German-Language Migrations and the Early American South in an Atlantic World


Panel co-organizers: Patrick M. Erben, University of West Georgia

                                   Oliver Scheiding, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz


Though Pennsylvania was the focal point of large-scale German-speaking immigration throughout the colonial period, the American South attracted migrants from across the Atlantic as well as other colonies and witnessed the development of many thriving communities.  In fact, the first mass exodus of German “Palatines” in 1709/10 was at least in part triggered by the glowing promotional description of North Carolina written by a Lutheran pastor under the pseudonym Joshua von Kocherthal.  In the 1730s and 40s, Moravians attempted a communal congregation in Savannah and eventually succeeded in founding the Wachovia settlement in North Carolina; the Lutheran Salzburgers settled in Ebenezer, Georgia, just a few miles up the river from Savannah.  The Salzburgers were led by their senior pastor Johann Martin Boltzius, who left behind extensive writings on the life of the settlement and his opposition to the introduction of slavery in Georgia.  Driven out by increasing land scarcity in Pennsylvania and other mid-Atlantic states, many German-speaking settlers followed a migratory route down the Great Valley through Virginia and beyond. 

This panel seeks to explore various aspects of the frequently overlooked German-language presence in the American South:  What European conditions, religious networks, and Atlantic World migration routes led to the influx and settlement of German-language speakers?  How did promotional tracts compare the South to commonly preferred destinations farther North?  What conditions in the South attracted German settlers and led to collaborations and conflicts with other religious groups (such as the Moravian-Lutheran tensions in early Georgia) or with the English-speaking majority (especially over the issue of slavery)?  Most importantly, what ideals, experiences, and visions of the American South do German-language writings produced by these communities and their members reveal? 

Please send 200-300 word paper proposals as well as short CVs to Patrick M. Erben at by Friday, September 7, 2012.