SALEM — There was a time in America when there was no such thing as an “illegal immigrant.” “If you could get here, you could stay,” said historians Donna Gabaccia and Janet Nolan.
While early immigration was motivated by politics, immigration since the early 19th century has been driven more by economic motivations, writes Vincent Cannato, associate professor of history at UMass, Boston. People needed work and the United States had jobs. The work immigrants do, which changes with time, assists and enables America’s economic growth even though the process has been historically fraught.
On Wednesday, March 6, from 6 to 8 p.m., The House of the Seven Gables presents the fourth in a timely and thought-provoking series of six Community Conversations on current immigration issues against the backdrop of America’s immigration history. This fourth conversation focuses on immigrants and work.
The evening begins with the screening of a documentary titled “Destination America.” Historians Gabaccia and Nola look at American immigration by focusing on three immigrant groups that came to work. The documentary features Irish immigrants who provided labor for construction of the railroads; the Norwegians who came to farm; and the Mexicans who were recruited for factory work and then expelled.
Scholar Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello, Ph.D., will lead a discussion at the conclusion of the screening. The evening’s presentation is open to the public and it is free of charge.
The Gables is one of 32 sites around the country to present this six-part series that was conceived and organized by City Lore in collaboration with the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience. The series is funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Both Salem State University and the North Shore Community Development Coalition have partnered with The Gables to help make this series possible.
“The idea behind the series is to provide opportunities for a wide range of people to come together to understand the dynamic and complicated histories of people,” says Dr. Duclos-Orsello. “We want to have structured, civic and civil dialogues using the documentary films as a springboard.”
Duclos-Orsello is a scholar of American and New England Studies with an expertise in immigration and ethnic history, social history, community K-12 outreach and museum education. She is professor and chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and she is coordinator of American Studies at Salem State University. She has facilitated scores of conversations where sensitivity and civility determine the baseline for safe and productive dialogues.
To register for one or more of the Becoming American Community Conversations at The Gables, visit www.7gables.org/events, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 978-306-7001.
The ‘Becoming American’ Community Conversation schedule is as follows:
March 6 — Help Wanted? Immigration and Work
Film: “Destination America”
April 3 — Family and Community
Film: “My American Girls”
May 1 — Immigration and Popular Culture
Film: “The Search for General Tso”