Immigration Policy

Virtual Tenement Talk: Three Historians Walk Into a Saloon – 1870


Coinciding with the opening of our Joseph and Rachel Moore apartment, Professor Ngai welcomes Eric Foner and Leslie Harris to discuss the Fifteenth Amendment’s ratification in 1870.

This amendment was the third in a trio of Civil War amendments to the Constitution which freed the enslaved, granted citizenship, and guaranteed the right to vote. The conversation, streamed from our recreated 19th century lager beer saloon, addresses their national significance and also examines the reaction to the amendment as experienced in the 8th ward, a Black and Irish tenement working class district. New York City newspapers describe banners—”Out of Egypt Have I Brought My Children,” and “Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land”—that Black New Yorkers hung from their tenements.

Enjoy a fascinating conversation about American identity, race and belonging.

Three Historians Walk Into a Saloon is a three-part virtual Tenement Talk Series. Set in our 19th century recreated lager beer saloon, where tenement dwellers gathered to read newspapers and debate the headlines, this series features today’s leading historians reliving some of the topics discussed long ago and delving into important turning points in our country’s history.

Award-winning historian Mae Ngai, Professor of History and Asian American Studies at Columbia University, hosts a rotating set of colleagues for rousing conversations about how immigration and migration help us understand the sweep of American history at critical moments, including the Civil War, the industrialization and urbanization of the late 19th century, and the emergence of the US as a global power after World War One. In a recent Atlantic article, Professor Ngai observed: “Americans are still struggling over competing versions of what this country should be.”

This series looks at past debates in the hope that analyzing past struggles will help shed insight on today’s questions.

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