1.“Coming to America: The Story of Immigration” by Betsy Maestro
2.“I Was Dreaming to Come to America” By Ellis Island Oral History Project
3. Excerpt from Immigrant Kids by Russell Freedman. (packet)
3. Excerpt (pages 4-5) from The Cat Who Escaped from Steerage by Evelyn Wilde Mayerson (packet)
4. Excerpt from the Library of Congress book Immigrants by Martin W. Sandler, pages 30-34 (packet)
5. Excerpt from Arriving at Ellis Island by Dale Anderson, pages 7-9 (packet)
6. How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting.
7. Ellis Island – What’s In a Name? (packet)
7. In their own words (packet)
8. Poem at the Statue of Liberty (packet)
9. Read Alouds: (2-3)
Looking at Liberty by Harvey Stevenson
Liberty by Lynn Curlee
Liberty! By Alan Drummond
The Statue of Liberty. First Facts by Marc Tyler Nobleman
The Great Migration by Jacob Lawrence
Who Belongs Here? By Margy Burns Knight
10. Family Stories (packet)
Margaret Feeny – My Irish Journey
Char McCargo Bah – Putting My Family Back Together
Byron Yee – Discovering a Paper Son
Jennifer Petrino – An Italian Family Returns Home
Alex Woodle – Searching for the lost Jews of Bohemia
Mary Sevilla – Secrets of my Ancestors
11. Immigrant Groups and Timeline http://www.ellisisland.org/Immexp/index.asp
12. Read alouds
The Inside-Outside Book of New York City by Roxie Munro
Brooklyn Bridge: Theme on an Old Variation by Joseph Stella
13. Poetry Selections
Brooklyn Bridge: Nightfall By D.B. Steinman (packet)
Brooklyn Bridge by Charlotte Zolotow (packet)
13. Three Writers’ Descriptions of the Brooklyn Bridge (packet)
14.Two Paintings by Joseph Stella with Artist’s Commentary (packet)
15. You, Whoever You Are- Walt Whitman (packet)
Don’t miss this web experience!
Explore Ellis Island
Meet Young Immigrants
And Ellis Island virtual field trip
COMING TO AMERICA
THE STORY OF IMMIGRATION
BY BETSY MAESTRO
America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants are people who come to a new land to make their home. All Americans are related to immigrants or are immigrants themselves.
Thousands and thousands of years ago, there were no people at all in the Americas. Then, during the last great Ice Age, nomads crossed over a land bridge from Asia to what is now Alaska. These early hunters wandered here more or less by accident, searching for food.
American Indians, called "Native Americans," are distant relatives of the ancient hunters who arrived in North America so very long ago. They were the first immigrants to arrive in what was truly a new world.
American Indians, called "Native Americans," are distant relatives of the ancient hunters who arrived in North America so very long ago, They were the first immigrants to arrive in what was truly a new world.
As many more thousands of years passed, the descendants of the first hunters moved around North and South America. They settled in small villages and later built big cities. By the time Christopher Columbus "discovered" America in 1492, millions of people lived in the great civilizations of the Americas.
After Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean, other European explorers came in search of land and riches for their own countries. Stories about the fascinating "New World" spread throughout Europe. In time, settlers followed the explorers' routes across the great ocean.
These European immigrants came to make new homes in the Americas. They came in search of a better life - one free of the trouble and hardship they had left behind. In their native countries, they often had little money and could not worship God in the way they wished. The immigrants hoped for freedom and good fortune in their new lives.
By about 1700, thousands of settlers lived in the Spanish, French, and English colonies of North America. Other Dew Americans had arrived from the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Finland, and Wales. As the population grew, the Europeans competed with the Indians for land and food. The Indians were pushed of! their land and were often treated badly or killed.
Not all immigrants came to America because they wanted to. Beginning in 1619, millions of Africans were brought to the Americas against their will and were forced into slavery. Instead of finding freedom, these Africans lost theirs, and most never returned to their homelands, so very far away.
During the 1700s, settlers continued to come to the American colonies. Scotch-Irish and Swiss settlers came, too, in search of a better life, wanting to have land of their own and enough food to fill their hungry stomachs.
Their hopes for the future gave the immigrants courage to face the long and difficult sea voyage. Early sailing ships took months to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The living space was very cramped, and often there wasn't enough food or water. Stormy seas made shipboard life even more miserable.
