This course examines what it means to be an American and why the criterion for becoming an American has changed throughout U.S. history. We will consider why immigrants and migrants were (and are currently) perceived as racial and ethnic “others” and think critically about what it means to be a multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural nation. This course will cover snapshots of major moments of immigration throughout U.S. history, beginning with colonial settlement and moving forward to twentieth century restrictions on immigration and twenty-first century debates about immigration reform. We will cover such historical developments as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the National Origins Act of 1924, WWII developments like the Bracero Program and Japanese Internment, the Immigration Act of 1965, and the 1986 Simpson and Mazzoli Act. The course will conclude with a survey of recent developments in immigration reform, including the Dream Act and DACA, ICE and undocumented migrants (child and adult), family reunification, asylum seekers and refugees, etc. Some themes that will be discussed are racism and nativism; push and pull factors for immigration; race and the law; urbanization and industrialization; work and class; gender and family dynamics; undocumented migration or “illegal” immigration; and chain, circular, and return migration patterns. Course readings will consist of letters, memoirs, diaries, and newspaper articles written by immigrants and oral interviews with immigrants, as well as a variety of secondary readings on immigration that discuss how race, class, and gender have factored into the immigration process in the United States. Students will also be given an opportunity to use Binghamton University’s new subscription to ancestry.com to research their own family history and/or to conduct an oral interview with a recent immigrant to examine how these experiences of immigration relate to the course themes.
This course is appropriate for history majors, non-majors, and first-year students. This course also fulfills the university’s general education requirements for Social Science (“N”) and Pluralism in the United States (“P”).
This course is a fully online class; this means that you are responsible for working through the online modules at your own pace. In this course, you will have discussion posts due on Thursday each week by 5pm (EST) as well as discussion replies and assignments or exams due on Friday each week by 5pm (EST).
The required book for this course, Immigrant Voices (second edition), is available to rent or buy at the University bookstore or online at sites like Amazon.com. Please purchase the second edition, the first does not have some of the assigned readings and will not follow the same page numbers.
The recommended text Major Problems in American Immigration History (second ed.) is extremely useful and this course will draw heavily from it. Since this is only a 5-week course, I will not require you to purchase this text, although you are welcome and encouraged to do so. Instead, I will put the essential chapters and any additional readings on our course blackboard site. Copies of each will also be available at the library on reserve.
- Required: Thomas Dublin, ed., Immigrant Voices: New Lives in America 1773-2000 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, second edition 2014)
- Recommended: Mae M. Ngai and Jon Gjerde, eds., Major Problems in American Immigration History (Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, second edition 2013).
As part of a liberal arts education, this course will follow the learning objectives outlined by the History Department of Binghamton University. As such, students will refine their skills in critical reading, analysis, interpretation, and writing.
By course completion students will have:
- The ability to read primary and secondary sources with a critical eye and express these ideas in effective papers; the skills to analyze a variety of different types of written texts (or in some cases material evidence or oral accounts) and identify how each of them is shaped by author, audience, and the context in which they were constructed.
- The ability to communicate effectively in writing in a manner that is coherent, well-developed, and expressive of complex thought.
- Knowledge of some major themes in history as well as some of the critical and theoretical methods for interpreting texts; although no single core course or survey is required, and thus students have widely varying areas of expertise, they should have a general understanding of the development of the region(s) or specialties in which they have concentrated.
- Knowledge of some of the interactions between different parts of the world (or between different groups within a single society) and how these relationships have affected the development of respective regions, ethnicities, or identities.
Plagiarism is defined in the University Bulletin and in “Rules and Expectations” as:
“Taking and passing off as one’s own the ideas, writings, computer-generated materials, etc., of others: that is, the incorporation into one’s written or oral reports of any unacknowledged published, unpublished, or oral material from the work of another.” (Section II)
Plagiarism includes: copying material from a website, not placing quoted material in quotes, not giving credit, through citations, to ideas that came from a reading, website, or lecture, and stealing the ideas or words of any other person, including another student or yourself in an earlier essay.
