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Immigration and the Legacies of the Past: The Impact of Slavery and the Holocaust on Contemporary Immigrants in the United States and Western Europe

  • Nancy Foner (a1) and Richard Alba (a2)

It is a basic truism that the past influences the present, but the key questions concern which past and how its impact occurs. In this paper we seek to understand how legacies of the past affect the pathways and experiences of contemporary immigrants. Our specific concern is with the present-day impact of two momentous historical ethno-racial traumas: the Holocaust in Western Europe, and slavery and ensuing legal segregation (“Jim Crow”) in the United States. At first blush, their legacies seem unrelated to immigration today, and these pasts are rarely central to discussions about it. But in fact memories of and institutional responses to the sins of the Nazi genocide, on the one hand, and of slavery and legal racial segregation, on the other, have played a role in shaping public perceptions and policies that affect contemporary immigrants and their children.

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
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