1975-1990: Accommodating New Immigrants
By Jennifer Hull
Standards: 8.1,8.3, 8.10; 12.2, 12.13
Grade Level: Secondary
Topic: Wisconsin's Response to 20th-century change
Lesson Plan Text:
Introduction: Recruited during the Vietnam War as guerilla soldiers to fight the North Vietnamese, Hmong peoples were living literally in the crossfire during the conflict. When the United States withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, the Hmong who had aided the U.S. were left in the hands of the communists they had fought against. Thousands fled to refugee camps in Thailand where resettlement organizations helped to sponsor Hmong immigration to the United States. Wisconsin has the third largest Hmong population in the country, after Minnesota and California; our largest Hmong communities are in La Crosse, Sheboygan, Green Bay, Wausau, and Milwaukee.
Hispanic Americans have been in Wisconsin since before statehood, and by 1925 about 9,000 Mexican Americans lived in Milwaukee; most lost their jobs during the Depression and moved back home. During World War II, Wisconsin growers imported male workers from Jamaica, the Bahamas, British Honduras, and Mexico. After the war, the importation of Mexicans continued, supported by the federal "Bracero" program that brought millions of Mexican farm laborers north until the program was discontinued in 1964. Today, Mexicans are the largest Spanish-speaking group in Wisconsin. Mexicans arriving in the 1950s and after have found an established community to settle into, particularly in Milwaukee. Another fast growing group of Spanish-speakers is Puerto Ricans who began arriving in Wisconsin in the late 1940s drawn to industrial jobs in Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Racine counties. Wisconsin is also home to political refugees and other immigrants from Cuba, El Salvador, Columbia, and Nicaragua.
Background Reading: 20th Century Immigration
Document to Analyze: Appendix 1 :... Written by a 15-year-old Hmong Girl Living in LaCrosse (1988) in Pofahl, Darrell. "To Make A Difference: American Mix: The Southeast Asians and Other Racial Minorities of La Crosse."
Who, What, Where, When, Why: This short memoir was written as a homework assignment in a LaCrosse high school in the 1980s by a recent Hmong immigrant who has not been identified. Although she only learned English very recently, her brief account of is extremely powerful; the experiences that she describes were shared by many Hmong immigrants who settled in Wisconsin.
Stevens, Michael, ed. Remembering the Holocaust (Madison, 1997)
Resettlement Assistance Office. Thang-Tien. Wisconsin Ways. (Madison, 1975-1976)
Report to the Governor:...on Problems of Wisconsin's Spanish Speaking Communities.
1. In what country does the Hmong girl's memoir begin? What countries does she live in or pass through before reaching the U.S.?
2. Explain in your own words why the writer and her family are refugees.
3. The writer and her family had to begin their journey to Thailand with flashlights and "hid in caves by day and continued [their] trip by night." What does this single fact imply about their journey?
4. The writer mentions that her mother is reluctant to leave family and friends in her home country. Is immigrating harder for adults than for children? Why or why not?
5. The writer mentions many shocking incidents, often very matter-of-factly. Why do you think she recounts these scenes without a great deal of emotion?
6. Compare this narrative with other journeys you've learned about in history or in books you've read on your own. You may want to consult the short Wisconsin immigrant memoirs at Turning Points. What things were the same for earlier immigrants as for the Hmong author? What things were different?
7. Explain who created the newsletter Thang-tiên. Wisconsin ways and why. Compare the kinds of advice given in issue 1 and issue 2 of that newsletter. What must the editors of it have realized after the first issue had been distributed?
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