"America First" movements have been claiming to protect America's uniquely "Anglo-Saxon" identity for a century. A thread.
The phrase America First was popularized in 1915, when Woodrow Wilson used it in a speech to the nativist DAR, urging that Americans subject "hyphenate" Americans (German-American, Italian-American, Irish-American) to loyalty tests.
1915 was the same year the second Klan was born, thanks largely to the popularity of The Birth of a Nation, released earlier that year, but also spurred by the lynching of Jewish Leo Frank that summer.
By the early 1920s, America First was a wildly popular slogan, used in the presidential campaigns of 1916, 1920 and 1924. Hearst frequently flew it above his masthead, including as a slogan to keep America out of the League of Nations, and to oppose labor unions.
America First was used to support the explicitly eugenicist anti-immigration bills of the early 1920s, designed to keep people of "lower stock" out of America and protect its supposed "Anglo-Saxon" identity. This speech from 1923 by no coincidence includes "the negro problem."
At exactly the same time the second Klan had been expanding. It adopted "America First" as its favorite slogan, along with "100% American" (ie, not "hyphenate"). It also didn't like "Negroes" or labor organizers. This is from a Klan march in Louisiana in 1922.
Here is a Klan recruitment ad, also from 1922, in which they make America First their slogan for the white supremacism (and Christian nationalism) they endorse.
It is also at exactly this moment that "Anglo-Saxon" emerges into the popular American conversation. If you look for "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" in the American press before 1900, you won't easily find it, because it wasn't used.
But if you look for the first uses of "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" in the American press in a simple search, guess who pops up with it? That's right, it's the Klan, in the early 1920s.
Google Ngram viewer shows us how the use of "Anglo-Saxon" in American discourse gradually increased over the 19th century (along with the scientific racism it supported), until it explodes in the American corpus in the 1920s.
Soon promises to protect America First and the Anglo-Saxon race from hordes of undesirable immigrants and "the negro problem" were everywhere. This is also from 1923, as anti-immigration bills were being passed.
I could go on and on; I have written and lectured about this at length. My point is simple. This is not implicit. It is not accidental. It is deliberate, clear, explicit, and a century old. Same old song, different white supremacist singing.
If you're interested in more context, I've written more about the invention of supposed "Anglo-Saxon" identities in America here. prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/white…
I've written more about the eugenicism of early 1920s anti-immigration restriction, and its associations with America First, here. nybooks.com/articles/2019/…
And finally much of this is covered in my book, Behold, America, which is a history of the phrase "America First." None of this stuff is new. None of it is subtle. Its white supremacism is real, and it is deadly serious.
If you’re interested more in how it evolved through the 30s and Lindbergh and the America First Committee of 1940-41, I write about that at length in my book, but also here nybooks.com/daily/2020/06/…
And especially here, though it’s paywalled. the-tls.co.uk/articles/the-p…
I gave a 10 min explainer video about it here for @BritishAcademy_
I wish these people would stfu so I could talk about something else, frankly. Sadly they’re gaining momentum, not losing it.
A few people have queried one of the tweets above & I realize at looking it over that I misspoke, apologies. As this has taken off, I should clarify the tweet below. “Anglo-Saxon” *per se* entered the American conversation much earlier, of course. I meant *this* pop conversation.
A few people have queried one of the tweets above and I realize at looking it over that I misspoke, apologies. As this has taken off, I should clarify. "Anglo-Saxon" *per se* in the popular American conversation is of course, much older, as I note in the Ngram tweet.
The history of "Anglo-Saxon" in America is what I wrote about in the Prospect essay I linked to, if you want clarification. Here are a few bits:
Just for sticking around, some bonus images. Here is a comparison of Anglo-Saxon race in American English and British English over the same period.
Here is America First in the 20th century, (pre Trump).
And lastly sorry for the duplicated tweet but I was having WiFi issues. Will leave it for clarity’s sake.

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More from @sarahchurchwell

16 Feb
After it lost the Civil War, and to shore up white supremacy, the white South did not merely put up Confederate statues. It also funded southern history courses taught by white southerners in southern universities, to ensure no opposing interpretations could find their way in.
Not sure what made me think of that right now … 🧐
For non-UK followers: I was drawing a parallel with a new effort by UK govt to control history and ensure it likes the narrative being told.
Read 4 tweets
27 Jan
@ClementsAustinJ @SethCotlar No, I found that it goes back to at least the 1880s, & was popularized by Wilson in 1915 in a speech he gave to the DAR over debates re “hyphenate Americans". I trace all of this in my book on the history of the phrase.
@ClementsAustinJ @SethCotlar The first is from 1888. It was used to support William Jennings Bryan in 1896.
@ClementsAustinJ @SethCotlar Wilson campaigned on it in 1916. So did Charles Evans Hughes, his GOP opponent. Hearst flew it above his masthead throughout WWI, the first Red Scare, and against League of Nations & Treaty of Versailles.
Read 7 tweets
10 Jan
A few days ago @mrjamesob asked me if I felt vindicated bc I’ve been saying for years that they’re fascists. And I realized when I woke up this morning the answer is: I feel angry. Furious. We warned people, using historical evidence, of what was happening.
Now they’ve come out as fascists and smeared the capitol with feces and bashed a cop’s head in and tried to overturn the election and now those fuckers are calling for “unity”?!
Make no mistake: a call for unity with people who incited and took part in an insurrection against American democracy is not a call for unity, but for surrender.

Unity with fascists makes us fascist.

We don’t unite with fascists. We defeat them.
Read 13 tweets
9 Jan
#Fortnums new windows: celebrating London theatre and joy. This is lovely. 👇
First @jcmaker
Second @tahrazafar
Read 8 tweets
28 Sep 20
C4 news tonight leading with data leak from Trump's 2016 campaign database: “a major investigation reveals data leak & evidence that 3.5m Black voters were marked as ‘deterrence’ in a bid to stop them going to polls."
“In one of biggest database leaks ever” C4 reveals that 3.5 million black voters were targeted in Wisconsin by Trump campaign and other swing states. Clear racist voter suppression.
#C4News have obtained a huge cache of Trump 2016 campaign database. They had a group called “Deterrence” they knew wouldn’t vote for them and so they tried to stop from voting.
Read 18 tweets
24 Sep 20
Happy 124th birthday to Scott Fitzgerald, born #otd in 1896. The best decision of my professional life was to center it around his works and the interwar period he chronicled. Image
This year also marks the centenary of his literary career, which kicked off with the proverbial bang in 1920 - in honor of which I’ve done an essay for the latest issue of @nybooks ($) nybooks.com/articles/2020/…
I’ve written scores of essays about him and his work, but here’s one that isn’t paywalled, and includes my favorite photograph of him. newstatesman.com/culture/books/…
Read 6 tweets

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