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Curriculum Unit on the Gilded Age in the United States

Grade Levels

High School 9-12



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Immigration has always been a controversial topic in America, from the first wave of Irish and German immigrants to the current issues surrounding Middle Eastern arrivals. Many Americans have been welcoming to the new cultures and workers, while others have been less than enthusiastic. The Gilded Age is no exception to this controversy. Millions of immigrants were able to make a life for themselves in America during this time period, as the boom in industrialization created a need for laborers and highly-concentrated settlement areas sprung up across the country. However, these immigrants also encountered many challenges and hardships along the way. Many encountered prejudice and discrimination at every turn and legislative actions – most notably the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 – sought to limit the influx of immigrants in the interest of protecting American jobs. This lesson focuses on the controversy surrounding immigration through an examination of primary sources that are both supportive and negative toward immigrants. The lesson will also seek to differentiate the immigrant experience for different countries through an activity in which students will be divided into groups of countries which the most people migrated from during that time period. From there, groups will analyze sources given to them, conduct independent research outside of class and present their findings to the rest of the classroom.

Publication Date



lesson plan, Gilded Age, immigration


Curriculum and Instruction | United States History


Adapted by Alex Voigt from the PBS lesson, "The American Mosaic."

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Land of the Free? Immigration in the Gilded Age



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