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In this activity students read poems written by Chinese immigrants to understand the hopes of and challenges faced by Chinese immigrants during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Then students write an original poem about the Chinese immigrant experience in the U.S. This activity uses materials in both English and Spanish and…

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Item Type: Teaching Activity
Date: 2008

Huie Kin left his village in Guangdong Province and emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 14; in his 20s he entered a seminary and went on to become the first Chinese Christian minister in New York City. He wrote his memoirs in 1932, from which this excerpt is drawn.

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Item Type: Biography/Autobiography
Date: 1932

In this activity students analyze a political cartoon, a presidential speech and an anti-immigration pamphlet from the early 20th century. After analyzing the documents, students write about why the United States passed immigration quotas in the 1920s.

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Item Type: Teaching Activity
Date: 2008

In this lesson students read poems and letters that describe the work and lives of nineteenth-century Irish immigrants to the United States. As students read the documents, they choose words and phrases to create found poems that reflect their understandings of the Irish-American experience.

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Item Type: Teaching Activity
Date: 2009

The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed on May 6, 1882, was the first major restriction placed on immigration in the U.S., and the only immigration law that explicitly barred a specific group from entering the country. The Exclusion Act forbade Chinese "skilled and unskilled laborers" from entering the U.S. for a period of ten years, required Chinese who…

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Item Type: Laws/Court Cases
Date: 1882

This photograph from the Detroit News, December 16, 1978, shows a Vietnamese family arriving in the United States. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, thousands of refugees fled Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in search of new lives in the United States. Although often stigmatized as "boat people," the family here clearly arrived by plane; their…

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: 1978

Lodgers in a boarding room on New York's Bayard Street charging "five cents a spot" exemplify the overcrowded, frequently squalid living conditions that immigrants in New York City faced at the turn of the twentieth century. As documented in Jacob Riis's groundbreaking How the Other Half Lives, which mixed Riis's photography with his journalistic…

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: Circa 1890

Many Chinese immigrants in the nineteenth century, the majority of whom were men, took their first jobs as domestic servants for white families in the West. They were responsible for cooking, cleaning, laundry, and sometimes childcare. One reason for this was the scarcity of female labor (and women generally) in the West at that time; one result…

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: Circa 1850

This photograph by Lewis Hine was taken in a New York City tenement in 1910. Hine was a documentary photographer who frequently turned his lens to the plight of immigrants, workers, and the poor. This family group, perhaps among the approximately two and a half million Italians who arrived in New York in the years 1890-1910, lives in squalid and…

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: 1910

Lewis Hine snapped this photograph of immigrants "climbing into America" after arriving at Ellis Island in 1908. At this time most of the immigrants arriving in New York came from Eastern and Southern Europe, a fact suggested by these arrivals' clothing and prominent moustachios.

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: 1905