An examination of the nineteenth-century community of German immigrants in Charleston, SC: the ethnic community's beginnings, the nature of its development, the role it played in the evolution of ante- and postbellum Charleston; how the once-vibrant ethnic community fared in the face of the anti-German sentiment that developed after the turn of the century through the years of WWII.
These days—when migration (forced or voluntary) from native lands to host countries (receptive or hostile) figures prominently in every sector of the media—I am struck by how profoundly history repeats itself. As those already in place observe—from comfortable "native" sidelines—the externalities of the immigrant experience, it is all too easy to remain innocent of how "we" relate to "them." In reflecting on what transpired in Charleston in the nineteenth century, when a minority ethnic community was suppressed by the majority's endemic nativism fearful of the "other"—it is not a far reach to find parallels between what happened in that past and the present tensions between immigrants and natives, between majorities and minorities. In the present, as in the past, the "other" continues to be suspect and marginalized, rights and privileges are disputed, defenses brought to bear, prejudices strengthened and renewed. It's all happened before.
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