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Golden Door or Border War? Series: The Boston Roots of the Trump Anti-Immigrant Playbook

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Registration is NOT required
Members Free and Non-members Free with admission ($10)

The Boston Roots of the Trump Anti-Immigrant Playbook

Neil Swidey

President Trump’s immigration rhetoric has elicited outrage in Massachusetts, and especially in the vicinity of Harvard Yard (where Trump won just 4% of the vote). So, in Greater Boston, it may turn more than a few faces crimson to learn that—like basketball, the microwave oven, and public education—the intellectual playbook for anti-immigration policy was drafted right here in Massachusetts, by a small group of Harvard-educated Brahmin intellectuals led by Prescott Farnsworth Hall. Their work, which began in 1894, culminated exactly 100 years ago with the passage of the federal Immigration Act of 1917, opening a new epoch of national immigration policy.

In this lecture, author Neil Swidey will discuss the roots of Trump’s anti-immigration fervor and the surprisingly influential local characters behind it. He explored these connections, and their implications, in his Globe Magazine cover story earlier this year.

Neil Swidey is a nonfiction author and staff writer for Boston Globe Magazine. He is the author of Trapped Under the Sea, which was named one of the best books of 2014 by Amazon and Booklist, and The Assist, and coauthor of Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy. He is a six-time winner of the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, and his writing has been featured in The Best American Science Writing, The Best American Crime Writing, and The Best American Political Writing. He is a graduate of Tufts University, where he has taught courses on multimedia journalism. As an outgrowth of his first book, he founded the Alray Scholars Program, a mentoring and scholarship nonprofit that helps give Boston students a second chance at college. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three daughters.

This event is part of “Golden Door or Border War?: United States Immigration from the 19th Century to Today,” a three-part series that investigates the turbulent past and present of immigration in the United States. Join us for the other events in the series:

Boston and the Chinese Exclusion Act
Panel with Professor Emeritus Tunney Lee, Shauna Lo, and Professor Lisong Liu
12-1 pm on October 17, 2017

Poets’ Theatre
An original performance based on immigration-related materials from the Athenæum's collections
6-7 pm on December 12, 2017

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Most programs held in the Bayard Henry Long Room on the Athenaeum's first floor are amplified and assistive listening devices are available for patron use.

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To request ASL interpretation services for any of the Athenaeum's programs, please contact Hannah Weisman at 617-720-7617 or