Sons of Immigrants – Be Indiana Jones Explore Your History

“...as the son of Italian immigrants, I had my own experience confronting discrimination, enough to know that unless we provide equality to all, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, disability, sexual orientation, unless we provide equality to all, none of us can truly be free.” – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

Sharing your history is an important process to connect people with each other.

On an Irish History site they shared the following story:

“One honest immigrant wrote home at the height of the potato famine exodus, “My master is a great tyrant, he treats me as badly as if I was a common Irishman.” The writer further added, “Our position in America is one of shame and poverty.” No group was considered lower than an Irishman in America during the 1850s. “

The Polish immigration experience is shared by a description from the University of Delaware exhibit: Tradition and The Polish Immigrant experience

Many immigrants went to work in the anthracite fields of Pennsylvania, the slaughterhouses of Chicago, and the leather industries of Wilmington, Delaware. These immigrants endured many hardships: pay was minimal, working conditions were poor and often dangerous, and health and death benefits did not exist or were minimal. Many took in boarders for extra income and children were encouraged to obtain employment as early as possible. Family, ethnicity, and religious and cultural institutions helped sustain these people as they adjusted to their new home.

If you are a Caucasian male have you read about your family’s immigration history? Do you know where they landed? Do you know the trials and tribulations your family encountered?

I found this interesting assignment given to a history class. I modified the questions to be used by ERG groups, White Male panels and Inclusion Groups to discuss Caucasian family immigration histories (of course you can use any groups for this activity). If you don’t know your family’s history you can easily access information on line to imagine what your ancestors may have experienced.

Historical Immigration Role Play

For the two weeks you will work in pairs or small group to role play an imaginary family from your cultural back ground. Your group will represent the family. Create a 12 minute group PowerPoint presentation which will be presented to your ERG. Choose the following:

Time Period ____________ (during the late 1800s to early 1900s)
Your family’s country of origin/ethnic group: _______________________________________________
Family name __________________________________________________________________
Ages (from three generations) _____________________________________________________
Occupations ____________________________________________________________________
Religion ______________________________________________________________________

Write a short history of your family experience up to the time you decided to emigrate. This should make clear the reasons for your decision to leave your home country. Each presentation should have this common history at the beginning of their program.

Each person must keep a album created by her/his assumed character. Topics to cover include:
• how it felt to emigrate
• type of dinner had on last night at home
• packing up/saying good bye
• the journey to the coast
• the voyage
• hopes/fears about the USA
• arrival in the USA
• settling in to your new community

Items for your scrapbook/album include – be creative:
• birth certificates, passports and visas
• maps
• recipes/favorite foods
• descriptions and pictures of traditions and customs
• pictures of neighborhoods, the journey, family, friends, etc.
• treasured family possessions

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