assimilation, Danish immigrants, cultural integration, songbook


Most people familiar with Danish American history have encountered a narrative about the allegedly quick and unproblematic assimilation of Danish immigrants in the US, as presented here on the website of the Museum of Danish America: “Danes assimilated quickly, aided by the fact that they were white, northern european, and Protestant. Furthermore, Danes are practical and believed that assimilating into American society promised greater rewards than hanging onto their Danish identity and traditional ways.”1 even though this master narrative does, to some extent, capture the larger trajectory of the Danish immigrant experience, it disregards those Danish immigrants who played a pivotal role in creating and preserving a Danish American cultural heritage in the US. The fortieth anniversary conference of the Danish American heritage Society held in Schaumburg, Illinois in October 2017 proved that this heritage is still alive and vibrant today. The divergence between the master narrative’s emphasis on Danes’ rapid assimilation and the still-existing Danish American heritage raises several questions: how was the Danish culture transmitted to the US? how did a distinct Danish American cultural heritage evolve? Who created and preserved this heritage? how has it influenced the lives of Danish Americans through succeeding generations?