Illinois has had an immigration history more complex than that of many states. Its early history was characterized by movements of Native Americans and influxes of people from other parts of the United States. During the nineteenth century, the state began drawing large numbers of European immigrants to its farmlands and cities, and the twentieth century brought in new waves of immigrants from Latin American countries and Africa.
Illinois’s early immigration history made it a microcosm of the north-south split within the United States as a whole. After the nation gained its independence, many southerners migrated to Illinois from Kentucky (which provided Abraham Lincoln’s family), Virginia, and Tennessee. The Blackhawk War of 1832 drove most of the few remaining Native Americans out of northern Illinois, and then new arrivals from New England and New York State began dominating Illinois’s commerce and politics. By 1860, the state was divided between those who approved of slavery and favored secession and those who favored abolition and preserving the Union. Illinois remained in the Union during the Civil War, but some of its southern counties remained sympathetic to the Confederacy. As late as the twenty-first century, northern and southern accents could still be observed around the state.
Illinois’s first great influx of foreign immigrants came after 1830 with the arrival of
During the second half of the nineteenth century Illinois’s population increased by more than 20 percent every decade. A large part of this increase was due to foreign immigrants, especially Germans and Irish, along with smaller numbers of Swedes and British. Germans settled throughout most of the upper Mississippi Valley, from St. Louis in the south to Wisconsin in the north, and they also settled in
The population of Illinois’s largest city, Chicago,
After 1920, immigrants to Illinois came from new sources, especially in Chicago. In 1900, 30,150
By 2006, Illinois’s estimated population of 12,832,000 included 1,773,000 foreign-born residents. The state’s rich ethnic mix was reflected in its linguistic diversity. More than 10 percent of the state’s people spoke Spanish at home, and tens of thousands of families were speaking Polish, German, Tagalog, Italian, Chinese, Korean, French, Russian, or Greek in their homes.
Arredondo, Gabriela F. Mexican Chicago: Race, Identity, and Nation, 1916-39. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2008. Analysis of how the revolutionary background of Chicago’s Mexican immigrants influenced their adjustment to American life. Candeloro, Dominic. Chicago’s Italians: Immigrants, Ethnics, Americans. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 2003. Traces the contributions of Chicago’s Italians to labor unions, politics, and religion, and treats changes brought to the Italian community by World War II. Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1990. Thorough but readable treatment of groups of immigrants from the seventeenth century through the 1980’s. Frazer, Timothy C., ed. “Heartland” English. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1987. Collection of essays describing the impact immigrants and settlement had on the spoken English of several midwestern states, including Illinois. Pacyga, Dominic A. Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago: Workers on the South Side, 1880-1922. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Study of Polish immigrants who labored in Chicago factories and attempted to create neighborhoods like those of their homeland.
Great Irish Famine