Tag Archives: US history

NAFTA, Maquiladoras, and Mexican Immigration in the late 20th Century

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Donald Trump, in a September 2016 presidential debate, said, “NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country.” But NAFTA was not addressed in any of his executive orders, and now President Trump’s intentions for NAFTA are unclear. Today Averill and Elizabeth continue our series on US immigration with this episode about the North American Foreign Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Maquiladoras and Mexican immigration in the 20th century. Trump has said little about what improvements he wants, apart from halting the migration of U.S. factories to Mexico. This this conversation is also closely tied to rising nativist sentiments in America about Mexico and Mexicans in general, and cannot be separated from the discussion of wall building, and actions our President has taken to place restrictions on immigration. In our current political climate, this rhetoric and vitriol has had a dramatic impact on the lives of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, which has everything and nothing to do with the actual role of the economy in all of this.

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Show Notes and Further Reading

Bacon, David. “How US Policies Fueled Mexico’s Great Migration.” The Nation

Chicago Booth. “Free Trade.”

Enstad, Nan. Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure.

Gereffi, Gary, David Spener, and Jennifer Bair. Free Trade & Uneven Development, edited by Gary Gereffi, et al., Temple University Press, 2009.

Human Rights Watch. “Mexico’s Maquiladoras: Abuses Against Women Workers.”

O’Conner, Ann-Marie. “Maquiladora Women Finding Freedom.LA Times.

Mexican Immigration in the 20th century: Revolution, Welfare, and Braceros

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The Bracero Program began in 1942, and was an agreement between the United States and Mexico, which started the legalization and control of Mexican migrant workers along America’s southern border area. The US was recovering from the social and economic damages caused by the Great Depression, while also sending many of its potential laborers off to war in Europe. So there was a serious need for workers in the country. The program lasted until 1964, and it is estimated that in this 22 year period, approximately 4.6 million Mexican nationals came to work in the U.S. as braceros. In the first year of its creation, the Bracero program led to the US importing roughly 215,000 Mexican nationals to work as agricultural laborers and then another 75,000 would be sent to work of the Southern Pacific railroad along with 20 or so other railroads.

In this continuation of our series on immigration, Dan and Elizabeth focus on the Mexican-American experience within the United States: instances of racism, the importation of Mexican workers, and how Mexican-Americans were intentionally excluded from the welfare state.

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Show Notes & Further Reading

Zamora, Emilio. The World of the Mexican Worker in Texas. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2009.

Katznelson, Ira. When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. Reprint edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006.

Cohen, Lizabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. 2nd edition. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Fox, Cybelle. Three Worlds of Relief: Race, Immigration, and the American Welfare State from the Progressive Era to the New Deal. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Ngai, Mai. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Updated edition. Princeton University Press, 2014.

Feature Image: “Mexican Farm Workers Who have been Accepted for Farm Labor in the U.S. through the Braceros Program

We Belong Here: Manifest Destiny, Immigration, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

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When we think of immigration we tend to think of people crossing over nation-state borders, from one country to another. These borders seem somehow solid in our collective mind, yet they normally only exist within treaties, maps, and in perceived ideas of community. But in many ways, borders are arbitrary distinctions, attempting to separate one from another but instead creating unique spaces, or borderlands that house a give and take, push and pull, amalgam of culture and people.

In this episode, we are going to be talking about how the United States’ southern border formed and how ideas of race and manifest destiny came to define what it meant to be an American or an immigrant.

Show Notes & Further Reading

Americo Paredes, With His Pistol in His Hand (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958).

Rodolfo Acuña, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1972).

Laura E. Gomez, Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race (New York: New York University Press, 2007).

Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny : The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981).

Raymund A. Paredes, “The Origins of Anti-Mexican Sentiment in the United States,” in Race and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Ages of Territorial and Market Expansion, 1840-1900, ed. Michael L. Krenn (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998).

Arnoldo De Leon, “Initial Contacts: Redeeming Texas from Mexicans, 1821-1836,” in Race and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Ages of Territorial and Market Expansion, 1840-1900 (New York: Garland Pub., 1998).

Katherine Benton-Cohen, Borderline Americans: Racial Division and Labor War in the Arizona Borderlands, (Harvard University Press, 2011).

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Forced Migration

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Immigration and migration have been pretty hot topics lately. This week a particularly interesting question has been bouncing around just about everywhere: were the people transported during the Atlantic Slave Trade immigrants? This got us thinking about forced migrations. In this episode, join Averill and Sarah as they talk about two particularly powerful examples of forced migration: the Atlantic Slave Trade, and Indian Removal. Also, a little chat at the end about the work we do, both as podcasters and as professional historians.

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Show Notes & Further Reading 

Ehle, John. The Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation (New York: Anchor Books, 1988).

Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African (London, 1789).

Inskeep, Steve. Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, And A Great American Land Grab (New York: Penguin Books, 2015).