Any cases of plagiarism or cheating between groups of students will be treated harshly, with penalties ranging from a “zero” on an assignment up to failure of the course and a reference to the Harpur College Academic Honesty Committee.
The Writing Center
The Binghamton University Writing Center is a wonderful, free resource to help students who are struggling with writing, or could use another set of eyes to read over their work. Take advantage of this service, available at: Bartle Library, LN 2412. You can make an appointment to have someone look over your writing online by following this link: http://www2.binghamton.edu/writing/writing-center/index.html
Students with Disabilities
Students who need special accommodations should work with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office in University Union 119. Students should inform the instructor and provide appropriate documentation prior to the first assignment’s due date; an email from the SSD office should be followed by a personal email from the student. It is the student’s responsibility to consult with the instructor prior to exam times or due dates approach to finalize arrangements.
Credit Hours and Expectations
This is a 4-credit course, which means that in addition to the assigned modules, students are expected to do at least 9.5 hours of course-related work each week. This includes things like: completing assigned readings, participating in the course discussion boards, studying for the course exams, preparing written assignments, and other tasks that are necessary for completing the course assessments.
Every class includes an implied contract between the students and teacher. It is my job to be available by email and office hours, and to make the classroom environment as conducive to learning as possible. It is your responsibility to:
- Interact regularly with the online course modules, read and respond to posts on the course discussion board, and communicate with your instructor and peers.
- Have assigned reading materials ready by the day the related assignments are due.
- Pay attention to the course instructions and emails.
- Be respectful of your classmates and me—this means read whatever you are posting carefully before you click submit. Dissent and debate are encouraged during class discussions, but always remember that this is a course about the past, not the present, and you should always be respectful of others’ opinions.
- Attend (online) office hours or email me when you have problems, concerns, or questions about the class, assignments, and readings.
- Trouble with an Internet connection will not excuse late work. This course requires you to have regular and reliable access to a computer and the Internet and by signing up for it you have consented to this requirement. Consider writing your discussion posts in a word processing program so that a glitch in the Internet or Blackboard does not make you lose work. Please work on discussion posts and quizzes with enough time before they are due so that you can find a solution if your technology fails. Plan backups if your computer or Internet should fail—a friend’s computer, the public library, you local coffee shops with free Internet, etc. Technological problems will not excuse late work.
You must complete all assignments in order to pass the course. Failure to turn in a paper or take an exam will result in automatic failure for the course.
Weekly Discussion Posts and Replies (1 Original Thread + 2 Replies = 3 Posts in Total Per Week)
Critical thinking that results in lively discussions is crucial to online learning. A discussion post should not only allow you to engage with your peers, but also deepen your understanding of the materials you are assigned for weekly readings and lectures with your peers. Discussion posts in this condensed course will take the place of lengthier paper assignments and provide you with the opportunity to analyze the topics being studied and hone your writing skills. When you open the discussion forum you will–at least initially–only see the discussion prompt I have created. You will not see the posts of other students until you have written and posted your own original thread. I recommend writing your post offline in a word processing program before copying it into blackboard; this will protect you from losing your work to technological glitches and help you construct a well-written and meaningful post. It is also important because you will not be able to delete or edit your discussion thread once you have posted it.
For each discussion board, I will expect:
- One original discussion post. This post should respond to all of the instructions and questions I have included in the discussion prompt. Original discussion posts are due by 5pm (EST) on Thursday each week (please note: during week 1 you are required to respond to an introductory discussion board in addition to your regular weekly post so for week 1 you will have 6 posts in total that week, 2 original discussion posts + 4 responses).
- Replies to at least two other students’ discussion threads. This means replying to the original post written by two other students, NOT simply responding to other students’ replies to your discussion thread (although you are certainly encouraged to do so). These two replies to your peers are due by 5pm (EST) on Friday each week.
