Nation of Sanctuary

Protection, Refuge, Safety, Shelter, Home...Sanctuary has different meanings for different people. From the Colonial period to the present day, the United States has provided sanctuary to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Yet the nation has also displaced communities and denied others the right to sanctuary. Learn about diverse experiences of displacement and refuge, and how the responses of institutions and local communities have shaped ideas of national belonging over time.

Seven people posing on either side of a large, outdoor sign which reads "Episcopal Farmworker Ministry." Four smaller, red yard signs are stuck into grass in the foreground. The sky is blue with scattered clouds.
Curator Sam Vong (second from right) with the staff of the Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry, a community partner assisting in collecting stories and artifacts about Latinx migration and labor in Dunn, North Carolina.  Courtesy of Sam Vong

Nation of Sanctuary is a collaborative community research project that explores how histories of displacement and settlement have shaped lasting ideas about the United States—who belongs and who is excluded.

The project nurtures partnerships with populations often silenced or overlooked in the historical record, including Asian American and Pacific Islander, African American, Native American, and Latinx communities.

Our work asks: What does sanctuary mean for the people who seek refuge and asylum?


Graphic describing the Nation of Sanctuary project's work related to Archives, Oral Histories & Ethnography, Collections, and Education.

Dr. Mireya Loza, smiling and and looking at a paper scrap in her hand, sitting at a white table across from an interviewee wearing a brown jacket. An audio recording device is between them and a bookshelf is behind the desk.
Maria Luz Calderon Ruiz (left) sharing with Dr. Mireya Loza documents she used during her migration from Mexico to the United States. Courtesy of Sam Vong

COVID-19 and Sanctuary

In 2020, COVID-19 impacted people across the globe. We set out to collect and share personal pandemic experiences through our Stories of 2020 initiative. Within these collections, we highlight how existing inequalities and vulnerabilities impact the way communities experience the pandemic. Read the firsthand stories of essential agricultural workers and refugee communities in the United States.

Community Partners

Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry

Based in Dunn, North Carolina, the Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry (EFWM) has collaborated with Nation of Sanctuary to document the experiences of Latinx communities in the agricultural sector, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The oral histories and personal objects donated to the National Museum of American History tell stories that shed light on experiences of migration, religion, and agricultural work.

The Team

  • Dr. Sam Vong | Project Director, Nation of Sanctuary; Curator, Asian Pacific American History
  • Thakur Mishra | Community Liaison and Consultant for the Bhutanese Refugee Project
  • Dr. Mireya Loza | Oral Historian and Subject Matter Expert, Georgetown University