Wheat, David.  The Iberian Roots of the Atlantic Slave Trade, from Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History 

Maiz, Jaime. The U. S. Government Imposes a “Civilization Plan,” National Parks Service

The Sequoyah Museum 

The Cherokee and the Trail of Tears, Learn NC

For more on the experience of the Atlantic Slave Trade, see this online roundtable of reactions to Sowande Muskateem’s Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage from Black Perspectives and the African American Intellectual History Society.

To see a digital representation of how land was seized from Native American peoples, see this interactive map.

And this map shows a time-lapse of the spread of cotton and the spread of slavery across the deep South. You’ll notice how it corresponds to the land seized from the Cherokee and other tribes.

For more on Cherokee culture, including lots of primary documents and information about the Cherokee people today, see the Cherokee Museum.

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How America Got Its Bases

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It should come as no surprise that the American military has bases all over the world in strategically important places.  But how did we obtain them, especially those ones that exist in the middle of other sovereign nations?  Join Averill, Katie, and Dan as they discuss American base acquisition in this week’s episode of the History Buffs Podcast.

Show Notes and Further Reading

Diego Garcia:

Diego Garcia Islanders Displaced in U.K. Failure Hope to Return Home,” NPR, April 16, 2015

Scott Foster and Robert Windrem, “Tsunami Spares U.S. Base in Diego Garcia,” NBC News, January 4, 2005

Joshua L. Harris, “U.S. Military Presence in Diego Garcia: National Interests vs. Human Rights,” ICE Case Studies No. 120, December 2003

David Vine, “The Truth About Diego Garcia,” The Huffington Post, June 15, 2015

David Vine, Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, Princeton University Press, 2011

Guantanamo Bay:

Copy of checks sent to Cuba

The United States, Cuba, and the Platt Amendment, 1901,” Office of the Historian

Agreement Between the United States and Cuba for the Lease of Lands for Coaling and Naval stations, February 23, 1903Yale Law School Avalon Project 

The Case for CLosing – and Keeping Open – Guantanamo,” NPR (6 Mar 2016)

Jess Bravin, The Terror Courts (Yale University Press, 2013) 

Philip Ewing, “Fact Check: Is Obama Handing Guantanamo Bay Back to Cuba?NPR (Feb 25, 2016) 

Alyssa Fetini, “A Brief History of Gitmo,” Time (12 Nov 2008) 

Jeannette L. Nolen, “Guantanamo Bay detention camp,” Encyclopedia Britannica (Updated 22 May 2013)

Michael J. Strauss, The Leasing of Guantanamo Bay (ABC-CLIO, May 14, 2009)


Featured image: Panorama showing 1st, 2nd & 3rd Regiments, U.S. Marines, Deer Point Camp, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 26, 1911 (Library of Congress)

Abortion and Birth Control before Roe v. Wade

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At the Women’s Marches across the U.S. on January 21st, there were hundreds–maybe thousands–of women in their 60s, 70s, and 80s who held up signs that conveyed their frustration with still needing to fight for rights like birth control and abortion. This is a battle that has waged for so, so long. On this episode, Sarah and Elizabeth look back at the late 19th and early 20th century struggle for women’s rights. After our country finally granted women the right to vote in 1920, the emphasis of the women’s rights movement shifted to focus on another issue: access to methods of family limitation.



Show Notes & Further Reading

Jean H. Baker, Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion (New York: Hill and Wang, 2011).

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction (Random House Vintage Books Edition, 1980).

Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America (Chicago, 2002)

Regina Morantz-Sanchez, Conduct Unbecoming a Woman: Medicine on Trial in Turn of the Century Brooklyn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Diane Sands, “Using Oral History to Chart the Course of Illegal Abortion in Montana,” Frontiers: A Study of Women’s History, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1983)

Early American Family Limitation

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Birth control and abortion are constant flash points in contemporary politics, and they’re often described as signs of a rapidly changing society. But women have always had ways (though not always quite as effective ones) to control family size, and early American women were no exception. Understanding the role that reproductive rights has played in American history provides critical context to today’s debates. Have we always had these kinds of debates? How did Americans think about abortion in the late 18th century, or the 19th century? In this episode, Elizabeth and Sarah start a three part conversation about women’s reproductive rights in United States history by talking about birth control methods and abortion in the 18th and 19th century.

Show Notes & Further Reading 

Dayton, Cornelia Hughes. Women before the Bar : Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995).

Duden, Barbara.  The Woman beneath the Skin : A Doctor’s Patients in Eighteenth-Century Germany (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).

Gordon, Linda. The Moral Property of Women : A History of Birth Control Politics in America. 3rd edn (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002).

Klepp, Susan E.  Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820 (Chapel Hill, 2009).

Mohr, James C.  Abortion in America : The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800-1900 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (New York: Vintage Books, 1991).

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