The Earliest Desis in America

Ruchira Paul in Shunya’s Notes:

India_slavery_2The history of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent in North America….is widely believed to be of relatively recent vintage.  Until now I was under the impression that the earliest group of small but ethnically significant number of Indians to settle in the US were the Sikh farmers of Yuba valley in central California in the early part of the twentieth century. The next wave of Indians (and Pakistanis) to arrive were mostly doctors, scientists and other professionals in the 1960s when immigration laws were loosened to admit more non-Europeans into the US. Since then Indians have emigrated to the US in steady numbers, their demographics changing gradually to include small businessmen, financiers, bankers and IT personnel. Unlike some other groups of immigrants who have fled their countries due to dangerous political / ethnic /religious strifes, Indian immigration to the US has been and continues to be voluntary – largely undertaken for economic reasons. Until now I was not aware of “involuntary” transportation of south Asians to America. It was therefore extremely surprising to discover that Asian Indians were present in American colonies as early as the beginning of the 17th century, brought here by British colonists as their indentured servants or personal slaves.

More here.