Writing American Immigration History (June 2019)

This essay first appeared in the June 2019 issue of Choice (volume 56 | issue 10).


Immigration is a defining facet of American history: except for Indigenous peoples, all of us arrived in the centuries since Columbus “discovered” the New World. As a legal issue immigration emerged with the nation itself. Under the 1790 Nationality Act only “free white persons” could claim citizenship, and it defined a category of “aliens ineligible for citizenship.” The former designation highlights the existence of the enslaved population—neither free, nor white, nor present by choice.

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About the author:

Sara S. Goek holds a PhD in history and digital arts and humanities from University College Cork. She is Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and Program Manager at the Association of College & Research Libraries.