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African Immigration

Since the 1980s, there has been a surge in immigration to the United States from the African continent. African immigrants represent various nations, cultures, languages, and religions. Their immigration experiences are also very diverse and Africans leave their home countries and immigrate to the United States for various reasons.  African immigrants come to the United States by several methods including work/student visa, refugee resettlement, family reunification, political asylum, and the U.S. Diversity Lottery. By whatever method they come, African immigrants are building new lives, new communities, and new hopes all over the United States, including Philadelphia.


21st century

Ethnic history


Big Ideas

Pennsylvania History

Perspective on Events

Essential Questions

How does continuity and change within the United States history influence your community today?

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


  • State and local history can offer an individual, discerning judgment in public and personal life, supply examples for living, and thinking about one’s self in the dimensions of time and space.

  • World history looks for common patterns that emerge across all cultures. Long-term continuities and discontinuities in the structures of societies provide vital contributions to contemporary issues.

  • History demonstrates the diverse cultural heritage of many peoples throughout the world.


  • Analyze the interaction of cultural, economic, geographic, political, and social relations for a specific time and place.

  • Apply the theme of continuity and change in Pennsylvania history and relate the benefits and drawbacks of your example.

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

Background Material for Teacher

Extended Lives: The African Immigrant in Philadelphia A Balch Institute Community Profile

Extended Lives by Leigh Swigart

Resources on the African Immigrant Community

Directory of African Community Resources

End of Unit Assessment

Students will each be assigned a different African country to complete an “Immigration to Philadelphia” Profile. The following must be addressed in the profile:

  • Brief history of the African country

  • How conflict and cooperation has affected this country: Has conflict in the nation been a main cause of people emigrating from this country to another country?

  • Patterns of immigration from this country focusing on cause and effect

  • Summary of the facts about the Philadelphian/Pennsylvanian community of immigrants from this country: What role do they play in the social, political, and economic development of Pennsylvania? How has the immigrant community in Philadelphia/Pennsylvania changed over time? What associations has this community formed? What has been there role in the community? How have they assimilated/kept aspects of their culture?

  • At least 4 images

  • The integration of a quote from an oral history of an African immigrant from this country


Plans in this Unit

African Immigration: False Portrayals in the Media Diversity Lottery


African Immigrant Family Case Studies

African Immigrant Communities

Grade Level

High School

Standards/Eligible Content





PA Core Standards

CC.8.5.11-12.G.    CC.8.5.11-12.I


This project was funded in part by the William Penn Foundation.

About the Author

These lessons were created by Stephanie Felix and Katherine Wilson. Updated for SAS by Danielle J. Gross, Education Intern, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Teacher Advisory Committee for the Project:

  • Alice Asbury, J.S. Jenks School, Philadelphia, PA

  • Asia Austin Colter, Imhotep Institute Charter High School, Philadelphia, PA

  • Karen V. Davis, Henry C. Lea Middle School, Philadelphia, PA

  • Melvin Garrison, Office of Curriculum Support, School District of Philadelphia

  • Pamula Hart, Myers Elementary School, Cheltenham, PA

  • Dr. Carolyn L. Holmes, African and African American Studies Department, School District of Philadelphia

  • Adolphus Jacobs, Preparatory Charter School, Philadelphia, PA

  • Tanya Kunevich, Lamberton Middle School, Philadelphia, PA

  • Margaret H. Lonzetta, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia

  • Patricia Mitchell Doe, Tilden Middle School, Philadelphia, PA

  • Dianne Partee, African and African American Studies Department, School District of Philadelphia

  • Stephanie Joy Tisdale, Central High School, Philadelphia, PA

  • Stephen Togba, Imhotep Charter School, Philadelphia, PA

  • Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania



Extended Lives: The African Immigrant Experience in Philadelphia

Blog Post

Teaching about Immigration

Attention Teachers!

Let us know how you used this plan and be featured on our site! Submit your story here.

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