A Nation of Immigrants: How the Introduction of New Cultures Changed American Society, 1820 to Present
May 15-16, 2014
The history of the United States has been largely the history of immigration. Since even before national independence millions of women and men from around the world left their homes, opting for America, a place where they believed they could improve the conditions of their lives. Certainly we must remember that Africans who made up the slave population did not migrate voluntarily, while nearly all other immigrants had some degree of choice in terms of the timing of their migrations, their destinations, and the ways they created communities in America.
This program, involving four historians, explored four time periods in American history. For each era they examined who immigrated, where they came from, and how they engaged with American society. Each lecture looked at the legal situation with which immigrants had to contend, always specific to particular time periods, documenting the vast changes which took place, from the 1820s through today. Each lecture also considered the work experiences of the immigrants, and each explored how the different immigrant groups both integrated into American society and constructed ethnic group life in their new homes. The four lectures focused on the years from the 1820s through the 1880s, 1880 until 1924, 1924 to 1965, and the era following the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act.