Immigration and Citizenship in the United States, 1890-1924

Debates over immigration frequently appear in today’s newspaper headlines and political discourse. Although some of the particularities may be new, almost since the founding of the republic, Americans have weighed the benefits of welcoming new arrivals against the benefits of restricting immigration, monitoring the activities of the foreign born in the United States, and narrowing the path to citizenship. This seminar focuses on debates over immigration between the 1890s and the 1920s, a particularly contentious period that culminated with a series of laws that dramatically restricted immigration to the United States. As we consider how Americans’ thoughts about immigration one hundred years ago, we’ll also ask about continuities and discontinuities between the past and the present and explore some enduring questions in American history: What role has immigration played in the formation of national identity in the United States? In what ways are immigrants central to American ideals and in what ways have they been perceived as threats to those ideals?