Immigration in a Slaveholding Republic

No account of US immigration history in the nineteenth century makes sense unless the subject is placed in the context of slavery and African American history.

Lecture Description

The existence, abolition, and legacies of slavery, more than any other force, shaped American immigration policy as it moved from the local to the national level over the course of the nineteenth century. Before the Civil War, the federal government played only a very limited role in immigration. The states controlled mobility within and across their borders and set their own rules for community membership. Defenders of slavery feared that if Congress gained control over immigration, it could also regulate the movement of free black people and the interstate slave trade. The Civil War and the abolition of slavery removed the political and constitutional obstacles to a national immigration policy, which was first directed at Chinese immigrants, using techniques of registration, punishment, and deportation first deployed against free black people in the antebellum South.


Immigration Legal and Constitutional

ALL TOPICS & TITLES: Go back to all topics and titles.

More Distinguished Lectureship Program Resources