New arrivals sometimes settled near the ports where they first landed. New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, Baltimore, and New Orleans were all growing cities. As early as 1700, about eighteen languages could be heard in the streets of New York City.
People who had come from the same country usually stayed together. They felt more at home near others who lived as they did and spoke the same language. Their new lives were very hard at first. They had little money to afford anything except the most basic necessities.
Toward the middle of the 1800s, other adventurous newcomers ,overcame part of the westward movement. After arriving in the United States, they traveled on, by boat, train, and wagon. They headed for new frontiers in the Midwest and the Great Lakes region. Free land was offered to those who would agree to stay and farm. Nonwegians joined other hardy settlers and founded farming communities in places like Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Soon other pioneers moved even further west - all the way to California, where Chinese and Mexican immigrants had already settled. These early Chinese settlers helped to build the first transcontinental railroad, and when it was completed in 1869, westward travel increased. The United States had become a vast nation, spreading from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
For more than two hundred years, most immigrants had come from northern Europe and Scandinavia. By the end of the 1800’s, more modern steamships had shortened the long transatlantic voyage. People began to arrive in the United States from al! over the world in greater numbers. They came from Italy and Poland, Turkey and Greece, Hungary and Serbia.
Although life was hard for new immigrants, it still was better than the perils and poverty they faced in their native countries. So immigrants continued to come to the United States. Thousands poured into the many ports, from New York City to San Francisco, every year.
Before 1820, no ooe had recorded the exact number of immigrants who had arrived in the United States. But the numbers of immigrants were growing so rapidly that some states passed their own immigration laws to keep track of the newcomers. In 1875, the United States government began to regulate immigration. It wanted to know more about the people who were arriving daily on American shores. A number of years later, the government began to limit immigration by saying that people from some countries could not come to the United States at all.
Between 1855 and 1890, Castle Garden in New York City served as a depot for immigration. More than eight million people passed through this port of entry. A few years later, on January 1, 1892, the United States government opened an immigration center on Ellis Island near New York City. Officials from the island would count and question the new arrivals. They would see that those admitted were healthy and ready to become useful citizens.
On the day that Ellis Island opened, the first person to step ashore was Annie Moore. She was a fifteen-year-old girl from Ireland. She had traveled with her two brothers to join their parents, who had settled in the United States three years earlier.
As big passenger ships entered New York harbor, the immigrants caught their first glimpse of what they hoped would be their new country. They saw the Statue of Liberty, a welcome and inspiring sight. The travelers were relieved that their journey was over, but they worried about what awaited them on Ellis Island.
Inspectors from the island boarded the ships at anchor to check the passengers. Wealthy passengers traveling first class were usually allowed to leave the ship right away. The inspectors looked for signs of contagious disease among the others. Those who were ill sometimes stayed aboard the ship or were sent to other islands to recover. Those who seemed healthy were taken to Ellis Island.
On the busiest days, so many ships arrived in New York harbor that there were long waits just to get to Ellis Island. Sometimes the wait was so long that people had to live aboard ship for a few extra days. Once on the island, there was more waiting! With thousands arriving each day, long lines formed everywhere.
First, the immigrants were given a quick examination by doctors. Those with health problems were marked with colored chalk. The doctors would examine these persons more closely. Some people were kept on the island for observation. After 1911, Ellis Island had its own hospital to treat the sick.
Sometimes immigrants had permanent health problems that would make it hard for them to work. This often meant that they would be sent back to their native country. But most of the new arrivals passed inspection and moved on to the next step.
Now, the immigrants were asked a long list of questions. Inspectors asked their names, where they were from, and how much money they had. Since most of the immigrants did not speak English, they needed help in understanding and answering the questions. Translators did what they could to help the inspectors and newcomers understand one another.
Even though it was difficult, most managed somehow to answer all the questions. Mothers often spoke for children who might be too little or too scared to speak. The immigrants had to show that they would work hard and stay out of trouble. Usually the ordeal was over within the day. When they received their entry cards, at last, the immigrants could officially enter their new country.
During the busy years at Ellis Island, millions of immigrants passed through its massive halls. World War I slowed the huge flow of people into the United States. In 1921, the United States government passed more laws limiting the number of people who could enter the country. These laws were unfair and were later changed.
