Compare immigration trends, attitudes, and policies in the U.S. between the turn of the 20th century and today with Anthony DeStefanis from Otterbein University. Learn about the racism and xenophobia that developed then and how it relates to modern times. About the Presenter
Anthony DeStefanis is an Associate Professor of History at Otterbein University. He received his PhD from the College of William & Mary and he specializes in modern U.S. history with an emphasis on labor and working-class history and immigration, race, and ethnicity.
His research examines military strikebreaking in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Workers who went on strike during these decades often faced a military effort to defeat their strike after state officials and business leaders established the National Guards to break strikes.
His work focuses on Colorado, where he charts the development of Colorado's mining industry and the Colorado National Guard to understand how the confluence of capital's growing power, anti-immigrant sentiment, cultural politics, and the imperatives of state building created both a formidable National Guard that was willing to break strikes and state officials who continually used the Guard as a club against an increasingly immigrant working class.
DeStefanis' forthcoming book is Guarding the Empire: Soldier Strikebreakers on the Long Road to the Ludlow Massacre
.About the Topics
From 1880 to 1924, immigrants to the United States came primarily from southern and eastern Europe. Italians, Greeks, Poles, Jewish people from all over eastern Europe and Russia, and Slavic people from the Austro-Hungarian Empire moved to the U.S. in large numbers during these decades.
By the 1910s, a strong, racially-charged critique of these immigrants developed among native-born Americans. Proponents of eugenics, a well-funded, but fraudulent pseudo-science, argued that these immigrants were racially inferior and genetically flawed as they called for legislation to end immigration from southern and eastern Europe. This effort culminated in the 1924 National Origins Act that cut such immigration to a trickle.
In more recent decades, the sources of immigration to the U.S have shifted to Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but today's immigration opponents make arguments that are strikingly similar to those made in the 1910s and 1920s. With this in mind, explore how and why turn-of the-twentieth-century xenophobia echoes so strongly today.