Kentucky has taken in fewer foreign immigrants than more urban states. Most nineteenth and twentieth century immigration was urban or, in the case of Kentucky’s eastern coal region, industrial in nature. However, during the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the next century, immigration to Kentucky began to increase; undocumented Hispanic workers have come in unprecedented numbers.
Although early immigration to Kentucky was dominated by people of
After 1848, famine and political unrest drove large numbers of Germans and Irish to the United States. While most headed for the Northeast or joined the growing tide of settlement in the American Midwest, a number entered the urban centers of the South. In Kentucky, this meant the Ohio River cities of Covington, Newport, and
As occurred in a number of other southern states during the late nineteenth century, some Kentuckians feared that the state was not receiving sufficient immigration to support its economic growth. The state legislature took action, creating an immigration commission in 1880. The commission launched a campaign to attract northern Europeans to the state and met with some success. A number of
As American industry began tapping in earnest the vast timber and mineral resources of the eastern Kentucky mountains during the early twentieth century, new immigrants entered the state. Indeed, as
Into the twenty-first century, Kentucky’s population has remained predominantly white and native born. Nonetheless, during the 1990’s, Kentucky experienced the nation’s third-fastest growth in immigrant population. By 2000, about 2.5 percent of Kentucky’s total residents were documented immigrants. Immigrants from
Hispanics have long worked as laborers in Kentucky. They have had a particularly long-standing presence in central Kentucky’s famous thoroughbred horse industry. During the 1990’s and early twenty-first century,
Barrett, Tracy. Kentucky. 2d ed. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2008. Cantrell, Doug. “Immigrants and Community in Harlan County, 1910-1930.” Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 86 (1988): 119-141. Klotter, James C., ed. Our Kentucky: A Study of the Bluegrass State. 2d ed. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000. Ray, Celeste, ed. The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Vol. 6. Ethnicity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.