In Light of the Crisis at Our Border: A Glimpse into Alabama's Immigrant History

A. Nicole
immigrantsPhoto byGalt Museum & ArchivesonUnsplash

The ongoing crisis at the U.S. border has brought the issue of immigration to the forefront of national discourse. While the influx of immigrants seeking a new life in America is not a new phenomenon, it is essential to understand the historical context of immigration in the United States to make informed decisions about immigration policies. In this article, we will take a peak into Alabama's immigrant history, specifically focusing on what the immigrant population looked like in the state in the year 1900.

Waves of Immigration to the United States

Before diving into Alabama's immigrant history, it's important to understand the broader context of immigration waves in the United States. There have been four major waves of immigration to the U.S., each characterized by unique demographic and cultural trends.

  1. Early Settlers (1607-1880): The first wave consisted of settlers primarily from northern and western Europe who sought land on the American frontier. This wave spanned from the establishment of the English colony at Jamestown in 1607 to the late 19th century.
  2. Industrialization Era (1880-1914): The immigrants counted in the 1900 Census came primarily from southern and eastern Europe. They were drawn by the opportunities presented by industrialization in the United States.
  3. Immigration Decline (1915-1964): In the era between the world wars, immigration saw a significant decline due to restrictive immigration policies and the global turmoil of the time.
  4. Contemporary Immigration (1965-Present): After 1965, immigration to the U.S. experienced a resurgence, with individuals from Asia and Latin America moving to the U.S. in large numbers.

Alabama's Immigrant Population in 1900

In 1900, the immigrant population in Alabama was vastly different from what we see today. Although the percentage of immigrants in the overall population was roughly similar to today's figures (around 0.2%), the raw population was much smaller, with just shy of 10.5 million immigrants in the entire United States at that time.

Stacker compiled data from the U.S. Census Bureau to provide insights into the largest sources of immigrants in Alabama in 1900. Here's a glimpse of the top 10 countries of origin for immigrants in the state during that year:


  • Number of residents: 3,634
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 24.90%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.20%


  • Number of residents: 2,347
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 16.08%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.13%


  • Number of residents: 1,792
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 12.28%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.10%


  • Number of residents: 1,223
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 8.38%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.07%


  • Number of residents: 862
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 5.91%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.05%


  • Number of residents: 697
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 4.78%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.04%


  • Number of residents: 539
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 3.69%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.03%


  • Number of residents: 488
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 3.34%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.03%


  • Number of residents: 468
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 3.21%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.03%


  • Number of residents: 341
  • Percent of foreign-born residents: 2.34%
  • Percent of total state population: 0.02%

The Changing Landscape of Immigration

Alabama's immigrant population in 1900 was primarily composed of immigrants from European countries. This reflects the demographic trends of that era when industrialization attracted individuals from various European nations seeking economic opportunities in the United States.

In contrast, today's immigrant population in the U.S. is more diverse, with a significant influx from Asia and Latin America. Additionally, the sheer number of immigrants residing in the United States has grown substantially, with 44.7 million immigrants as of the most recent data.

Understanding the historical context of immigration in Alabama and the United States is essential as policymakers grapple with immigration-related challenges. It helps us appreciate the evolving nature of immigration patterns and the contributions of immigrants to the nation's growth and diversity. As we continue to navigate the complexities of immigration policy, a historical perspective reminds us that America has been a land of opportunity and refuge for people from around the world for centuries.

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