- Your discussion grade is based on both preparedness and contributions to class discussions. Being prepared means that you should have read all assignments ahead of time. Your grade for discussions is based on the quality of your contributions to discussion, not simply quantity. Participation also involves being courteous and respectful to your professor and fellow students. This includes reading other students’ discussion posts carefully and providing a thoughtful response (backed with clearly stated examples and evidence) to their questions or ideas that you agree or disagree with.
Expectations for these posts include:
- Your original post is required to be a minimum of 300 words (similar to 1.5 pages double spaced). Thoughtful and analytical answers are usually 500 (or more) words, however, you should always edit your work before posting to ensure that your writing includes precise word choices and concise sentences.
- Your response posts must be a minimum of 75 words each. And, like your initial post, I strongly suggest that you compose and edit these in a word document before posting online.
- Your posts must engage the reading and your classmates in a meaningful way. Simply posting something like “I thought this week’s reading was interesting,” or “I agree with what you said” is not a substantive contribution to the conversation. You MUST explain why you feel the way you do about the topic and provide evidence (with citations) from the assigned lectures and readings for your point of view.
- Your posts should engage each other in conversation. You’re not just replying to me because it’s part of the assignment – you’re also talking to each other and asking each other for clarification or elaboration when applicable. If you agree or disagree with something someone said, point it out. BUT be sure to explain why you agree or disagree and offer examples (with citations) to back up your opinion from the course materials.
- Keep discussions civil—disagreement and debate is a natural part of all history courses, but discourteous, inflammatory, or otherwise inappropriate comments (including those in ALL CAPS) will not be tolerated.
- You are welcome to quote or paraphrase the material from class (readings or visual materials) but be sure to provide a citation and properly attribute them. For simplicity’s sake, parenthetical citations may used be in MLA or Chicago style. For example, a brief citation like this: “(Author’s Last Name, Page Number)” or “(John Smith, p. 5-6)” will suffice. And, if you are unsure about whether a citation is needed, please err on the side of caution and cite the author’s work.
- First Paper (15%) The primary source analysis paper will analyze one immigrant letter of your choosing from Thomas Dublin’s Immigrant Voices. The purpose of this primary source analysis is to assess your ability to read primary sources with a critical eye and develop a well-developed argument that interprets how they fit into the secondary sources we have read and the historical context in which they were produced. This short analysis paper should be 1-3 pages (double spaced, in Times New Roman 12 point font, and with 1 inch margins) and answer the question: what can one immigrant’s story tell us about American immigration history? A good essay will not simply summarize the details included in the immigrant letter you selected but analyze how these events fit into the larger historical context of American immigration history.
- Prewriting Assignment (5%) In this short prewriting assignment you will need to make some decisions about how you’re going to construct your Roots Paper.
- First Choose One of the following options:
- Write a paper describing and analyzing your own ethnic roots by tracing the history of your maternal and/or paternal immigrant ancestors (Your parents, or aunts and uncles, or grandparents, or great-grandparents, etc). You do not need to tell the story of all of your immigrant ancestors; rather, you may choose to focus in one the experiences of one or two individuals. Consider the questions above in analyzing their stories. If the family member you are focusing on is available you may want to use the questions above to conduct an oral interview.
- If you yourself are an immigrant or a temporary resident of the United States from another country (including exchange students and dual-diploma students from Turkey), you may write a paper describing and analyzing your own immigrant experience. You may also examine your family’s immigrant experiences along with your own. Consider the questions above in analyzing your own story.
- If you cannot or do not want to trace your own roots, interview an immigrant to this country that you are not related to and write a paper describing and analyzing their immigrant experience. Consider the questions below when you speak with them but frame the questions in relation to their experiences. This interview should last approximately 60-90 minutes, and you may want to digitally record or take notes this interview.
