“From the Heart of Europe to the Land of the Free – History of the Czechs in America”

Martin Nekola, who is presenting "From the Heart of Europe to the Land of the Free - History of the Czechs in America" on campus October 11, 2022.

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Date(s) - 10/11/2022
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
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Global Resource Center
W 12th St - Silver City, NM

Title: “From the Heart of Europe to the Land of the Free – History of the Czechs in America”
Location: Global Resource Center Auditorium and on Zoom (https://wnmu.zoom.us/j/5755386823)
Date: Tuesday, October 11, 6-7:30 p.m.
Sponsor: History Program of WNMU

Martin Nekola, Ph.D. received his doctorate in political science at the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. His research is focused on non-democratic regimes, the Cold War and the Czech communities in the USA. From time to time he participates in the election observation missions organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He is the member of Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), he is the author of more than 300 articles and has published 22 books. He is also the Czechoslovak Talks Project coordinator.

Thousands of people dreamed of leaving poor Bohemian lands, crossing the ocean and entering the country of endless hope. Around 1506, the first news about America in the Czech language had spread across Bohemia and was received with great interest. In 1585, the alchemist and metallurgist Joachim Gans from Prague arrived, as part of an English expedition, on the shores of today´s North Carolina and was probably the first Czech who ever set foot on American soil. In the following two centuries more individuals or small groups of pioneers went through the dangerous journey to find happiness on a mysterious continent in the West. Only after the middle of the 19th century was there a massive wave of migration. The emigrants’ motivation was the vision of better living conditions and of getting rich easily, but also there was a desire to escape the political, religious and national oppression in Bohemia, at that time part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Their journey carried them by railway to German ports and from there across the Atlantic to New York, Baltimore (MD), New Bern (NC), New Orleans (LA) or Galveston (TX). After landing, the settlers moved in various directions – to buy farmland in the wide plains of the Midwest or to the region of the Great Lakes, to Illinois, Ohio, or Wisconsin.

Throughout the second half of the 19th century, perhaps with the exception of the 1860s during the American Civil War, more and more Czechs arrived. With the outbreak of the First World War in the summer of 1914, statistics state that there were about 350,000 Czechs living in the USA. The lecture will focus on the development of Czech neighborhoods in Chicago, New York, Cleveland, and St. Louis and other big cities where the Czechs showed an extraordinary desire to associate, and founded a number of compatriot associations, businesses, schools and churches, as well as publishing numerous periodicals. The lecture will also look at the history of Czechs in the Southwest and the presentation will address current-day issues of immigration and the refugee crisis along the U.S. and Mexican border.

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