Immigration Primary Sources & Teaching Activities

You can find primary sources and online activities for teaching about immigration on DocsTeach, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

On DocsTeach, you can access hundreds of immigration-related primary sources on a variety of topics throughout U.S. history, including:

You can also find activities for teaching about immigration on DocsTeach. In the online activity Chinese Exclusion Broadside Analysis, students go through the process of analyzing a broadside, or poster, to better understand attitudes towards Chinese and other Asian immigrants in the late 1800s.

In the activity How Have Americans Responded to Immigration?, students use our “Weighing the Evidence” tool to determine how documents support a historical argument. First they analyze a variety of documents and photographs related to immigration in the United States. Then they determine whether immigration was welcomed or feared by Americans, and to what degree, by placing each document on the scale according to their analysis.

In a series of new activities titled Exploring America’s Diversity, students analyze primary source documents pertaining to a particular immigrant’s life. They trace this new American’s arrival, settlement, and naturalization, learning about the person and immigration process along the way. These activities were adapted from a popular on-site field trip experience at the National Archives at New York City. There are versions for both younger (elementary) and older (middle and high school) students.

You can find several more immigration-related teaching activities on DocsTeach, including topics such as the Immigration Act of 1924 and war refugees.

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  1. French were discriminated against. 1900-1925-French Canadian workers experienced exploitation in the woods and cities alike. Long hours, low pay, and cramped conditions pervaded the urban Little Canadas. However, the enclaves also allowed them to start French newspapers, schools, and clubs, and to resist nativist movements that tried to ban French in schools and break up Little Canadas. Rural and small-town French Canadians had fewer protections. Lumber bosses cheated them out of their wages or bound them into debt peonage. Lumberjacks called their dangerous job “the widow-maker” and ate gargantuan meals (upwards of 12,000 calories a day) to keep pace with the intense work.
    Americanization in a New Era
    The lumber industry collapsed after the First World War, leaving men and women alike to scrounge for low-paying jobs to support their families. English-speaking bosses often passed over French Canadians, preferring to hire other Americans before them. Rural French often Anglicized their names and stopped teaching their children French, and children could be punished for speaking French in school. But despite efforts to ignore or erase them, French Canadians remained the largest ethnic group in places like Lewiston, Maine and Plattsburgh, New York. Little Canadas incubated poetry and art that spread into the broader nation, and folk songs and literature cemented the French woodsmen’s place in America’s past.

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