Immigrants and Immigration in the Age of Lincoln

Immigrants and Immigration in the Age of Lincoln

Led by: Prof. Harold Holzer (Hunter College, CUNY)
Course Number: AMHI 679
Semesters: Spring 2024



Image: Engraving of Abraham Lincoln, circa 1892 (Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC07102.05)

Engraving of Abraham Lincoln's head

Course Description

While the issue of slavery dominated American political discourse and debate in the nineteenth century, the roiling subject of immigration also persisted as a major area of contention. Through the lens of Abraham Lincoln’s rise in local, regional, and national politics, this course will follow the growing nativist response to the increasing immigration of Catholics in the 1840s through Lincoln’s 1863 and 1864 proposals to expand—and even underwrite—immigration to fill the depleted ranks of Americans in agriculture and industry and the role of German and Irish voters in the crucial presidential election of 1864. Lincoln struggled with the issue of immigration long before his presidency. He eventually proposed the first major immigration reforms in generations and diversified the American armed forces to preserve the Union and destroy slavery. This course will explore and assess the impact, along with its ironies and limitations, of Lincoln’s personal and political evolution on immigration.

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About the Scholar

Harold Holzer, Jonathan F. Fanton Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, Hunter College, CUNY

Harold Holzer is the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College in New York City, a post he assumed in 2015 after twenty-three years as senior vice president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also served for six years as chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, and the previous 10 years as co-chair of the US Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, appointed by President Bill Clinton. In 2008, Holzer was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush. His book Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion, won the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize from the Columbia University School of Journalism, and the Goldsmith Prize from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy and Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

The views expressed in the course descriptions and lectures are those of the lead scholars.