From Darwin to the Border Wall: America’s Struggle with its Ethnic Identity

4 Sessions: Thursdays; November 12, 19 & December 3 & 10; 10:00 a.m. – Noon


Member Fee:          $50

Non-Member Fee:   $60


While America has always been a mixture of ethnicities and professed to be fundamentally a creedal nation, that identity has been dominated by white Europeans with a Christian religious heritage. Its biggest conflicts in the 18th and 19th centuries were with indigenous native Americans, and with the integration of African Americans, into full societal membership. At the end of the 19th century the arrival of waves of dissimilar immigrants combined with Charles Darwin’s theories of natural origins to stimulate a new crisis of identity. This course will trace America’s reactions to migrants during the time of Darwin up to our current reaction to the migrants arriving at America’s southern border. It will explore our national responses to immigration, the policies that shaped the ethnic component of America’s identity, and the current challenges we face in developing a 21st century concept of nationhood behind which our entire population can unite.

Instructor’s Comment: I proposed this course in February 2020 before the pandemic and before the events that have transpired following the death of George Floyd. I will attempt to integrate how America’s history post-Darwin has influenced the events that continue to unfold.

Session 1, Nov 12:    Overview: de Tocqueville and the legacy of the American Civil War

Session 2, Nov 19:    Survival of the fittest applied to the human race; The Eugenics Movement

Session 3, Dec 3:     Ethnic isolation: From the National Origins Act to the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

Session 4, Dec 10:    Post WWII internationalism, migrants and refugees, and our changing national ethnic content. Toward a 21st century understanding of race.

Dr. John Plant (Ph.D., Colonel, US Army, retired) received his doctorate in 2018 from George Mason University’s Shar School of Policy and Government. His dissertation centered on national policies to mitigate and adapt to population decline and migration. He is currently a principal partner with Kriticos Solutions Group, LLC, a company that assists businesses in developing proposals to meet government requirements. Dr. Plant served in the United States Army from 1972 to 2001, retiring at the rank of Colonel. Following retirement, he served as a defense advisor to the government of the Czech Republic from 2001 to 2007. Dr. Plant resides in Asheville, NC.