American Exodus: A History of Emigration

BackStory

American cotton farmers leave for the Soviet Union onboard the German ship Deutschland, c. 1930s. (Photo courtesy of Yelena Khanga)

American cotton farmers leave for the Soviet Union onboard the German ship Deutschland, c. 1930s. (Photo courtesy of Yelena Khanga)

With immigration reform in the headlines this week, BackStory takes a look at the flip side of the Ellis Island story: emigration. This week, we bring you the stories of Americans who have left the country in search of a better life elsewhere.

From the loyalists who fled revolutionary America, to the free blacks who sailed to Liberia in search of liberty (and a spot at the top of the racial hierarchy), we ask which groups have chosen to leave America, and what ideas and values they’ve taken with them. We meet a stowaway teenager who found the American Dream in the black artistic communities of 1930s Europe. And finally, a group of cotton farmers who moved to Uzbekistan in search of jobs — and the chance to build a communist state.

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