The study of immigration is crucial to any proper exploration of United States History. Our nation is indeed a nation composed mainly of immigrants, and their struggles and triumphs define our identities as Americans. In fact the term "American" is one that has confounded immigrants since its invention. What exactly is an American? Undoubtedly this term has been redefined for each immigrant group who faced opposition from the existing "Americans."
Looking back upon our nation's immigration history we find repetitious patterns of resistance, struggle and triumph. From the Puritan settlers who had to quell Native American opposition, to the "No Irish Need Apply" signs that greeted potato famine refugees, this nation has offered opportunity to all, but an equal if not greater quantity of hostility was waiting also. Often these incoming groups arrive with little or no resources forcing them to rely upon government assistance. They are perceived as taking, rather than giving to the American sysytem as they compete for limited resources such as jobs and housing. Through determination, cooperation and luck, many immigrants have excelled and literally transformed the economic and cultural landscape of this nation. Their struggle for acceptance continues today as they seek, and if necessary, fight for the possibilities that first attracted our ancestors to this land.
Very often modern American history classes fall short in presenting up to date information and analysis of immigration issues. Immigration is a major force as it was a century ago. It still affects social and political policies within certain states, such as California and Florida. Each immigrant group brings with it its own skills, customs, and religious beliefs. The process by which each group assimilates or chooses not to is often accompanied by fear, prejudice and resentment on the part of the standing order. It is crucial that students realize the dynamic effects immigration still has upon our political, religious, and educational institutions. Hopefully, this understanding will foster tolerance and help prevent the ugly incidents that have victimized previous waves of immigrants. In order to facilitate this knowledge I have developed a unit which will awaken them to the immigration saga which unfolded within the city they call home.
This unit entitled "Those Who Built New Haven" will allow students to obtain detailed knowledge of their city's history through the story of those who immigrated and worked here. Using primary and secondary sources, students will explore the struggles and triumphs of some of the diverse groups who have contributed to New Haven over the past three hundred and fifty years.