Does History Matter?

by Drew Pinter

Students will be able to:

Understand and use research methodology, including primary resources

Analyze political cartoons

Discuss the role of government in immigration and its evolution throughout history

Students will gain a general understanding of U.S. Immigration from the late 19th century including its social, political and economic effects as well the immigrant groups involved

Understand that fear and racism about immigrant groups is fostered in public opinion until that group can assimilate into the dominant culture

A general understanding of the differing arguments concerning immigration policy

Lesson 1: (1 class period or about 60 minutes)

Warm Up – Small Group:  Have students break into shoulder partner groups of two and answer the essential question.  (2 -5 minutes)

What is the role of Government in Immigration?


As a class watch the video “Exploring Immigration and the American Dream : 1 Does History Matter?” (15:07 minutes)

After the video, have students return to their shoulder partner groups and look at their answer to the essential question.  Do they wish to change or add anything to their answer? (2-5 minutes)

Have students get into groups of four and share their answers and create a combined single sentence answering the question.  (2 – 5 minutes)

The groups of four will then share their response with the class.  As the students share their responses with the class, the teacher will write down key words or ideas.  (10 – 15 minutes)

After each group has reported their findings, staying in their groups of 4 to watch the video.

As a class rewatch the video “Exploring Immigration and the American Dream : 1 Does History Matter?” (play until 2:11 the Naturalization Ceremony in Dearborn Michigan)


Guided Discussion Questions (5-10 minutes)

What was going on in the Naturalization Ceremony in Dearborn Michigan?

Who led the ceremony?

How were people dressed?  What was their feelings?

What were they asked to do at the ceremony?  Why?

Exit Ticket

Have students respond to the question

Why does government have an interest in immigration?

Lesson 2:

Pre-Assessment: Looking for context and making predictions(1 class period or about 60 minutes)

Warm up: Begin class with reviewing and discussing the role of government (10 – 15 minutes)

Now have them look at Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution for the students to view, have it either displayed in the front of class, or have students look it up in either their textbook, or using an App such as the National Constitution Center Interactive Constitution.

From what you have learned yesterday and looking at Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution, what is the role of Government in Immigration?


Article I, Section 8

The Congress shall have Power . . .

Clause 4

to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States

Signed September 17, 1787

Ratified June 21, 1788 when New Hampshire becomes the ninth state to approve of it.

Students should note:

The Constitution did not define citizenship

The 14th Amendment added in 1868 defined citizenship as “all persons born or naturalized” in the United States

14th Amendment, Section 1   July 9, 1868

“Citizenship Clause”

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.

It should be noted that Native Americans are not Included

Section 8 does give Congress the power to govern immigration and naturalization

As a class watch the video “Exploring Immigration and the American Dream : 1 Does History Matter?” ( 6:32 – 9:54 minutes)

Cartoon Analysis (30 to 40 minutes)

Students working in groups of 4 will be using the Cartoon Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives Center.  

How to Analyze a Cartoon  

Cartoon Analysis Worksheet


Students will look at two political cartoons  either as a handout or projected for the class.

Objective of this activity is to get students to think about bias regarding immigration and be able to identify unintentional bias. We want them thinking about in a 3rd person context so, there is prior knowledge when we move to immigration in their own communities. Helps to create a respectful norm surrounding the issue.

Guided Practice

It is highly recommended to scaffold the cartoon “The Great Fear of the Period”.  Afterwards students will work on the second cartoon continuing in their small groups.

Summary of “The Great Fear of the Period”

Print shows a one panel, three scene cartoon showing, in the first scene, an Irish man with the head of Uncle Sam in his mouth and a Chinese man with the feet of Uncle Sam in his mouth, in the second scene they consume Uncle Sam, and in the third the Chinese man consumes the Irish man; on the landscape in the distant background are many railroads.


Nativist Movement in the 1850s held patriotism as the highest ideal and viewed people of certain religions and nationalities as unable to become true Americans.

Show students the image of the Know-Nothing or American Party – show the fear of immigration Americans had.  This belief held patriotism as the highest ideal and viewed people of certain religions and nationalities as unable to become true Americans.

Direct Instruction:

Students will now work in their small groups to do the Cartoon Analysis of the second cartoon.  Have them reflect on the portion of the video shown today to help analyze the cartoon

Exit Ticket:

Students will respond to a quotes (5 minutes)

“I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, found out three things: First, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all: and third, I was expected to pave them.” Unknown Italian Immigrant


  • Citizenship
  • Oath
  • Abjure
  • fidelity
  • 14th Amendment
  • Literacy test
  • Great Wave/First Wave
  • Naturalization
  • Jurisdiction
  • Immigration station
  • Push-pull factors