and the end of reservations. Hoxie offers a fair and balanced analysis of the impact of the Indian Claims Commission Act of 1946 and government efforts to relocate Indian peoples to cities; and Ken Hechler admits that the best one can say about Truman's record on American Indians is that it was "mixed" (p. 24). Additional contributors include Indian activists and leaders such as Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Ada E. Deer, and John Echohawk. As the essays in this volume demonstrate, termination was widely rejected by American Indian peoples during the 1960s and 1970s, and "the emergence of modern Indian activism, with its emphasis upon tribal self-determination and cultural survival, must rank among termination's [and thus Truman's] more ironic outcomes [or legacies]" (p. xxiii).

The Sixth Truman Legacy Symposium, which was held at Key West, Florida, in May 2008, focused on immigration, and the resulting volume, edited by Roger Daniels, one of the nation's preeminent authorities on immigration history, is wide ranging. In "Harry S. Truman and Immigration: An Appraisal," Daniels argues that "it is appropriate to label Truman an immigration president" (p. 13), despite the dearth of scholarly attention paid to this issue. The administration gave considerable attention to "Displaced Persons" and to needed revision in the nation's immigration and naturalization policies. Although the president clashed with congressional leaders and "failed to accomplish his major goals" in this area, Truman "was the first president to come to grips with and recognize the crucial importance of immigration in post-World War II America" (p. 21). Ken Hechler, in "A Common Man's Perspective," agrees and argues that his old boss deserves the "immigration president" epithet because, although the young Truman exhibited the common "prejudice against immigration," President Truman was "a champion of immigration" and "a powerful supporter of increasing Jewish immigration to Palestine" (p. 51). Hechler sharply refutes the charge that the president was mainly motivated by domestic politics. Specifically, it would appear, Hechler's was a direct reaction to historian Leonard Dinnerstein. In "Truman, Holocaust Survivors, and Palestine," Dinnerstein criticizes the president's policies and motivation with regard to postwar Jewish issues and concludes that Truman was impulsive and ill informed in this area; "political concerns almost always trumped other issues when the president made his choices" (p. 41). Also of interest are "Strategic Citizenship and Immigration from the Philippines," by Barbara M. Posadas and Roland L. Guyotte; "Race and Ethnic Classification in the McCarran-Walter Act" by Margo Anderson, a particularly timely piece; "Renewed African Immigration" by David M. Reimers; and Gary R. Mormino's "Origins of the Sun Belt: Florida and the Truman Years," which concentrates on the migration of Jews and Italian-Americans to the region.

As with other volumes in the series, Native Americans and Immigration also feature useful "graphic" essays of relevant documents and photographs in the Harry S. Truman Library, which, along with their diverse and thought-provoking essays, make them and the series generally a good choice for classroom use.

Virgil W. Dean

Kansas Historical Society
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Author:Dean, Virgil W.
Publication:Presidential Studies Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 11, 2011
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