Other laws were passed requiring new immigrants to have medical examinations before boarding ships in foreign ports. As a result, Ellis Island was no longer very busy, and finally, in 1954, it was closed. In 1990, Ellis Island was reopened as a museum. Today, most immigrants no longer arrive by ship. Instead, they fly into the many international airports in the United States.
All newcomers to America have a hard time at first. This is true whether they came in the 1600’s or have just arrived. It isn't easy to start a new life in an unfamiliar country. Most immigrants have to learn a new language and a new way of life. The jobs they must take are often hard, with long hours. Sadly, new arrivals are often poorly treated by other Americans just because they look or act differently.
New Americans make their lives a little better by finding friends from their native country. As they have in the past, immigrants often group together in small neighborhoods. It helps them to feel more at home in a strange, new country. Many different languages can be heard on the streets of the ethnic neighborhoods in big cities.
Many people who come to the United States are refugees. These people are forced to leave their homelands to escape persecution or the dangers of war and natural disaster. From its beginning, the United States has taken in countless refugees from countries all over the world.
After World War II, refugees from Europe arrived on our shores. In more recent years, Southeast Asian, Cuban, and Haitian refugees have fled from homes where they could no longer be safe. They seek protection and shelter in the United States.
Today’s new immigrants have come to the United States from Russia, Asia, Mexico, South and Central America, the Middle East, they West Indies, and Africa. They are still coming for the same reason people have always come – to make a better life for themselves and for their children.
America has been called a great "melting pot," where many cultures, or ways of life, have blended together. But today, Americans have also learned to celebrate their differences. There, is a growing appreciation and understanding of the special character and unique contributions of each cultural or ethnic group. Everyone, from the first Americans thousands of years ago to those who came only yesterday, has left a lasting mark on this great land.
Immigrants settled and farmed this land before it was a country. Others created a new nation and founded its government. Immigrants built the cities, roads, and railways of America. They have toiled in its fields, its factories, and its mills. Immigrants, too have made the music of this land, written its books, and recorded its beauty in paintings. The spirit of American strength and independence is the spirit of its people – the spirit of its immigrants and their children.
Before 1965, there were limits on the numbers of immigrants who could come to the United States from many countries. These quotas, based on national origin, were abolished by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The United States began to give preference to those who were refugees and those who already had family members in the country. Between 1981 and 1990. more than seven million lmmigrilnts were admitled. Most of the new citizens were Asians and Hispanics.
Today, nearly one million legal-immigrants arrive in the United States each year. Many others enter the country illegally. These immigration do not have permission to come. Because they are often desperate to leave political unrest or economic hardship at home, they take great risks, traveling by boat to coming across the border with Mexico. Smugglers sometimes "help" these illegal aliens to get into the United States. The cost is very high - some die in transit, and many others find themselves virtual slaves when they reach their destination. Although the government tries to intervene, illegal immigration is hard to control.
3. Why did various groups choose or were forced to emigrate?
Use the text on pages 4-5 from Immigrant Kids by Russell Freedman as a
shared reading experience.
In the years around the turn of the century, immigration to America reached an alltime high. Between 1880 and 1920, 23 million immigrants arrived in the United
States. They came mainly from the countries of Europe, especially from impoverished towns and villages in southern and Eastern Europe. The one thing they had in common was a fervent belief that in America, life would be better.
Most of these immigrants were poor. Somehow they managed to scrape together
enough money to pay for their passage to America. Many immigrant families
arrived penniless. Others had to make the journey in stages. Often the father came
first, found work and sent for his family later.
Immigrants usually crossed the Atlantic Ocean as steerage passengers. Reached by
steep, slippery stairways, the steerage lay deep down in the hold of the ship. It was
occupied by passengers paying the lowest fair.
Men women and children were packed into dark, foul smelling compartments. They
slept in narrow bunks stacked three high. They had showers, no lounges, and no
Food served from huge kettles was dished into dinner pails provided by the steamship company. Because steerage conditions were crowded and uncomfortable,
passengers spent as much time as possible up on deck.
The voyage was an ordeal, but it was worth it. They were on their way to America.
What Did Children Do During the Long Voyage to America?
The following excerpt (pages 4-5) from The Cat Who Escaped from Steerage by
Evelyn Wilde Mayerson tells of the ways that children of immigrants passed their
time on the long ocean journey. The book can also be read as a book club project by
the more able readers in your class. It has recently been re-issued by Houghton
Mifflin, Paperback Plus Series.