- Second, consider the following questions as broad thinking questions about your historical subject(s) (or yourself) to get you started: What were their motivations for leaving their country and coming to the US? What was the process of migration like? Did they migrate internally before emigrating? What was their experience like once they arrived in the US? How did they relate to Americans and other immigrants, including their family members?Did they experience racism or discrimination? Did they stay involved in their immigrant community, or retain the customs, religion, traditions, etc., of their homeland? How were their experiences similar or different from other immigrant stories we have studied in this course? How has their immigration experience and ethnic identity affected your life? Do you have any doubts about these stories? Can you find ways in which time has changed or diluted the memories?
- Third (the last step in the prewriting assignment), please write 2-3 paragraphs (about 1 page when double spaced, in Times New Roman 12 point font, and with 1 inch margins) that answer a minimum of 3 of the above “broad thinking questions.”
- First Choose One of the following options:
- Roots Paper (20%) The purpose of this assignment is for you to analyze some of the interactions between different parts of the world (or between different groups) and explain how these relationships have affected the development of ethnicities and identities in American immigration history. This paper will be a 5-6 page “Roots Paper” and you will select one of these three options. First, if you yourself are an immigrant, you may choose to write your own immigration story. Second, you may choose to write about your family or a family member’s immigration or Great Migration story. Or, third, you may choose to interview an immigrant and tell their story. Regardless of which of the three options you select, the purpose of this paper is to relate the immigrant story that you’ve selected to the themes and readings from the course. A good essay will include the individual’s relationship to immigration/migration and connect that story to some of the push and pull factors of immigration/migration we have discussed in this course. In sum, you are answering the following question: how is this immigrant’s experience connected to the larger story of American immigration history?
- You can see examples of Roots papers from students in the course in past years in Becoming American, Becoming Ethnic by Thomas Dublin (available on course reserve in the library) and on the former course website: http://bingweb.binghamton.edu/~hist264a/rootexam.htm
- You may also wish to use the library’s brand new subscription to ancestry.com to assist you with this endeavor: https://login.proxy.binghamton.edu/login?url=https://ancestrylibrary.proquest.com.
Late policy – Late papers will lose a third of grade per day (i.e. a B+ à B after one day). This includes weekends. Papers must be turned in through Turnitin by the due date and time. If the paper is not uploaded to Turnitin it will not be graded, and it will be counted as late for every day it is not uploaded (even if a hardcopy has been submitted).
Midterm (20%) and Final Exam (25%): The midterm and final exams will address topics covered in the modules and the readings. The purpose of these examinations is to assess your knowledge of some of the major themes in American immigration history. The exams will include an identification section where you will explain who, what, where, when, and why (historical significance) of a specific historical actor or event and a short essay. On identifications, the why of the identification is the most important part. You will need to explain the identification’s significance to American immigration history. In short, you will answer these questions for each term: why do we need to know about this person, concept, or event? What does it tell us about American immigration history? You will also need to select one of two essay questions and construct a short analytic essay. A good, well-thought essay will not restate facts and ramble off details but make an argument with specific evidence to back that argument from the course modules and readings.
This course will be a combination of online readings, lectures, online exhibits and videos, and discussion postings. All discussion posts must be fully completed on the day they are due (original discussion posts are due every Thursday by 5pm whereas discussion responses are due each Friday at 5pm). You will not be able to complete the weekly readings, lectures, discussion posts/replies, and papers in one sitting!! Also, please be aware that I have intentionally put the reading and writing assignments in a particular order to help you move through the content efficiently and learn effectively; while you’re welcome to jump ahead at any point, be aware that doing so might make the course more difficult. This 5 week course moves quickly so I recommend planning out your time carefully so you do not fall so far behind that you cannot catch up.
Introduction to immigration history and early American settlements
over the “Welcome, start here” module where you will find the syllabus, and
take a moment to check out the Blackboard site.
- Please post a new thread on the discussion board introducing yourself to me and your classmates.
- Read:Oscar Handlin, “Immigration Portrayed as an Experience of Uprootedness” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 5-6); and George J. Sanchez, “Race, Nation, and Culture in Recent Immigration Studies” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 19-25).
- Please introduce yourself by following the discussion prompt on the discussion board titled “Introductions.”
