Immigration since 1840
Coming to America
Follow generations of immigrants as they travelled to the U.S. Excited by the possibility of wealth, eager to start a new life, or pushed away by conflict, immigrants faced a number of opportunities and obstacles upon arrival. With photographs, heirlooms, writings, and travel documents, learn how their paths to America changed over time.
From East and West, 1840-1870
Trace history of American immigration through the mid-nineteenth century. From the Irish to the German to the Chinese—their stories are tied to both the growth of cities like New York and the settlement of the West.
Through Ellis Island and Angel Island, 1870-1920
Discover America’s most famous era in immigration history. The Golden Door, also known as Ellis Island, opened to immigrants from Northern and Eastern Europe, just as Angel Island welcomed those from Asia. Through letters and songs, through hardships and persistence, all labored to find new homes across the U.S.
Becoming an American
Learn about the opportunities and pressures immigrants have confronted to “become American,” from cultural and educational programs like English language classes and social events to formal citizenship processes. As immigrants have experienced and adopted American pastimes and practices, they have also maintained communities and traditions from the past.
Discrimination and Reform
Investigate how American opinion and policy on immigration has shifted over time. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the deportation of individuals through WWII to modern anti-immigrant rallies, these events and more illustrate how xenophobia has been historically rooted in racism, fear, and economic insecurity.
Immigration Quotas, 1920-1939
Find out how the U.S. redefined and restricted immigration in the 1920s. After contentious debate between nationalist organizations and immigrant advocacy groups, the Immigration Act of 1924 established quotas based on national origins. Though it severely limited the flow of peoples to the U.S., immigrants persisted, finding new ways to arrive, settle, and thrive in the early 20th century.
Laborers, Aliens, and Refugees, 1940-1965
Explore how World War II affected immigration. As the war raged overseas, people came to the U.S. in search of work and refuge. Others found themselves no longer welcome. With peace, the U.S. established new points of entry for those looking to establish a new life in the postwar era.
Immigration since 1965
Meet the contemporary faces of immigration. With the landmark Hart-Celler Act of 1965, American immigration expanded in both size and scope. The nation welcomes peoples from all across the globe yet still grapples with its borders. Immigration continues to inspire progress and debate.
Topic curated by Andrea Ledesma, Digital Public Library of America