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Exploring Immigration thru Political Cartoons

Throughout the history of our country, immigration has been a much debated and heated issue. From the “Irish Need Not Apply” signs, to the Chinese Exclusion Act, to the current issues surrounding illegal immigration, our nation has not always welcomed immigrants with open arms. This unit will explore attitudes towards immigration in the 19th century and encourage students to explore the similarities and differences between them and present-day attitudes and polices about immigration.


19th century


Big Ideas

Perspective on Events

US History

Essential Questions

How has social disagreement and collaboration been beneficial to American society?

What does it mean to be a United States citizen, and what is your role in the history of the world?

What role does analysis have in historical construction?


  • Long-term continuities and discontinuities in the structures of United States culture provide vital contributions to contemporary issues.

  • Conflict and cooperation among social groups, organizations, and nation-states are critical to comprehending the American society.

  • Historical skills (organizing information chronologically, explaining historical issues, locating sources and investigate materials, synthesizing and evaluating evidence, and developing arguments and interpretations based on evidence) are used by an analytical thinker to create a historical construction.


  • Analyze a primary source for accuracy and bias and connect it to a time and place in United States history.

  • Summarize how conflict and compromise in United States history impact contemporary society.

  • Articulate the context of a historical event or action.

  • Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and groups in interpreting other times, cultures, and place.

End of Unit Assessment

Have students find a contemporary article about immigration and write a short response paper summarizing the article and relating it to the political cartoons.


Plans in this Unit

Anti-Immigration Attitudes

Grade Level

Middle School

High School

Standards/Eligible Content



PA Core Standards


About the Author

This lesson was created by Eden Heller, education volunteer at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


Historic Images, New Technologies

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