Selling the East in the American South

For our History 297 class, we had to read Selling the East in the American South by Vivek Bald. Bald’s chapter in this book follows the peddlers from India that came to the U.S. in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. These Indians fell into a strange category as they were Asian, which did not sit well with American immigration policy at the time, and their skin was dark enough that the Jim Crow laws considered them as being basically black. Bald sought to follow the movements of these peddlers through the American south from state to state.  They came at a time when oriental antiques and people from the Middle East and India were viewed as exotic, while pretty much the rest of Asia was still seen as being too foreign. Owning things that came from these lands gave off an air of imperialistic dominance over them. The peddlers tended to move around quite a bit, but ultimately gathered around places like Atlantic city. However, as the men were in the U.S. working, the wives were back home, keeping things together for the men’s return. The men did not have the intention to settle in the U.S., and most of them did not. Though they did establish certain areas that they would operate from, again like Atlantic City or  New Orleans. Bald makes the argument that this group represents a change from the standard narrative of immigrants to the U.S. in the 19th century. The antiquated idea of immigrants just coming to the East or West coast and coming to stay leaves out the groups that came to work but planned on going home.

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