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Common Ground (magazine)

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Common Ground
Former editorsLouis Adamic, M. Margaret Anderson
CategoriesLiterary magazine
PublisherPrinceton University Press
First issueSeptember 1940 (1940-September)
Final issue1949
CompanyCommon Council for American Unity (CCAU)
Based inNew York City

Common Ground was a literary magazine published quarterly between 1940 and 1949 by the Common Council for American Unity to further an appreciation of contributions to U.S. culture by many ethnic, religions and national groups.


The magazine was created by attorney Read Lewis (1887–1984), who helped found the Settlement House Movement, Slovenian American author Louis Adamic (aka Alojz Adamič) and M. Margaret Anderson. The Carnegie Corporation of New York provided funding to start the new magazine.[1] The name of the magazine was likely taken from the title of a book of the same name published by a leading member of the interfaith movement in 1938.[2][3] Early staff included include the future senator Alan Cranston and the poet Charles Olson.

Louis Adamic was instrumental in the founding of the magazine. In 1940 he became the director of the Common Council for American Unity (CCAU) and became the founding editor. A prolific writer in the 1930s, Adamic had begun a writing career after serving in the U.S. Army in World War I. By the 1930s he was a prominent social critic and writer focusing on the immigrant experience in America. He was the author of Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America (1931) and Laughing in the Jungle: The Autobiography of an Immigrant in America (1932). In 1932 he was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship. Adamic had helped found the Common Council for American Unity (CCAU) in 1939.[4] The CCAU succeeded the Foreign Language Information Service (FLIS), which had formed in 1921 to counter the anti-immigrant attitudes that became prevalent in the U.S. during the 1920s. In 1959, the CCAU merged with the American Federation of International Institutes to form the American Council for Nationalities Services (ACNS). ACNS later became the Immigration and Refugee Services of America in 1994, and in 2004 changed its name to U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).

Adamic's advocacy for cultural pluralism is captured by his insistence that "in the past there has been entirely too much giving up, too much melting away and shattering of the various cultural values of the new groups." Adamic insisted that the "Americanized foreigner became a cultural zero paying lip service to the U.S., which satisfied the Americanizers." In place of Americanization, he proposed "Americanism", which would make a "central educational and cultural effort… toward accepting, welcoming, and exploiting diversity."[4]

Leading into World War II, Adamic felt uncomfortable with FDR’s call for “total defense” and preferred the term “inclusive defense”, which all Americans, "all people of the country, will have to be drawn, not forced in any way, but drawn, inspired into full participation in the effort ahead, which will include armament. He was not a pacifist, but instead argued for a wide-flung and deep-reaching offensive for democracy within our own borders and our own individual makeups." He believed the left should not advance an "against program - mere 'anti-fascism,' mere 'anti-totalitarianism' is insufficient" and "may itself result in fascism and totalitarianism."[5]

Common Ground shifted its coverage over its decade of publication. Under Adamic's editorship most articles focused on immigration and white ethnicity. In particular Adamic stressed the Americanism and assimilation of Japanese Americans. After he stepped down from his editorship in 1942, articles shifted to mostly to criticism of prejudice against African Americans.[6]

Notable articles[edit]

"In the Flow of time" by Beatrice Griffith, published in the September 1948 issue of Common Ground, was listed in the Best American Short Stories of the Century.[7] Eleanor Roosevelt wrote The Democratic Effort in the first issue of 1942.[8] praising immigrants and the role they would play in the war effort.

In November 1941, the folk singer Pete Seeger introduced singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie to his friend the poet Charles Olson, then a junior editor at the fledgling magazine. The meeting led to Guthrie writing "Ear Players"[9] in the Spring 1942 issue of Common Ground. The article marked Guthrie's debut as a published writer.[10] Subsequently Guthrie wrote articles in both the Autumn 1942[11] and Spring 1943[12] issues.

American poet and social activist Langston Hughes began contributing to the magazine in the autumn 1941 issue, and would become the most frequent contributor to the magazine. He was an active member of the magazine's Advisory Editorial Board from its inception in spring of 1942 until the magazine ceased publication in 1950.[13] Hughes' article White Folks do the funniest things was published in Common Ground in 1944 and subsequently be syndicated in major newspapers across the country.[14]

Editorial board[edit]

In addition to Adamic, the editorial board was made up of Van Wyck Brooks, Pearl Buck, Mary Ellen Chase, Langston Hughes, Alvin Johnson, Thomas Mann, and Lin Yutang.

Notable contributors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beyer, William (1994). "Chapter 4: Creating Common Ground on the Home Front: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in a 1940s Quarterly Magazine". In O'Brien, Kenneth Paul; Parsons, Lynn H. (eds.). The Home-Front War: World War II and American Society. Greenwood Press. pp. 41–55. ISBN 9780313292118.
  2. ^ Wendy L. Wall (3 September 2009). Inventing the "American Way":The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement: The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement. Oxford University Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-19-539240-1. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  3. ^ Morris Samuel Lazaron (1938). Common ground, a plea for intelligent Americanism. Liveright Publishing Corporation. ISBN 9780871407962. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  4. ^ a b Gerald Meyer (November 2008). "The Cultural Pluralist Response to Americanization: Horace Kallen, Randolph Bourne, Louis Adamic, and Leonard Covello". Journal of the Research Group of Democracy and Socialism. 22 (3): 19–51. doi:10.1080/08854300802361505. S2CID 143679820.
  5. ^ Bokovoy, Matt (13 April 2008), "The War and the Intellectuals, Revisited", Historians Against the War Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA {{citation}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ Paul C. Adams; Steven D. Hoelscher; Karen E. Till (2001). Textures of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies. University of Minnesota Press. p. 401. ISBN 978-0-8166-3757-7. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  7. ^ John Updike; Katrina Kenison (2000). The Best American Short Stories of the Century. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 812. ISBN 978-0-395-84367-3. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  8. ^ Roosevelt, Eleanor (March 1942), "The Democratic Effort", Common Ground: 9–10
  9. ^ Guthrie, Woody (March 1942), "Ear Players", Common Ground: 32–43
  10. ^ Ed Cray (17 March 2006). Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-393-32736-6. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  11. ^ Guthrie, Woody (September 1942), "State Line to Skid Row", Common Ground: 35–44
  12. ^ Guthrie, Woody (March 1943), "Crossroads", Common Ground: 50–56
  13. ^ William Beyer, "Langston Hughes and Common Ground in the 1940s", American Studies in Scandinavia', Volume 21, 1991; accessed 19 January 2013.
  14. ^ Hughes, Langston (December 1944), "White Folks do the Funniest Things", Common Ground: 42–46.

External links[edit]