Lesson 1: Colonial Settlements and Indentured Servitude
- Read: Alison Games, “Adaptation and Survival in the New World” (Ngai and Gjerde, eds., Major Problems in American Immigration History, 65-70).
- Read: “The John Harrower Diary, 1773-1776,” Immigrant Voices, 25-62.
Lesson 2: Atlantic Slavery
- Read: Ira Berlin, “Prologue” and “Movement and Place in the African American Past” in The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations (2010).
- Read: “Thomas Philip, a Slave Trader, Describes the Middle Passage, 1693” (Ngai and Gjerde, eds., Major Problems in American Immigration History, 49-52).
DUE: Discussion Posts, 1 original thread (due Thursday by 5pm EST) + 2 replies (due Friday at 5pm EST) = 3 posts in total per discussion board (so 6 in total for Week 1 because of the “Introductions” board).
The First and Second Waves of European Immigration and Early American Nativism
Lesson 1: Irish Immigration
- Read: Kevin Kenny, “The Global Irish” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 122-134).
- Read: Immigrant Voices, 63-81.
Lesson 2: Early American Nativism
- Read: Kathleen Neils Conzen, “German Catholic Immigrants Who Make Their Own America” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 134-143).
- Read: Samuel F.B. Morse Enumerates the Dangers of the Roman Catholic Immigrant, 1835 and Political Cartoon (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 119-121).
- Read: Immigrant Voices, 102-134.
Lesson 3: Citizenship and Urban Immigrant Communities
- Read: Linda Bosniak, “Divided Citizenships” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 203-207).
- Read: James R. Barrett and David Roediger, “Becoming American and Becoming White” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 324-346).
- Read: “Jacob Riis Describes the Impoverished Tenements of New York City, 1890” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 221-223).
- Read: “Jane Addams on the Settlement as a Factor in the Labor Movement” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 236-241).
- View: PowerPoint of Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis photos
- Discussion Posts, 1 original thread (due Thursday by 5pm EST) + 2 replies (due Friday at 5pm EST) = 3 posts in total.
- Paper 1: Primary Source Analysis.
Anti-Chinese Sentiment, The National Origins Act, and Mexican-Americans
Lesson 1: Anti-Chinese Sentiment
- Read: John Higham, “The Evolution of Racial Nativism” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 346-354).
- Read: Lee Chew, “The Biography of a Chinaman” on Bb
- Read: “The Asiatic Exclusion League Argues that Asians Cannot be Assimilated, 1911” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 314-316).
- View: Anti-Immigrant Cartoons on Bb
Lesson 2: The National Origins Act
- Read: Mae Ngai, “The Invention of National Origins” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 387-393)
- Read: Immigrant Voices 158-184.
- Read: “Madison Grant on the “Passing of a Great Race,” 1915” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 317-319).
Lesson 3: Mexican Immigration
- Read: David G. Gutiérrez, “The Shifting Politics of Mexican Nationalism and Ethnicity” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 392-399).
- Read: “Recalling the Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s” and “Sailors and Mexican Youth Clash in Los Angeles, 1943” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 412-419).
- Read: “Mary Kidder Rak Writes That Patrolling the Border is a “Man Sized Job” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 373-374).
- Discussion Posts, 1 original thread (due Thursday by 5pm EST) + 2 replies (due Friday at 5pm EST) = 3 posts in total.
- Prewriting Assignment (i.e. preparation for your Roots Paper).
- Midterm Exam: A study guide is posted in the week’s module. You will be given 5 identification terms and 1 essay question to answer. The midterm exam is worth 20 percent of your final grade and you will have 90 minutes in total to complete the exam.
The Era of Gatekeeping: Immigration Reform and Ethnic Policies from WWII through the 1965 Immigration Act
Lesson 1: Japanese Internment
- Read: Alice Yang Murray, “The History of “Military Necessity” in the Japanese American Internment” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 431-438).
- View: Japanese Internment PowerPoint.
