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What’s in the September Issue of the Journal of American History?

The September issue of the Journal of American History is now available online and in print. The issue is centered around the history of immigration restriction in the United States, covering topics ranging from the U.S. Border Patrol’s formation on the border with Canada to the experiences of Mexican guest workers. Freely available as Editor’s Choice articles are Maddalena Marinari’s introductory piece, “The 1921 and 1924 Immigration Acts a Century Later: Roots and Long Shadows,” and Erika Lee’s concluding article, “Epilogue: A New Era of Anti-Immigrant Hate and Immigration Restriction.” The issue also features a digital history overview by James Coltrain, who discusses the current state of video games and their implications for historians, as well as Philip J. Deloria’s 2022 oah Presidential Address.

Philip J. Deloria’s 2022 Presidential Address

Former Organization of American Historians (oah) president David Hollinger recently suggested to me that “a presidential address can lay out a large body of claims in a short span of time; they are meant to be evocative and even fun.” In my presidential address to the 2022 oah annual meeting, I propose ways that deeper engagements with Native American pasts can transform the teaching and scholarship of American history. I lay out a tool kit for such engagements, one that includes a consideration of narrative politics, a rethinking of the Constitution, a land-based reading of American empire and colonialism, a speculative account concerning the possibility of Native American states, and a list of subjects that might be transformed through new, more inclusive interpretations of the past.

Immigration Restriction Then and Now: Re-Examining the Impact and Legacy of the 1921 and 1924 Immigration Acts

This special issue, “Immigration Restriction Then and Now,” reevaluates the history of immigration restriction in the United States on the centennial of the 1921 and 1924 immigration acts, two laws that reified a racist and discriminatory immigration regime that lasted for more than forty years. The essays grew out of conversations and collaborations among scholars of migration and were further developed during a virtual workshop in the summer of 2020 and sponsored by the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota.

This special issue covers a range of issues. Chronologically, the essays touch on events dating from the early nineteenth century to the present day and reveal how immigration history has a much longer past than scholarship has traditionally acknowledged. Topically, they encompass immigration, legal, labor, transnational, and political history, as well as the histories of slavery, eugenics, citizenship, and incarceration. Exploring the intellectual milieu in which immigration restriction emerged in the 1920s, the essays in this special issue reexamine the 1921 and 1924 immigration acts and demonstrate how immigration laws and border enforcement became tools of white settler nation building that intersected with the dispossession and coerced assimilation of Native Americans, the segregation and disfranchisement of Black Americans, and imperial projects at home and abroad. The legacy of these laws—and the xenophobia and racism upon which they were built—continue today. Shaped by new historical scholarship and approaches, this issue considers the history of past anti-immigrant campaigns in direct relation to the new era of immigration restriction that began during the Trump administration. As contributors note, many of the policies introduced and enforced since 2017 were on restrictionists’ wish lists a century ago. Some of the proposals were even regarded as too extreme at the time.

These historical essays were also indelibly shaped by the crises of our time, including the resurgence of white nationalism, the racial reckonings following the murder of George Floyd, and the rise of anti-Asian xenophobia and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we note that the right to enter and the right to safety are once again in question in the United States and around the world. The goal of the contributors to this special issue—Ashley Johnson Bavery, Adam Goodman, Romeo Guzmán, Kevin Kenny, Erika Lee, Carl D. Lindskoog, Mireya Loza, Maddalena Marinari, Seema Sohi, Yael Schacher, and Alexandra Minna Stern—is to provide a historical foundation for thinking about how immigration restriction has both driven and reinforced inequality in the United States in the past and present.