Though an exceptionally small state, Rhode Island has had a history of diverse immigration, and immigration and politics have long been closely intertwined in the state. The state’s first major immigrant group was the Irish, who crowded into growing industrialized and urbanized areas during the nineteenth century. Because the state’s charter gave much greater representation to the declining rural areas, a political struggle began during the 1840’s that has continued to affect immigrant life in the state into the twenty-first century.
In 1790, the same year in which Rhode Island became a state, a mill at Pawtucket Falls on the Blackstone River mounted a cotton-spinning frame. This ostensibly minor event actually portended the rise of the state’s textile industry that would draw immigrant workers through the century to come. The first major immigrant wave was made up predominantly of
Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, being welcomed by Narragansett Indians while making his first landfall.
During World War II, Rhode Island prospered from the development of defense-related industries. These, in turn, attracted new immigration to the state. After the war, the mix of immigrants became very diverse. Among the newcomers were
With growing populations of linguistically isolated families in which no members over the age of fourteen years could speak English well, the need for
Brault, Gerard J. The French-Canadian Heritage in New England. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1986. McLoughlin, William G. Rhode Island: A Bicentennial History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1978. Perlmann, Joel. Ethnic Differences: Schooling and Social Structure Among the Irish, Italians, Jews, and Blacks in an American City, 1880-1935. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Smith, Judith E. Family Connections: A History of Italian and Jewish Immigrant Lives in Providence, Rhode Island, 1900-1940. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985.
Chae Chan Ping v. United States
English as a second language