What were the pros and cons of migration to the United States from 1865 to 1940?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Immigrants to the United States and migrants who moved around the United States sought and sometimes found greater opportunities for success, but they also often met with severe hardships. Let's explore the pros and cons of this migration.

Immigrants flocked to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many of these people were trying to escape overcrowded homelands, unemployment, violence, and poverty. They dreamed of a better future in America. And some of them found just that. Many immigrants managed to purchase land in the Midwest and West and create successful farms for themselves. Here, they could own land (something they could not have done in their home countries). Their families could be free. They could become American citizens and vote and participate in political and social life. They could even own their own businesses and direct their destiny in ways they could not at home.

Yet these immigrants also faced significant struggles in America. Those who remained in large cities in the East often found themselves packed into overcrowded tenement houses and working long hours in dangerous factories for little pay. Indeed, immigrant workers were among the most exploited people in the US in this era, and their families suffered along with them from disease, crime, and poverty. Some of them must have wondered if their journey to America had been worth the effort after all.

African Americans struck out on migrations of their own during these decades. Many of them sought to escape the Jim Crow South and find higher paying jobs in Northern factory cities like Detroit. Like all migrants, they wanted a better life, and some of them found it, earning more money and engaging in cultural activities like the vibrant music scene in many cities.

However, African Americans still suffered from discrimination even when they moved North. They still experienced poverty, and they still suffered, working long hours for limited pay (less pay then white workers at the same jobs). They often lived in the most rundown neighborhoods in cities (although they worked hard to improve them) and faced the dangers of crime. When they tried to move into new areas, white potential neighbors often created a ruckus that prevented their entry or forced them out.

We can see, then, that immigration and migration have their pros and cons. The American dream came true for some people, was partially realized for others, and failed for many.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial