Immigration in America
The Library of Congress feature provides an introduction to the study of immigration to the United States. There are student activities, educator guides, photos and links to useful resources. The presentation was shaped by the primary sources available in the Library’s online collections and probing questions such as “Why did each immigrant group come to the United States?” and “How did United States government policies and programs affect immigration patterns?”
Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930
A Harvard University web-based collection, this site contains a huge collection of primary sources on immigration to the United States, including 1,800 books and pamphlets, 13,000 pages from manuscripts and 9,000 photographs. The collection has very broad coverage and though the amount of information could be overwhelming, the web site is easy to navigate. Visitors can search the collection or browse by source type, topic, and other categories. Click Timeline to access documents and information by event or individual.
Clash of Cultures in the 1910s and 1920s: Immigration Restriction
This broad and informative site from the Ohio State University History Department explores cultural tensions, such as immigration, at the turn of the twentieth century. The 20 million immigrants who arrived in the United States between 1870 and 1915 stimulated an anti-immigrant backlash and the Immigration Restriction section at Clash of Cultures examines the backlash.
A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution
An online exhibit from the Smithsonian, this site explores how a government balances human rights with a need for national security. Immigration, Removal, Internment, Loyalty, Service and Justice are the areas available for viewing, with a special area for reflection by visitors. Classroom Activities are found under the Resources link at the bottom of the page.
The Statue of Liberty (History.com video)
Immigration Explorer This New York Times interactive timeline/map shows how immigrants settled in the U.S. over time.
- Mapping America: Every City, Every Block New York Times interactive map that allows users to browse local data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey –based on samples from 2005 to 2009.
Westward by Sea: A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion, 1820–1890
This American Memory Project of the Library of Congress features documents and other historical sources from the Mystic Seaport Museum and Library. Drawn from primary sources such as ships’ logbooks, topics covered include migration and immigration, whaling, maritime business, and more. It also provides insights into settlement of California, Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest.
Social Explorer provides reports and interactive maps on census data from 1790 to 2000. Interactive maps allow you to choose a time period and demographic feature to look at. You can zoom in on any area or request a corresponding report on the specific information you request. Free maps are mainly of population, race, and religion, but a premium subscription allows access to many more maps. The “News and Announcements” section also offers some interesting special demographic reports. A great resource.
Chinese and California: 1850 – 1925
This research collection from the Library of Congress includes 8,000 images and pages of varied primary source materials. It focuses on experiences of Chinese immigrants in California along with a section on westward expansion. This link takes you directly to the “Chinese and Westward Expansion” section.
Faces of America (History.com video)
Race: Are We So Different?
Race and immigration have often been intertwined in American History. “Race: Are We So Different” is an excellent educational web site from the American Anthropological Association that explores race from three lenses: History, Human Variation, and Lived Experience. The History section provides articles on race from the 1600s to the present while the Human Variation section explores human biology and genetics. The Lived Experience section is heavily interactive, with a Game of Life Experience, a Race Blog, a Sports Quiz, and more. There are educational materials available for download at the site as well as impressive multimedia features: You can watch a movie about a teenage girl’s experience and take a 3D trip into cell structure. In all, “Race: Are We So Different” is a great introductory web site for students into the complex issue of race.
Animated Atlas portrays history by animating maps. This site features a ten minute, interactive movie that is a geographic history of the United States, locating major events and the admission of every state. Animated Atlas also sells classroom videos.
Classics of American Colonial History
This collection of historical documents from Dinsmore Documentation contains select scholarly books and articles on American colonial history. The Immigration from Europe section contains five sources, three drawn from the American Historical Review. Helpful resource for scholars.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
The NARA has immigration records for various ports for the years 1800-1959.
Known as America’s First Immigration Center, CastleGarden.org offers access to a database of information on 12 million immigrants from 1820 through 1892, the year Ellis Island opened.
The Ellis Island Foundation has an online searchable database of 22.5 million arrivals to New York between 1892 – 1924. The login account is free, and students can search by last name to see records.
