How Guestworker Programs are Made: The U.S.-Ontario Tobacco Worker Movement, 1920s-1960s

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Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 20174:00PM - 6:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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CSUS and F. Ross Johnson Distinguished Speaker Series


From the late 1920s to the 1960s, almost 2,000 migrants from the Southern United States travelled annually to Ontario to work on tobacco farms. In its early years, this migration system was primarily organized by elite brokers and by previous migrants operating within kinship networks. Over time, and especially during the Great Depression and World War II, governments on both sides of the border struggled to gain control over the movement, an effort that was challenged by employers and migrants alike. This talk explores the character and evolution of this migration system, using it as a case study to gain a better understanding of how guestworker programs are made and change over time. Race, state policy, and political economy in both sending and receiving regions all played key roles in this history. This little-known labour movement complicates our understanding of U.S. migration, demonstrating that the U.S. was at once a migrant-receiving and migrant-sending country. Its also provides an example of some of the complex linkages between the U.S. and Canada in the realms of migration and political economy.

Ed Dunsworth is a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. His dissertation is a transnational history of tobacco farm labour in Ontario, 1925-1985.


Stella Kyriakakis


Ed Dunsworth
PhD candidate, Department of History, University of Toronto

Main Sponsor

Centre for the Study of the United States


CSUS Graduate Student Workshop, University of Toronto


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