From the very beginning, America has been a land of immigrants. They have come for
many reasons: religious freedom, educational opportunities, better jobs and working
conditions, to earn money to send to their homeland, freedom of speech, to escape wars
and famine and some have been forced to migrate to America. Immigration has made and
continues to make America what it is today.
1492 Christopher Columbus encounters North America, while looking for a water
passage from Europe to the Far East. He discovers Cuba and claims the island for Spain.
1534 Jacques Cartier, a Frenchman, continues looking for a passage to the Far East and
finds the St. Lawrence River. France claims that portion of North America.
1541 Spanish interest in the New World is seen by Hernando de Soto's founding of
Florida and Francisco Coronado's founding of what is now Kansas.
1587 The English attempt to build a colony in the New World at Roanoke Island.
1607 Settlers from England, led by Captain John Smith, start the most successful
American colony so far in Jamestown, Virginia.
1614 Dutch fur traders build a trading post in Albany, New York.
1619 In Jamestown, the House of Burgesses is established and passes local area laws.
Women are now in the American Colonies. The first African Americans arrive in the
American colonies as indentured servants.
1620 Captain Miles Standish and his settlers in Massachusetts write the Mayflower
Compact. The colony of Plymouth is established.
1635 The founding of the thirteen colonies continues, by Swedish, English, and Quakers.
This includes Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North and South
Carolina and Georgia.
1754 The Albany Plan, an effort by Benjamin Franklin to unite the colonies, is rejected.
1754 The French and Indian War starts in the Ohio Valley. Britain fights both the French
and the Indians for control of this region.
1763 The Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian War. Britain gains control of North
America east of the Mississippi River, including Canada and Florida. With the French
and Spanish now removed from their frontiers and the Indians deprived of foreign
support in their resistance to British expansion, the inhabitants of the colonies feel less
dependent on Britain.
1770 Spanish begin to establish missions throughout California.
1773 Boston Tea Party marks first open opposition to Britain.
1776 Declaration of Independence is adopted by Congress.
1789 George Washington is chosen to be President of the United States.
1790 The Naturalization Act of 1790 first establishes process for becoming a
naturalized United States citizen.
1800 Native American Indians losing land at a rapid rate due to westward expansion.
1804 Lewis and Clark Expedition - exploring Northwest United States. They are assisted
greatly by Native American Sacagawea. Sacagawea was a member of the Shoshone tribe,
one of 50 different tribes encountered on the journey.
1820 The first Chinese immigrants arrive in the United States at what is now San
1830 German farmers settle in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri.
1840 Irish immigrants first settle in New York seeking relief from potato famine in
Ireland. German immigrants seek safety in America after collapse of revolutionary
movement in Germany.
1846 The boundary line of the United States and Mexico is disputed and the United
States conquers California, New Mexico and northern Mexico.
1848 Gold Rush of California caused people to migrate west for a better life. Californians
use Chinese immigrants as part of the work force
1861 American Civil War begins with Confederates firing on Union Soldiers.
Immigration decreases during the American Civil War.
1862 Homestead Act provides free land in the Midwest to settlers. Immigrant farmers
from western and northern Europe settle here.
1863 Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation frees the slaves.
1864 Immigration is encouraged to fill jobs left vacant from war and to settle
unpopulated areas of the country.
1865 Civil War ends. Four million slaves freed.
1868 The first Japanese laborers arrive in Hawaii seeking a new way of life. Most of
them work on the sugar plantations while some complete the migration to Southern
1875 Scottish immigrant Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
1880 Anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco lead to treaty barring Chinese unskilled
1881 The nation begins to grow in population due to the migration of millions of
immigrants looking for new places of employment and better living conditions.
Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, Russian and other Eastern Europeans enter United States.
Most of these immigrants move to cities, where they find jobs in factories. Living
conditions were very poor.
1882 The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 - "to prohibit the coming of Chinese laborers
into the United States" for 10 years. The first major restriction on immigration to the
1885 Statue Of Liberty, a gift from France, erected at Liberty Island.
1892 Immigrants begin entering the United States at Ellis Island.
1901 First significant immigration from India or from the Canadian Province of British
1901 Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie sells Carnegie Steel for $450 million and
becomes The Richest Man in the World.
1910 Angel Island Immigration Station put into operation near San Francisco- primarily a
result of the Chinese Exclusion Act..
