Keynote lecture at the GHI by Alan Kraut (American University)
Thursday, June 16, 2016, 6:00 – 8:00pm
As politicians channel the heated contemporary debate over immigration reform and refugee policy in the United States into the scorching, sometimes vulgar rhetoric of presidential campaigns, there is an opportunity to remind ourselves and those who would govern us that the arrival of immigrants and their assimilation is not a new tale, but a recurring pattern in the American past. Even as immigrant entrepreneurs’ capital and acumen transformed and continues to transform the American marketplace, other newcomers invested and continue to invest their no less precious identities and physical labor in America’s fields and factories, even at the peril of their own health and well-being at times. The perennial negotiation that newcomers conduct, trading their pasts and their labor for their futures, has long inspired the imagination of scholars. This presentation explores that negotiation. Not infrequently, the historians who have devoted their careers to studying America’s immigrant experience have drawn inspiration for their studies from their own families’ striving to profit from their American investment.
Alan M. Kraut is University Professor and Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C. and an affiliate faculty member in the American University School of International Service. He is Past President of the Organization of American Historians and current President of the National History Coalition, which represents the interests of professional historians to government and the private sector. He is an elected fellow of the prestigious Society of American Historians. Dr. Kraut is a specialist in U.S. immigration and ethnic history and the history of medicine and public health in the United States.
The keynote is part of a workshop conducted on the occasion of the completion of the German Historical Institute’s multi-year project, Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present.