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Event name

Three Historians Walk Into A Saloon: 1924


Thu 11 / 30 / 2023
6:30 PM to 7:30 PM


virtual - YouTubeLive

Who can attend

Open to all


Three Historians Walk Into A Saloon: 1924
presented by New York City's Tenement Museum
Click on YouTubeLive below to access the program.  

Join us on November 30 on YouTube Live for a discussion on the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, the most comprehensive immigration restriction to date and the first immigration law to explicitly exclude Europeans. Between 1880 and 1924, 23 million immigrants entered the country, and New York’s population jumped from 1 million to over 5 million. The primary sources of immigration to NYC were Italy and Russia. But in 1921 and 1924, Congress established national origin quotas, ending an era of immigration.

Professor Mae Ngai of Columbia University looks at the long-term legal ramifications and engages in conversation with Eric Goldstein and Maddalena Marinari on the law’s impact on the Eastern European Jewish and Italian immigrants of New York’s tenements. What impact did this law have on those immigrants already in the country? What did this law say about who could be American?

What are the different ways amendments and laws changed ideas of what it meant to be American? Who was included and who was excluded? Whether discussing the 15th Amendment, the Chinese Exclusion Act, or the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, we’ll examine the laws’ impacts on the nation, and also how they were received by the Irish, Black, Italian, Jewish, German, Italian, Chinese and Puerto Rican residents of our NYC tenements.

Award-winning historian Mae Ngai, Professor of History and Asian American Studies at Columbia University, hosts a rotating set of colleagues for rousing conversations. While the conversations focus on different moments in the past, they are animated by present-day questions. 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, analyzing past struggles to gain insight on today’s questions. We look forward to addressing your comments and questions as well!