During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, about one-sixteenth of all European Czechs immigrated to America, while the Slovaks made up the sixth-largest group of immigrants during this period of the “new immigration.” Eventually, about one-fifth of the entire Slovak nation arrived, trailing only the Poles in numbers among all Slavic immigrant groups in the United States.
The overwhelming majority of Slovak and Czech immigrants arrived in the United States during the fifty years prior to the outbreak of World War I. The first immigrant from the Czech lands,
A few Czech immigrants continued to arrive over the next two centuries after 1633. Following the failed
The Slovaks began to immigrate to America in large numbers during the late 1870’s to escape problems of overpopulation and unemployment at home.
Both groups flourished in the United States. Wherever a community of Czechs and/or Slovaks could be found, thriving ethnic newspapers, fraternal and cultural clubs and organizations, and parishes arose. However, these entities remained separated along Roman Catholic and Freethinker lines for the Czechs, while the Slovaks were even more divided among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Byzantine-rite (Uniate or Greek-rite) Catholics.
The start of
Despite the creation of the new country with greater opportunities for ethnic Czechs and Slovaks, immigration resumed after the war. The numbers rose steadily until the immigration laws of the 1920’s effectively limited the total number of immigrants from Czechoslovakia to about three thousand annually. The 1920’s and 1930’s mark the height of Slovak and Czech cultural life in the United States. However, without the influx of numerous new immigrants, both groups began to acculturate and assimilate, with the second and third generations from the mass immigration period becoming more American. These generations lost interest in the language and the old country ways of their parents and grandparents, preferring to speak English and marrying spouses from other ethnic groups. This trend accelerated after World War II, with people leaving their old ethnic neighborhoods, parishes, and organizations for the suburbs, where the Czech and Slovak Americans retained only aspects of their forefathers’ culture, usually concerning holiday celebrations. Although there was a brief surge in immigration after the communist takeover of
According to the 1990 U.S. Census, almost 1.9 million Americans professed Slovak ancestry, about 1.2 million Americans claimed Czech roots, while approximately 300,000 considered themselves Czechoslovakian. The 2000 U.S. Census saw a slight decline for the Czech Americans, while the Slovak response was close to 800,000, nearly a 58 percent drop in ten years. This decline probably resulted from “Slovak” being listed as an example category in the 1990 U.S. Census and not the subsequent one, while Czechoslovakian ancestry claims rose by 40 percent, or 140,000 people, in 2000.
Alexander, June Granatir. Ethnic Pride, American Patriotism: Slovaks and Other New Immigrants in the Interwar Era. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005. History of interwar America from the perspective of eastern Europeans that focuses on the Slovaks. Čulen, Konštantin. History of Slovaks in America. St. Paul, Minn.: Czechoslovak Genealogical Society, 2007. Translation of Dejiny Slovákov v Amerike (1942). Detailed portrait of Slovak life in the United States before 1914. Habenicht, Jan. History of Czechs in America. St. Paul, Minn.: Czechoslovak Genealogical Society, 1996. Translation of Dejiny Čechův amerických (1904). Describes the living conditions and experiences of Czechs in the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to 1904. Kovtun, George J. “Czechs and Slovaks in the United States and Other Countries.” In Czech and Slovak History: An American Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996. Overview of sources in English about American Czechs and Slovaks. Rechcígl, Miloslav. Czechs and Slovaks in America. Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 2005. Collection of essays relating to the history and contributions of Czech and Slovak immigrants and their descendants in the United States.
European revolutions of 1848
Immigration Act of 1921
Immigration Act of 1924