- Read: Immigrant Voices, 184-206.
- View and Listen:Wartime Propaganda andInterviews with Japanese Internment Survivors:
- Wartime Propaganda video: https://youtu.be/BK6ZtcLocaA
- Pat Morita Interview: https://youtu.be/2XpPbBoxBME
- AJ+, “Japanese Americans Look Back on WWII”: https://youtu.be/fKrtHmLVuw8
- “Never Again-A Story of Yaeko Nakano”: https://youtu.be/te_rqnkjAp0
Lesson 2: Shifting Immigration Law, 1940-1965
- Read: Mae M. Ngai, “The Liberal Brief for Immigration Reform” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 464-470).
- Read: “Historian Oscar Handlin Criticizes the Nation-Origin Quotas (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 460-463).
Lesson 3: Puerto Rican Migration and U.S. Territories
- Read: Lorrin Thomas, “Representing the Puerto Rican Problem” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 471-476).
- Read: “Piri Thomas Thinks About Racism, 1967” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 454-458).
- View: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CesHr99ezWE
- Discussion Posts, 1 original thread (due Thursday by 5pm EST) + 2 replies (due Friday at 5pm EST) = 3 posts in total.
- Roots Paper (20%), see the Week 4 module on blackboard for more detailed instructions and the grading rubric.
Immigration from the 1970s through the Twenty-First Century and Trump Era
Lesson 1: The 1980s, Amnesty, and Refugees
- Read: Aristide R. Zolberg, “Refugees Enter America Through the Side Door” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 546-554).
- Read: “The Nguyen Family: From Vietnam to Chicago, 1975-1986,” Immigrant Voices, 207-225.
- View: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Migrants and Refugees (2015): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umqvYhb3wf4
Lesson 2: Post-9/11 Racial and Ethnic Stereotyping
- Read: Leti Volpp, “The Citizen and the Terrorist” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 603-609).
- Read: “Mohammed Bilal-Mirza, a Pakistani-American Taxi Driver, Recounts September 11, 2001, and Its Aftermath” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 573-579).
- View: Vox: Donald Trump’s Refugee Ban, Explained (2017): https://youtu.be/c5ZtB8nLRdU
- View (optional): Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Travel Ban (2017): https://youtu.be/uNKpu94_Xy4
Lesson 3: Ethnic Advocacy, “Illegal” Immigration, and DACA
- Read: Carolyn Wong, “Ethnic Advocacy for Immigration Reform” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 509-518).
- Read: “A Statistical Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants, 2009” (Ngai and Gjerde, Major Problems in American Immigration History, 570-572).
- View: NPR, “How it feels to be a “DREAMer”: https://youtu.be/mErKW3YMw40
- View: Vice, “How DACA Recipients Are Responding to President Trump”:https://youtu.be/huPaQEtBDhI
- View (optional): Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: “Family Separation”: https://youtu.be/ygVX1z6tDGI
- View (optional): Jimmy Kimmel: “Fierce DACA Opponents Meet DREAMer Family Face to Face”: https://youtu.be/5QY5pLQqIYM
- Final Exam: A study guide is posted in the week’s module. You will be given 5 identification terms and 1 essay question to answer as well as two bonus questions for extra credit. The midterm exam is worth 25 percent of your final grade and it is not timed.
***This schedule is subject to change and alterations throughout the semester. Please pay careful attention to announcements, Blackboard, and your email for any changes to the schedule, due dates, or assigned readings.***
Special thanks to Dr. Tom Dublin, who pioneered this course at Binghamton University, and to Dr. Mary Berkery, who also taught this course at Binghamton University. Their earlier incarnations of this course have shaped this online summer syllabus and my research more broadly. Thanks also to the students from my summer and winter term courses (2016-present); your engagement, enthusiasm, and roots stories have been deeply motivating and inspiring to me. It has been a real joy and honor to continue this intellectual and pedagogical work at Binghamton University and I’m grateful for another opportunity to share a piece of it here.