HIST 449: American Immigrant Experience

Instructor: Professor Krystyn Moon

Class Meetings: MWF 12:00-12:50PM

Classroom: Monroe 233

Office Hours: MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM, MW 11:00AM-12:00PM

or by appointment

Office: Monroe 220


Office Phone: (540) 654-1479

Office Phone: (540) 654-1479

Course Goals: This seminar allows students to explore the American immigration policy and legislation from the late nineteenth century through World War II.  To explore this topic, students will conduct primary source research on immigration at the National Archives in Washington, DC, and read several secondary sources on the history of American immigration policy. At the end of the semester, students will develop a website to present their research to a broader public and develop their digital skills as well as give formal presentations to the class. Finally, they will work on the following learning outcomes:

  • Understanding of the discipline’s methods and processes
  • Using materials from other disciplines that can be relevant to history
  • Analyzing primary and secondary sources
  • Writing with clarity about the past
  • Conducting research in multiple sites
  • Recognizing the historical nature of global processes
  • Conducting a self-directed study
  • Communicating informally in a group setting
  • Making formal, oral presentations

This course is speaking intensive, which means it will address additional learning outcomes. They are the following:

  • Understand and be able to explain the conventions and expectations of oral communication as practiced within the discipline of the course taken.
  • Apply theories and strategies for crafting messages (verbal, nonverbal, and visual) for particular audiences and purposes.
  • Craft oral messages after a conscious process in which various options are reviewed and will be able to explain and support their choices.
  • Plan, research, organize, support, and deliver ideas and arguments in a public speaking setting.


Class Participation—Because this course is a seminar, students are expected to contribute to class discussions daily to receive a passing grade. Grades will be based on whether a student participated and the substance of his/her comments.   Classroom Discussion Facilitation—Each student along with a partner or partne

Classroom Discussion Facilitation—Each student along with a partner or partners will lead class discussion of a book or selection of chapters/articles during the semester that relates to your research. Students can lecture, do role-playing, have students analyze primary documents, or stage a debate about the reading assignments.  At least one day must be reserved for a general discussion of the text.   

U.S. Immigration History Project—Throughout the semester, students will be researching, writing, and presenting on the history of American immigration policy from the 1880s through the early 1940s. As part of this project, students will complete the following assignments:

Project Breakdown:

  • Project Proposal—Students will work in small groups on a topic of their choosing, which they will then submit as a project proposal with a 1-page bibliography. The project proposal must be approved before the group can proceed with their research. Here are some examples:
    • Implementation of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1880s-1940s)
    • Detention Facilities (1920s-1940s)
    • Mexican Migrant Workers (1900s-1940s)
    • Norfolk’s Immigration Station (1900s-1940s)
    • Jewish Refugees from Nazi-Occupied Europe (1930s-1940s)
  • Research Blog Posts—Each student will write three blog posts during the semester, which they will draft and share with peers, revise based on feedback, and post on our website. Blog posts will be based on primary source research that will lead to a final research project.  
  • Literature Review—Each student will write a literature review briefly discussing the ways in which historians have written on their subject. This assignment must relate to one’s topic. 
  • Presentation—Each group will give a 15-minute formal presentation to the class on your research during the last week of classes.  It is required that students include a multimedia component.
  • Research—Each group will post their final research project on the class website during finals week (see Schedule). As part of this assignment, students must include multimedia components as part of the text. Footnotes and a bibliography are also required.

Speaking Center—Because this is a speaking intensive course, students are required to visit the Speaking Center before the end of the semester for any of our speaking-related-assignments—research presentation, classroom facilitation, or class discussion.  Be sure to schedule appointments early!!!  The Speaking Center schedule fills up fast, especially at the end of the semester. NOTE: Failure to attend to the Speaking Center reduces your participation grade by a full letter grade.


The instructor will contact you within the first few weeks of classes to warn students whose classroom performance is unsatisfactory.  An unsatisfactory mid-semester report will also be submitted for anyone with a grade of D or below on work completed at that time. Writing assignments (with the exception of blogging) will be marked down a full letter grade for each day it is late, and will not be accepted after 48 hours. Students must produce a medical note to reschedule any presentations. Below is the grade breakdown:

  • Class Participation—20%
  • Classroom Discussion Leadership—20%
  • American Immigration Research Project—60%
    • Project Proposal—10%
    • Blog Posts—10%
    • Literature Review—30%
    • Presentation—10%
    • Final Research Project—40%

Grading Rationale:

Academic performance is rated according to the following system:

A        4.00 quality points—Excellent

          A-          3.70 quality points

          B+          3.30 quality points

          B            3.00 quality points—Commendable

          B-          2.70 quality points

          C+          2.30 quality points

          C            2.00 quality points—Acceptable

          C-           1.70 quality points

          D+          1.30 quality points

          D            1.00 quality points—Marginal

          F 0.00 quality points—Failure

Honor Code: The instructor believes that the Honor Code is an essential, positive component of the Mary Washington experience. You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will be taken to the Honor Council. So, do not do it. On the other hand, I also believe that having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of the Honor Code (assuming the writing itself remains yours).  If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to me as soon as possible.

Accommodations:  If a student receives services through the Office of Disability Services and requires accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with the instructor as soon as possible to discuss his/her approved accommodation needs. Bring the accommodation letter with you to the appointment.  The instructor will hold any information the student shares in the strictest confidence unless the student gives the instructor permission to do otherwise.  If a student needs accommodations (note taking assistance or extended time for tests), please consult with the Office of Disability Services (x1266) about the appropriate documentation of a disability.

