Arkansas has experienced less foreign immigration than many other states. Nevertheless, by the late nineteenth century, small groups of immigrants were leaving their cultural and economic marks on the state. During the early twenty-first century, a growing presence of undocumented Latino laborers was fueling a lively and sometimes heated public debate about illegal immigration in Arkansas.
Before the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), Arkansas’s population was made up mostly of English,
As happened in many southern states during the years immediately after the Civil War, many leading Arkansans feared that their state’s small population and lagging rates of immigration were hindering economic development. During the 1870’s, the state began to circulate promotional literature abroad and dispatched agents to attract western and northern European immigrants to Arkansas. Such efforts were most successful in attracting more Germans, whose population grew to 5,971 by 1900. Although German accounted for only 0.46 percent of the state’s population, they left an enduring cultural imprint on the state’s landscapes–especially in the scattered agricultural communities they founded in the Ozarks.
This picture began to change during the late twentieth century. During the 1990’s, Latin American–mostly
Although other immigrant groups–including Vietnamese and other Asians–have begun increasing their presence in Arkansas, their growth rates lag far behind those of other, more rapidly developing southern states, and Asian immigrants are vastly outnumbered in Arkansas by Mexicans and
Ray, Celeste, ed. Ethnicity. Vol. 6 in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007. Trumbauer, L. German Immigration. New York: Facts On File, 2004. Watkins, Beverly. “Efforts to Encourage Immigration to Arkansas, 1865-1874.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 38 (1979): 32-62.
Czech and Slovakian immigrants