For immigrants to the United States, freedom was worth more than anything else. It meant the opportunity to practice the religion of their choice. It meant living free of fear of government persecution. It meant being able to keep their families together under one roof. It also meant the possibility of a better future for their children. The titles in this chapter were selected in an effort to help students understand the reasons for immigration, the hardships faced by immigrants, and the value of freedom in general.
To begin your study of immigration, read the following selection to your class. The poem was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 to aid the fund-raising campaign for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. The last five lines are inscribed on the base of the statue. Discuss what this poem means to your students.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lighting, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities
[Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!]
With silent lips. [Give me your tired, your
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!]
Rebecca, a fifteen-year-old Jewish immigrant arriving in New York City to live in the Lower East Side, almost abandons her dream of getting an education when she is forced to work in a sweatshop seven days a week. Grades 5 and up. This book was chosen as the class set title because Nixon's text illustrates well the hardships faced by the majority of immigrants to the United States.