1910 English immigrant Charlie Chaplin arrives in America.
1912 At the Olympic Games in Sweden, Native American Jim Thorpe wins Olympic
Gold in Track and Field Competition. In 1950 Thorpe was selected by American sports
writers and broadcasters as the greatest American athlete and the greatest football player
of the first half of the 20th century.
1917 World War I-The conflict in Europe involves many countries. The United States
declares war on Germany.
1918 Quota systems are set up that favor the British and Northern European
1924 The Immigration Act of 1924 limits numbers of non-European immigrants.
1940 Chinese Exclusion Act repealed. Limits on Chinese immigration lifted.
1940 German immigrant Albert Einstein, (The Theory Of Relativity) becomes a
1941 Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, war declared by the United States.
1943 British immigrant Elizabeth Taylor makes her screen debut in Lassie Come
1948 The Displaced Persons Act - United States accepts more than 395,000
refugees from war torn European nations.
1952 Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (McCarran-Walter Act) under which
quotas are placed on immigration. The total quota for Asia is 2,990, compared with
149,667 for Europe and 1,400 for Africa.
1955 Russian immigrant Irving Berlin was presented a Congressionally authorized medal
for his many patriotic songs including "God Bless America".
1957 United States accepts qualified Haitian workers due to poverty and
the job market.
1959 Lorraine Hansberry writes A Raisin In The Sun. It becomes the first play by an
African American woman to be performed on Broadway.
1960 700,000 Cubans flee communist takeover.
1961 Problems with Cuba , the invasion of Bay of Pigs. Cuban immigrants
allowed into United States.
1963 Medgar Evers is shot in Jackson, Mississippi. He was the secretary for the
NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
1963 Civil rights leader Martin L. King, Jr. makes his "I Have A Dream" speech
in Washington, D.C.
1963 President Kennedy is assassinated.
1965 The Immigration Act of 1965 - The quota system is changed to allow immigration
from all countries into America. Ceilings of 120,000 from east and 170,000 from west
hemispheres are established. Mexican, Cuban, Filipino, Italian, Taiwanese immigrants
enter United States.
1968 Martin L. King is killed in Memphis, Tennessee and Presidential nominee Robert
Kennedy is shot and killed in Los Angeles.
1970 About 20,000 to 25,000 Jamaicans a year are now coming to America.
1971 Italian immigrant and Nazareth, Pennsylvania resident Mario Andretti wins his first
Formula 1 Race.
1973 German immigrant Henry Kissinger is sworn in as Secretary of State.
1974 Mikhail Baryshnikov defects from the Soviet Union while touring with the
1975 Southeast Asians emigrate from Vietnam. The majority settle in
1975 A world-wide immigration ceiling introduced.
1975 Indo-Chinese refugees seek political asylum.
1979 Wayne Gretzky from Canada plays his first professional season in the National
Hockey League where he would hold many records including most points in a career.
1980 The Refugee Act of 1980 - Ten million permanent immigrants are admitted legally
to the United States. Illegal immigration adds several million more to the population.
1980 Hakeem Olajuwon immigrates from Nigeria to play basketball for the University of
1981 Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian immigrant, stars in Conan the Barbarian
propelling the action adventure genre to mega-blockbuster status.
1984 The Miami Sound Machine featuring Cuban immigrant Gloria Estefan releases its
first English-only album.
1985 Nigerians emigrate to the United States, due to their homeland's economy and
1986 The Immigration Reform and Control Act is passed, granting amnesty to many
illegal immigrants. Almost 2.5 million people emigrate from Asia and are granted legal
1990 Immigration Act of 1990 - The number of immigrants allowed into the US per
year is increased to 700,000.
1991 Haitians migrate to the United States. These events lead to a 1993 Supreme Court
decision, a 1996 statutory adoption of a new legal standard, and a special 1998 law
permitting certain Haitian migrants to apply for permanent residency in the United
1992 Ben Nighthorse Campbell is elected to the U.S. Senate. He is the first American
Indian to serve in the Senate in more than 60 years.
1996 Welfare Reform Reconciliation Act of 1996 cuts government aid programs and will
have a great effect on immigrants across America.
Madeleine Albright, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, named US Secretary Of
1997 Frank McCourt, originally from Ireland, receives the Pulitzer Prize for Angela's
2000 Mexican immigrant Carlos Santana wins nine Grammy awards, breaking the record
for most won in one year by one artist.