The curriculum unit presented will be incorporated into the United States History II survey course that is required of all eleventh graders in the city of New Haven. The unit will focus on the Italian immigrant experience during the years 1870-1920. As the general population of Wilbur Cross High School is diverse, it is imperative that teachers embrace as many ethnic and racial groups as possible in the course of study. I believe that by studying the various groups students will learn not only about the differences in the cultures and backgrounds, but shared experiences as well.
In A Larger Memory by Ronald Takaki, it is noted that our grandparents are "worthy of scholarly attention... making choices as they left their homelands and settled in America. They helped to transform their adopted country as they became Americans." Takaki offers many personal stories that may be read and studied in the classroom. Students love to listen to and read personal accounts of immigrant experiences. I have enjoyed relating my own memories with them about growing up in an Italian-American household. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents came to America around the turn of the century passing through Ellis Island. I have told my students the stories that my grandparents told to me when I was a child. Every spring my class participates in a visit to Ellis Island and I show them the names of my grandparents on the wall of honor. America has become a nation of immigrants; persons of many nationalities, languages, customs and religion. To tell their story is also to tell the story of the United States. Oscar Handlin in The Uprooted begins his introduction "Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history."
I have divided this unit into five major categories: reasons Italians left their homeland, their crossing, experiences at Ellis Island, settlement, and discrimination.