Throughout history, countless millions of people left their native land and moved to a
strange country where no one knows what kind of faith lies ahead for them. The heaviest
immigration worldwide took place from the early 1800’s to the Great Depression. Most of the immigrants came from Europe and half of them immigrated to the United States. Whatever
prompted the immigrants, they were brave, bold, and courageous men and women. They left
familiar communities for a new land and a new people.
The Four Waves of Immigrants
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants. English, Dutch, and French
men and women settled it in its earliest days, the first decade of the seventeenth century. Groups from other nations followed soon. Through the years, the people and their descendants learned to live and work together, and to take pride in being Americans1. This spirit of cooperation and pride helped make the United States the huge, powerful, and wealthy nation it is today. It also helped the country and its people survive many challenges and hardships – including dangers in the wilderness, wars, social turmoil, and economic depression. The economic conditions in the United States and abroad and with the U.S. immigration policy have caused the flow of immigrant to fluctuate. The tally of annual arrivals created peaks and troughs with these reasons.
The four major peaks were referred to as the four waves of immigration2. These major periods of immigration shows how our nation fosters people from every corners of the world. It also exhibits the struggle the immigrants have to face just to be part of this great nation. The first wave of immigrants is mostly early colonists that came from England. Many other colonists came from France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Sweden, and Wales. Some colonists came from Denmark, Finland, and what is now Ukraine. Some colonists sought adventure in America. Others fled religious persecutions. Many are convicts transported from English jails. But most immigrants by far hoped for economic opportunity. Many could not afford to come to America and came as indentured servants. Such a servant signed a contract to work for a master for four to seven years to repay the cost of the ticket. Blacks from West Africa came to the colonies involuntarily. The first Africans were brought as indentured servants, but most blacks arrived as slaves. West African blacks captured
most of the slaves in wars and traded them for European goods. Wars in Europe and America
slowed immigration during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Newcomers included Irish fleeing English rule and French escaping revolution. Congress made it illegal to bring in slaves as of 1808. From 1830 through 1874 several states passed their own immigration laws, since the federal government did not regulate immigration in any way until 18754. During the early 1800’s, New York City began to replace...