Tag Archives: immigrants

Immigrants and Refugees

[This is a re-post of our January 2017 post which was a re-post of our May 2, 2014 post that we felt has become even more relative today and needed to be said again. America’s strength is in its’ diversity. How many ways can we say it – America is a country of immigrants and it is what makes us great!]

This grapevine is growing on a trellis on the island of Harriersand in the Weser River near Bremen, Germany. Not where you expect grapevines, but these are very hardy, and from Missouri, just like the German Utopischer Weinanbau - Harriersandemigrants that gathered there as members of the Giessen Emigration Society, in 1834.  Looking forward to a new life in Missouri, “where the sun of freedom shines” their ship, the Olbers had left with one woman ill on board, and  her disease spread like wildfire, nearly killing the entire ship.  The second group was just beginning to gather in Bremen 180 years ago, only to soon learn that the ship that they’d booked, would never arrive. They would spend weeks on the island, some families even taking shelter in the huge old hausbarn on the island. Others pitched tents and some who could afford to found lodging in the nearby village of Brake.  An emigrant needs all the funds they have saved for that new life.

Unless you have emigrated from one country to another, it is difficult to understand all one faces.  On one level, there is the heated discussions with family and friends, if one’s chosen to share that plan. Some don’t because of this. When the Giessen Emigration Society left Germany, there were close friends very angry with the leaders, Muench and Follenius’ and their decision, labeling them traitors to “the cause”. Some of these same friends would be imprisoned and executed within two years.  Others considered them leaving for an impossible dream, a Utopia.

On another more personal level when one is leaving behind all that one knows, whether good or bad, and giving up all one possesses in the world, it takes a great leap of faith.  One hopes one will find one’s destination everything needed, and hoped for. When one arrives, one often faces discrimination; labeled an illegal emigrant when one isn’t, simply because of a name, one’s  appearance or birthplace.

Others don’t understand how often emigrants make the best U.S. citizens. Why?  Because an immigrant has chosen, worked hard, saved, and has given up everything to be a citizen. Immigrants often know the Declaration of Independence better than a natural born citizen. Why? Because they studied it, believed in it and chose the U.S. because of those words.  Immigrants are very hardy stockholders in a better future for the U.S., because they have already paid a high price to make it their own.

One cannot go back.  America is a melting pot for so many, as nearly all of our families were immigrants once. Once our own ancestors came here with their own dreams pinned with hope for a better future.




“I am in a free country”

Letters sent home to Germany, tell us a story in a way nothing else can. Franz Hillenkamp, came from Warstein with the Giessen Society in 1834. He was 32 years old when he wrote to his dear friend Lorenz Schulte back in Germany in 1843 and said:

“I have never been sorry that I came here, as you have been told so falsely. That thought has not even occurred to me in my wildest dreams, much less in my wakened moments.”I have a good piece of property, no debt, a good wife and 4 blooming children; lots of cattle of any kind, food in abundance, and above all, I am a free and independent man, who is subject to none, except God and the law.”… Our two economies, here and there, are so totally different, that you could not possibly picture it.” … “I am in a free country, you my friend are in an unfree country. Here one may say his opinion freely and openly, but you have to keep quiet, otherwise you could run the danger like thousands of innocent people who have been sentenced and burned at the stake.”

Emigrants choose to make America their home. Not having the good fortune to have been born here, they do not take any of the wonderful liberties of freedom and independence for granted. They suffered many a hardship to call America home, a country where almost all us are immigrants.  Happy 240th Birthday America! May you have many many more. 

Fighting for a Free Missouri

Exhibit on the German Immigrant Abolitionists: Fighting for a Free Missouri at Center for Global Citizenship, Suite 124 – See directions below

Opening reception with curator’s talk by Dr. Sydney Norton, 4-6 p.m. on Friday, February 12, 2016.
Public Viewing February 12, 2016 – May 15, 2016 by Appointment: Call 314-977-9326 or email: michaelk@slu.edu 

Missouri is well-known for its German-American heritage, but the story of 19th-century German immigrant abolitionists is often neglected in discussions of the state’s history. German Immigrant Abolitionists: Fighting for a Free Missouri tells the story of what happened when idealistic German immigrants, many highly educated and devoted to the ideals of freedom and democracy, came to a pre-Civil War slave state. Fleeing political persecution during the 1830s and 1840s, German immigrants such as Friedrich Münch, Henry Boernstein, and Franz Sigel arrived in Missouri in hopes of finding a land more congenial to their democratic ideals. When they encountered slavery, many became abolitionists and supported the Union in the emerging Civil War.

German Immigrant Abolitionists: Fighting for a Free Missouri focuses on the political activism and writings of German immigrants in Missouri before and during the Civil War. Previous research on these intriguing figures has largely been confined to specialists. This exhibition contributes a compelling visual component not only for scholars but also for a wider general audience. Through a variety of photographs, historic objects, newspapers, diary entries, satirical cartoons and maps, this exhibition makes connections between the theoretical underpinnings of these activists’ ideals and the realities of their everyday lives.

Questions that this exhibition explores are: Who were the German abolitionists, and how did they contribute to the political landscape of pre-Civil War Missouri? Did German immigrants work closely with African-Americans in Missouri toward the common goal of ending slavery? How did the editors of and contributors to German-language newspapers in the St. Louis area change the course of the Civil War in Missouri, particularly in regards to recruiting German immigrant volunteer soldiers?

This exhibition is proudly supported by Saint Louis University’s Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Center for International Studies, Center for Global Citizenship, and the Mellon Foundation. The Center for Global Citizenship (CGC) is located at 3672 West Pine Mall. The CGC includes occupant centers and offices housed in neighboring Des Peres Hall. Both buildings are easily recognizable by the array of international flags lining the rooftops. The nearest intersections to the CGC are Laclede Avenue and Grande Avenue and Laclede Avenue and South Spring Avenue.

Lecture: “From the Wacheputsch to the Missouri Putsch: German Radicals Invite Themselves to the American Civil War”
Dr. Steven Rowan, University of Missouri – St. Louis
5 – 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, 2016
Reception to follow.

Lecture: “A German Abolitionist Family – The Muench Family”
Dorris Keeven-Franke, Missouri Germans Consortium
Time TBD on Thursday, April 21, 2016
Reception to follow.

For more information see http://www.slu.edu/department-of-languages-literatures-and-cultures/news-and-events/german-abolitionist-exhibition