Streamlines and Breadlines
High School students will learn about the growth and development of cities in America from 1920 through 1940. Immigration, the migration of African-Americans from the South to the urban centers of the North, industrialization, and the Great Depression all affected cities during this period. This lesson will culminate in a student essay that compares two contrasting images from this time period. Students will view two sets of images from Thirteen/WNET’s American Visions Web site. Students will choose one image from each group and compare and contrast the images in an essay.
Learning About Immigration Through Oral History
Students compare and contrast the stories of these contemporary immigrants with those researched in the thirties reflected in American Life Histories, 1936-1940 and other American Memory collections. Students engage in visual and information literacy exercises to gain an understanding of how to identify and interpret primary historical sources. From Library of Congress American Memory site.
Immigration Lesson Plans (Teachervision.com)
This webpage contains multiple Immigration lesson plans and activities. Introduction to Immigration vocabulary and Immigration writing exercises are all included. Lessons can be applied to most grade levels.
Doing the Decades – Lesson Plan
This is a broad, 10-week project where students focus on the major trends and changes in the United States from 1890 to 1941 and how these changes affected groups and individuals. Students are broken into groups by decade and cover six primary themes, including Immigration. Students identify and utilize primary sources to discuss these changes, using materials from the Library of Congress’ American Memory collections and other materials they gather. Designed for grades 6 to 12.
Cultural Capital: Examining How Immigrant Groups Adjust to American Society
In this New York Times lesson, students research the adaptation and acculturation of immigrant groups in the United States. They then create “culture capsules” aimed at preserving the cultural heritage of new peoples in American society. (June 9, 2003)
Ellis Island (Lesson Plans)
Compiled by Margaret Holtschlag and Cindy Lafkas. Designed for Upper Elementary and High School students, these five lesson plans build upon each other and are meant to be followed in order. The lessons get progressively more challenging and culminate in a written assignment for the student.
Immigrant Contributions (PBS): Teacher’s Guide
In this PBS Teacher’s guide, students are asked to conduct a large research project about Immigrant contributions to the United States. The guide provides multiple questions for the students to answer in their reports. Through their research, the students should become more culturally aware and will realize how important immigrants are to America. This is a valuable resource for teaching about immigration.
The Immigrant Experience in America
Students grade 5-8 will learn about immigration, Ellis Island, and tenement life from 1890 to 1924. Each student will create an identity of an immigrant and write an essay in the first person. Essays will describe the fictitious immigrants in terms of who they are, where they came from, and what they found when they arrived in New York City.
The American Immigration Home Page was started as a part of a school project for a 10th grade American History Class. The project was meant to give information on how immigrants were treated, as well as why they decided to come to America.
“Ancestors in the Americas”: Lesson Plans
Written by Sue Purcell and Heather Papp (both from PBS), the following classroom guides have been designed to help educators use the ANCESTORS IN THE AMERICAS series and companion web site in history, geography, and social studies classes (grade levels 9-12). The lesson plans may also be adapted for use as stand-alone exercises. Resource lists for further work have also been provided.
Port of Entry: Immigration
This online activity, presented by the Library of Congress, allows students to act as “historical detectives” and explore online immigration resources. The site provides all the necessary materials. Suitable for all ages.
Moving to America
This WebQuest is for Middle School students and examines the obstacles and challenges faced by immigrants to America in the early 1900’s. Students create a PowerPoint presentation or a brochure to encourage friends and family to come to America.
In this lesson plan, elementary school students develop an understanding of what it means to immigrate from one country and culture to another. Using various resources, including video segments from the documentary Becoming American: The Chinese Experience, web sites, and student organizers, students examine the experiences and contributions of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. and explore their own cultural heritages. As a culminating activity, students invite guest speakers who are first- or second-generation immigrants to tell about their experiences.
Social Darwinism: Reason or Rationalization?
Presented by Small Planet Communications, this lesson plan encourages debate over the theory of Social Darwinism. Students are also asked to write a short follow-up essay on their position. Includes necessary material. Intended for 11th grade.
“Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-1990″
This website from the U.S. Census Bureau provides a statistical analysis of the population of the United States from 1850-1990. This could be used to help students see trends and patterns in immigration as it relates to historical context.