HIST 2251 U.S. Immigration Narratives

HIST 2251 U.S. Immigration Narratives (also AMST 2251, LSP 2251) (HB) (HA-AS, HST-AS, SCD-AS) (HNA)

Tuesday and Thursday: 2:45-4:00

Professor Maria Cristina Garcia

Americans are conflicted about immigration.  We honor and celebrate (and commercialize) our immigrant heritage in museums, folklife festivals, parades, pageants, and historical monuments.  We also build fences and detention centers, and pass more and more laws to bar access to the United States.   Polls tell us that Americans are concerned about the capacity of the United States to absorb so many immigrants from around the world.  How often have we heard the laments “Today’s immigrants are too different. They don’t want to assimilate” or “My grandparents learned English quickly, why can’t they?”  The assumption is that older generations ‘Americanized’ quickly but that today’s immigrants do not want to assimilate.   Did 19th century immigrants really migrate to the United States to “become Americans”?  Did they really assimilate quickly? Are today’s immigrants really all that different from the immigrants who arrived earlier?  Why do these particular narratives have such power and currency?  This seminar will explore these issues and help students discern fact from fiction.

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Immigrants on deck of steamer "Germanic." 1887 Source: Library of Congress