The children didn’t mind steerage, mainly because children never seem to mind
anything as much as grown-ups do. .. So, while the grown-ups complained, the
children made the best of it. They ran in a gang, little ones following the big ones,
most wearing garlic bags around their necks to ward off fever and vampires. Few
spoke each other’s languages, but it did not matter. If a word was not known, a tug
on a shirttail would do. They searched for land with telescopes made from rolled-up
newspaper. They played tag through a deck so crowded there was no place to sit.
They knocked over chessboards and got tangled in the ropes until the sailors chased
them away. Sometimes they scrambled below to the baggage hold, and once, even
below that, to the stokehold, where men with shovels heaped coal into fiery furnaces.
Once in a while, the gang of children ducked under the chains that blocked the
gangways to the upper decks, but they were usually caught and chased below by
third-class passengers determined to keep steerage people where they belonged.
4.Why did various groups choose or were forced to emigrate?
Use the following excerpt from the Library of Congress book Immigrants by
Martin W. Sandler, pages 30-34 as a shared reading experience.
As the immigrants first set foot on American soil, their faces revealed the sense of
anxiety shared by all strangers in a strange new land. Most cannot speak English
and most have heard frightening stories of the ordeal that awaits them at Ellis
The immigrants’ fears are justified. Once inside the Ellis Island facility, the newcomers are forced to wait hours, sometimes days, before undergoing both a
physical and a verbal examination. They wait knowing that if they fail either test,
they will be sent back across the ocean. The physical examination includes an eye
test for trachoma, a disease common in southern and eastern Europe. About 2 % of
all newcomers fail this or some other test and are forced to return to their
The verbal examinations are just as difficult, just as terrifying. Uniformed
immigration officers, with the aid of interpreters, fire a battery of questions at the
“Where did you come from?”
“Where are you headed?”
“Can you read and write?”
“Have you served time in prison?”
“Do you have a job waiting for you?”
Though most of the immigrants pass the test, it is a bewildering experience.
The Ellis Island experience is so bewildering that many immigrants actually lose
their names in the process. Often, when the immigrants state their names, the officer
writes down what he thinks he hears rather than what is said. When asked their
names, many confused newcomers are apt to state the names of their hometowns or
their former occupations instead. Some officers, on their own, change European
sounding names like “Valentin” to more American sounding names like “William.”
Thousands enter America with their names changed forever.
Finally, for most, the Ellis Island ordeal is over. The immigrants gather on the
docks awaiting the ferry boats that will take them across the harbor into New York.
Many will journey on to other American cities like Boston, Philadelphia, or
Baltimore, but hundreds of thousands will make their new home in New York. As
they gaze at the skyline of the world’s largest city, they can only imagine what lies
5. “Why did people leave their homes to come to America?”
Use the following text from Arriving at Ellis Island by Dale Anderson,
pages 7-9, as a shared reading experience first and then allow students to
read the text on their own to answer the focus question “Why did people leave
their homes to come to America?”
Why did so many millions of people leave their homes?...Some people emigrated to
escape religious discrimination…Other groups came to the United States because of
wars and civil conflicts.
Whatever they were leaving behind, most people thought that by emigrating, they
would find a better life. And no country was more likely to provide that life than the
United States of America. The country offered people political and religious freedom,
meaning that they could speak and worship as they wanted. It also had principles of
equality- at least for the white males – written into its constitution. There were
elected officials rather than monarchs running the country, and it was common for
ordinary people to own land.
People in Europe also heard about the opportunities that were available for
immigrants. Family members and friends who had already come to the United
States wrote home, making American life sound very attractive. There was plenty of
cheap land to farm. There was work building canals and railroads. There were jobs
to be had in the factories of the country’s growing cities. All of this led immigrants to
believe that the United States would give them a chance to get ahead.
Another factor that helped bring so many immigrants to the United States in the late
1800’s was that the trip became easier than in earlier years. Ships powered by steam
enabled people to make the ocean crossing in about two weeks rather than the
months it had taken previously in sailing ships. Shipping companies wanted to fill
their ships so they cut fares. Sometimes they conducted price wars with each other
causing the cost of fairs to drop to the sum of only a few days’ wages. Prices for
children were often especially low, which helped families make the move.