Prof. David Henkin  

The University of California, Berkeley | 2226 Dwinelle

Spring 2020 | History 137 AC |  T/ Th 3:30-5:00 PM

Course Description 

Though there are many ways to imagine a nation (a territory, a polity, an ethnic group, a culture), the United States has also been identified, since its inception, with the process and prospect of people arriving from elsewhere. What is the historical basis for this idea? This course surveys the history of the U.S. between 1790 and 2001 through the lens of immigration and from the perspective of immigrants.

As we follow this tumultuous story, we will pursue three related inquiries:

  1. Who moved to the United States from beyond its jurisdiction, under what circumstances, and with what consequences for them and their children? (This is what we call the social history of American immigration.)
  2. What laws, court cases, and other uses of state power encouraged and constrained the arrival of newcomers from particular parts of the world? What attitudes toward citizenship and national borders shaped these developments? (This is the political history of American immigration.)
  3. How have race, ethnicity, national origin, and citizenship been constructed and defined over the course of this history, and how have attitudes toward those categories reflected and influenced the patterns and experiences of immigration? (This is the cultural history of racial and ethnic difference.)

While devoting special attention to the historical creation, consolidation, and transformation of three large categories of U.S. racial identity – White, Asian, and Latino – lectures and readings will also consider the discrete experiences of ethnic groups, such as Irish and Italian Catholics, Jews, and Arab Muslims, who have unsettled or resettled the boundaries of those racial classifications. We will also explore why African Americans and American Indians are ordinarily (and improperly) excluded from the history of immigration – and how their experiences illuminate the evolving distinction between insider and outsider in American history.

We will also track how narratives of immigrant experience have figured centrally in imagining and defining the U.S. nation. And we will consider the attachment of various groups of people living in the United States to stories of distant origin and claims to diasporic identity.

Finally, we will explore, through documents available online and in campus archival repositories, U.C. Berkeley’s ties to the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II.

Course Requirements

Course requirements include regular participation in weekly discussion sections, one close reading of assigned primary sources (600-800 words), one research paper on Japanese internment (2000-2500 words), one in-class mid-term examination and a cumulative examination during finals week.

Grades will be determined according to the following formula: 10% for the document analysis, 25% for the research paper, 15% for section participation, 15% for the midterm, and 35% for the final.

All students, including those taking the course on a pass-fail basis, must achieve passing grades in the research paper, section participation, and the final exam in order to receive credit for the course. Note that section attendance is absolutely mandatory and that more than two unexcused absences from section will jeopardize your ability to pass the course.

This Course Fulfills the American Cultures Requirement

Students with Disabilities

Please make sure your Letter of Accommodation from the DSP office has been filed,

so that proper arrangements can be made.

Students with Religious Obligations

If after familiarizing yourself with the schedule you foresee a conflict between

requirements for this course and your religious obligations, please inform the professor

within the first two weeks of the semester so that proper arrangements can be made.

Special note on Plagiarism

The student community on this campus has adopted the following Honor Code:

“As a member of the UC Berkeley community, I act with honesty, integrity, and respect for others.”

You are expected to adhere to this code.

Reviewing lecture and reading materials with classmates, exchanging lecture notes, and studying together for exams are legitimate and recommended activities. However, written assignments must be completed independently and materials submitted as homework should be the product of one’s own independent work.

Students caught cheating on an examination or deliberately passing off the work of others as their own in paper assignments will receive a failing grade in the course and will also be reported to the University Center for Student Conduct.

Copying language or ideas from other sources without appropriate attribution is also plagiarism and will result in a severe grading penalty and may trigger further disciplinary actions.

For additional information on plagiarism and how to avoid it, see, for example:

Required texts to be purchased (also on reserve at the Library)

* E. Lee and J. Yung, Angel Island (Oxford)

* J. Riis, How the Other Half Lives (Bedford)

* M. Antin, The Promised Land (Penguin)

* K. Peiss, Cheap Amusements (Temple)

* Y. Uchida, Desert Exile (Washington)

* V. Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows (Oxford)

* M. Jacobson, Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post Civil Rights America (Harvard)

Other required readings

Collected in a Course Reader, available at Copy Central, 1971 Shattuck Ave:

  1. Franklin, “Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries”
  2. Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer (pp. 66-105)
  3. Zeh, An Immigrant Soldier in the Mexican War (pp. 3-11, 45-59)
  4. Roediger, Wages of Whiteness (Chapter 7)
  5. Lew-Williams, The Chinese Must Go (Chapters 1 and 3)
  6. Gerstle, “The Immigrant as Threat to American Security”

Accessible electronically from through UCB

  1. Hirota, Expelling the Poor (Chapter 2, “Problems of Irish Poverty”)

Short documents to be distributed electronically:

1790 Naturalization Act

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 1897

“Shut the Door” [A Senator Speaks for Immigration Restriction]

United Nations, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

1951 U.N. Convention and the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees

Recommended background texts

  1. Henkin and R. McLennan, Becoming America (McGraw-Hill), also available for rental in electronic version, chapters 7-30
  2. Kunal Parker, Making Foreigners (Cambridge)


Schedule of Lectures and Assignments

[reading assignments are due by the indicated lecture]



Week 1

January 21       Introduction: What is an Immigrant?

January 23       Africans and Europeans in the New World [Franklin]



Week 2

January 28       What Was a British American? [Crèvecoeur in Reader]

January 30        Guest lecture: Immigration History in the Digital Age [Lecture by Rhae Lynn Barnes]



Week 3

February 4        Naturalization and Asylum in the White Republic [1790 Naturalization Act]

February 6      Warning Out, Removal, Expulsion, and Forced Migration [Hirota]


Week 4

February 11     How the Irish Became White [Roediger in Reader]

February 13     Catholicism, Nativism, and National Politics [Zeh in Reader]


Week 5

February  18    The Many Frontiers of 1848

February  20    Civil War and the Coming of a New Immigration Regime [Lee and Yung, 1-27]



Week 6

February  25    Across a Different Ocean [Lee and Yung, pp. 69-109]

February  27    Restriction, Exclusion, and Ridicule [Lew-Williams in Reader; 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act]



Week 7 –

March 3         Ellis Island, Angel Island [Lee and Yung, pp. 29-67, 145-75; United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 1897]

March  5      Progressives and the Immigrant City [Riis, pp. 59-109, 123-43, 223-29, 243-55]

Contributions to collective bibliography due in section this week


Week 8



March 12        Beyond the Pale: Jews in Der Goldeneh Medineh [Antin, pp. 1—64; 110-62]


Week 9


March  17        Sacred and Secular in the Immigrant City [Antin, pp. 175-97, 207-16, 224-36] 

March  19        Acculturation, Assimilation, and Consumer Culture [Peiss]


Spring Break


Week 10

March 31        National Origins [“Shut the Door” Lee and Yung, 211-45; Ruiz]

April 2           Patrolled Borders [Ruiz]

Research Topic due in Section This Week


Week 11

April 7             World War II and Internment [Uchida]

April 9             Archive Visit: Berkeley and Internment [Uchida]


Week 12

April 14           Guest lecture: Language Politics in California [Ruiz]

April 16           No Lecture


Week 13

April 21        Civil Rights and Family Unification [Jacobson, pp. 1-129]

April 23        White Ethnic Pride [Jacobson, pp. 177-205; 312-88]


Research essay due in Section This Week


Week 14

April 28       Immigrants in the Age of Human Rights [Universal Declaration; 1951 U.N. Convention and the 1967 Protocol]

April 30       Terror and the New Nativism [Gerstle in Reader]


Final Examination will take place on Friday May 15, 7-10 pm