Title IX: Faculty at UMW are committed to supporting students and upholding the University’s Policy on Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence. Under this policy and Title IX, discrimination based on sex or gender is prohibited. If you experience an incident of sex or gender based discrimination, we encourage you to report it. While you may talk to me, please understand that as an employee of the University, I am required to report to UMW’s Title IX Coordinator what you share. If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, you may also seek assistance from the Talley Center or the Student Health Center. For additional resource, please contact UMW’s Title IX office.

Recordings: In this class, students may not make audio or video recordings of any course activity unless the student has an approved accommodation from the Office of Disability Resources permitting the recording class meetings. In such cases, the accommodation letter must be presented to the instructor in advance of any recording being done and all students in the course will be notified whenever recording will be taking place. Students who are permitted to record classes are not permitted to redistribute audio or video recordings of statements or comments from the course to individuals who are not students in the course without the express permission of the faculty member and of any students who are recorded. Distribution without permission is a violation of educational privacy law. This policy is consistent with UMW’s Policy on Recording Class and Distribution of Course Materials.

Book List:

  • All readings will be made available through DropBox

Course Schedule:

Week 1 (August 26-30): Introduction & Orientation

  • Monday: Introduction
  • Wednesday: Domain of One’s Own Workshop
  • Friday: Secondary Sources Workshop

Week 2 (September 2-6): State of the Field  

  • Monday: No Class (Labor Day)
  • Wednesday: Read Erika Lee, “A Part and Apart;” Bruno Ramirez, “Globalizing Migration Histories?” and Adam Goodman, “Nation of Migrants”
  • Friday: Research Workshop: US Subject Index to Correspondence and Case Files of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1903-1959, RG85, T458, 31 Rolls

Week 3 (September 9-13): American Immigration Policy

  • Monday-Wednesday: Read excerpts from Roger Daniels, Guarding the Golden Door (pages 3-97)
  • Friday: Research Workshop: US, Chinese Immigration Case Files [Index], RG85, M1144, 51 Rolls; US, Boston Arrivals of Jewish Immigrants from HIAS Records, 1882-1929 [Index], American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA; Passenger Arrival Indexes (multiple locations) 1880s-1940s, RG85; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Immigration Records, Special Boards of Inquiry, 1893-1909 (Index), RG85, M1500, 18 rolls

Week 4 (September 16-20): Deportation Policies

  • Monday-Wednesday: Read excerpts from Deirdre Moloney, National Insecurities (pages 1-104)

*** Project Proposals are due at the beginning of class ***

  • Friday: Research workshop

Week 5 (September 23-27): Illegal Immigration

  • Monday-Wednesday: Read excerpts from Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects (pages 1-90)
  • Friday: Research at National Archives, Washington, DC

Week 6 (September 30-October 4): Ellis Island

  • Monday: Bring drafts of blog posts to class
  • Wednesday-Friday: Read Excerpts from Ronald Bayor, Encountering Ellis Island (pages 39-132)

*** Final Versions of Blog Posts are due online on Friday at 8AM ***

Week 7 (October 7-11): U.S.-Mexican Border

  • Monday-Wednesday: Read excerpts from Kelly Lytle Hernández, Migra! (pages 1-100)
  • Friday: Research Workshop

Week 8 (October 14-18):

  • Monday: Fall Break
  • Wednesday: Literature Review Workshop
  • Friday: Research at National Archives, Washington, DC

Week 9 (October 21-25): Blog Post #2

  • Monday: Bring drafts of blog posts to class
  •  Wednesday: Watch Carved in Silence (Kanopy)
  • Friday: Research Workshop

*** Final Versions of Blog Posts are due online on Friday at 8AM ***

Week 10 (October 28-November 1): Angel Island

  • Monday-Wednesday: Excerpts from Erika Lee and Judy Yung, Angel Island (pages 1-68, 145-209)
  • Friday: Technology/Research/Writing Workshop

Week 11 (November 4-8): Literature Reviews

  • Monday: Bring drafts of literature reviews to class for peer review
  • Wednesday-Friday: Watch 14: Dred Scott, Wong Kim Ark, and Vanessa Lopez

Week 12 (November 11-15): The Dillingham Committee

  • Monday: No Class (American Studies Association Conference)

*** Final Versions of Literature Reviews are due at 8AM (Emailed) ***

  • Wednesday: Presentation Preparation Workshop
  • Friday: Research at the National Archives, Washington DC

Week 13 (November 18-22): Blogging and Presentation Preparation

  • Monday: Bring drafts of blog posts to class
  • Wednesday-Friday: Read excerpts from Katherine Benton-Cohen, Inventing the Immigration Problem (pages 1-20, 72-103, 168-233)

*** Final Versions of Blog Posts are due on Friday online at 8AM ***

Week 14 (November 25-29): Presentations & Thanksgiving

  • Monday: Presentations
  • Wednesday-Friday: Thanksgiving

Week 16 (December 2-6): Presentations

  • Monday-Wednesday: Presentations
  • Friday: Please attend the History and American Studies Symposium

Week 17 (December 9-13): Finals Week

  • Friday: Final research projects are due on the website on December 13 at noon