Learn French in France
Interview with George Pelletier, Georgia historian and author.CostalGA.com: I'd like to start with a somewhat serious topic, if you don't mind: immigration. As you know, Georgia is one of the quickest growing states in the US and immigration is playing a large part in that.
George Pelletier: That's absolutely correct. In the last decade or so Georgia has begun to see a large influx in Latino immigrants into the state, as most other states have as well. This is a relatively new phenomenon as Georgia has not, historically, had a significant Latino population - at least compared to other states. Though, in fact, Georgia has a long an interesting history with regards to immigration. When Georgia was founded it was actively recruiting immigrants from non-English areas, largely out of the necessity to populate the colony. They welcomed Germans, French Huguenots, and some Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. These foreign immigrants to the British colony - typically fleeing some form of persecution - were valued as the colonial powers viewed them as countering the French and Spanish presences to the South.
CGA: Interesting. How did these immigrants affect the culture of that young colony?
GP: Well, these population groups actually ended up more or less assimilating fairly quickly into the larger population. One group that did maintain their culture for longer was the French speaking immigrants. This is due in large part to fact that there were several distinct waves of French speakers into Georgia. I already mentioned the first, but there were also Acadians who migrated from what is now Novia Scotia in Canada when it was taken over by the British. Georgia was not especially friendly to these immigrants and they suffered religious persecution and were damned to a life of poverty while living in the colony. Nearly all of the French Acadians ended up moving again to Haiti which was a French colony at the time. The third group was immigrants directly from France fleeing the revolution there between 1790 and 1793. Also during this time period there was a large wave of French Haitians fleeing the island after a slave uprising. As opposed to the Protestant Huguenots, nearly all of these new immigrants were Catholic, which drastically changed the religious landscape of Georgia as previously it had been almost exclusively Anglican.
CGA: So what is the lasting legacy of these immigrants?
GP: Well, since there were so many French immigrants coming to Georgia, people began establishing French Schools France would have approved of. The schools would place an emphasis on maintaining their culture and since many of the young students would learn French in France, they would provide instruction in English. While many of these schools have faded the influence of the french immigrations remains. Even today nearly 1 person out of every 100 speaks French at home. The influx of Latinos has shifted language demographics so that now Spanish is the second most spoken language, but for a very long time French held that title for Georgia.
CGA: Thank you very much for you time. The readers of CostalGA.com appreciate you insight!
GP: Thank you.