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HIstory of Immigration to Rhode Island

Rhode Island residents have come from all over the world.
by

Brianna Ericson

on 13 February 2013

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Transcript of HIstory of Immigration to Rhode Island

History of Immigration to Rhode Island Early 1800s Today Between 1810 and 1845, 5,000 Irish immigrants settled in Rhode Island, mostly in Federal Hill and Fox Point, which was called Corky Hill at the time.

Cape Verdean immigration to Massachusetts and Rhode Island began as New England whaling ships would pick up crewmen in Cape Verde and bring them back to America.

Newport, Bristol, and Providence were ports of entry for the “Triangular Slave Trade” with the South and Caribbean. But slavery waned during the Revolutionary War, and Rhode Island had one of the first anti-slavery laws.

1922: Rhode Island passed the Peck Law, requiring all public and private schools to teach English. Community backlash against this law caused its substantial weakening by 1925.

1948: The Displaced Persons Act was passed by Congress, which allowed for refuges to come to the United States who would not have been allowed under existing immigration law. This marked the beginning of a period of refugee immigration.

1959: Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution prompts a mass exodus of Cubans to America, many of whom settle in New York, and travel North to Providence. Early 1900s 1965: Immigration and Naturalization Act was passed, basing immigration policy on a preference for reunited families and bringing highly-skilled workers into the country. An influx of Asian and Latin American populations followed.

In the 1960s, textile mill owners in Central Falls recruited Colombians to work in their factories.

Cape Verdean immigration rose due to the lift on restrictions against black immigrants. Pawtucket became the city with the largest Cape Verdean population in Rhode Island. There are currently almost 18,000 Cape Verdeans residing in Rhode Island.

1970s: The “New Immigration” to Rhode Island started, and continues to the present day. Immigrants were Jews fleeing religious persecution in the former Soviet Union, Cambodian refugees running from the genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge, Hispanics, Haitians, and West Africans escaping political repression, war, and poverty. Mid 1900s Rhode Island immigrants' most common countries of birth are Portugal, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and other West African countries. Today, immigration to the United States is at its highest level since the early 20th century. In fact, as a result of the variety of these recent immigrants, the United States has become a truly multicultural society. The story of America — who we are and where we come from — is still being written. 1905: Over 20,000 Italian immigrants were living in Providence’s “Little Italy” on Federal Hill, and were employed in the mills.

1905: About 8,000 Jews were living in Providence; those from Lithuania and Poland settled in the North End, and those from Galicia and Romania settled in South Providence.

1915: The Armenian Genocide spurred a substantial Armenian immigration wave to Rhode Island.

1920s: Dozens of Puerto Rican migrant workers were brought here to work on farms located in the Elmwood neighborhood of Providence, and also on the farms serving the Navy base in Newport.


Woonsocket was known as “la ville plus francaise aux Etats” due to its large French Canadian population. By 1865, Rhode Island’s Irish population was over 27,000, largely due to the potato crop failure and successive famine. They established settlements and churches in the urban and industrial areas of Rhode Island, like Newport, Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket.

Many Portuguese immigrants arrived in Providence and Pawtucket. Today, the Portuguese make up the 5th largest ethnic group in Rhode Island.

1885: The Catholic Irish had established settlements and churches in the urban and industrial areas of Rhode Island, like Newport, Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket Late 1900s/Early 2000s 1980s: Dominican immigration to Providence began in the 1980s as they began to move out of New York City to escape the highly urban atmosphere.

Guatemalans began flowing to Rhode Island in large numbers in the 1980s as they fled their country’s civil war.

About 6,000 Liberians fled to the United States, and settled in Providence in the early 1990s after civil war broke out in 1989. Rhode Island is thought to be the state with the largest Liberian population in the country. There are now 15,000 Liberians residing in Rhode Island.

2005: Dominicans were the largest group of immigrants to be sworn in as US Citizens in Providence, with 193 out of a total of 641 people. As of 2005, the total number of Dominican Republic-born people living in Rhode Island was 16,382.

There are about 15,000 Rhode Islanders of Colombian heritage, concentrated in the Blackstone Valley Area.
1892: President Benjamin Harrison designated Ellis Island as the United States’ first immigrant station. Many Southern and Eastern Europeans passed through New York on to their Rhode Island destination. “The Golden Door” and Bustling Providence
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