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Spring Semester 2000, Vol. 11, no. 1



American History as the Context for Art

Look in any social studies textbook and you will find reproductions of works of art--history paintings and other works that tell stories of the past in visual form. Artists and photographers have captured both momentous and less important events of their time and made them accessible through the universal language of art. Through investigations of historical artworks, we can share in emotional dramas of the past, investigate different perspectives on historical events, explore the context of historical artworks, and compare the past with the present.

This issue will concentrate on the great wave of immigration to the United States in the late 19th century, particularly as symbolized by art works. The Statue of Liberty, especially, is primarily viewed today as a patriotic symbol. Yet Liberty deserves a re-examination as a work of art. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are forever linked with American immigration and they shall be our focus here.

Such an approach correlates with the United States History Standards, voluntary national standards. National Standard 10, which apples to the context of American immigration, states that:

1.      Elementary and middle school students will understand how the industrial revolution, increasing immigration, the rapid expansion of slavery, and the westward movement changed American lives and led to regional tensions.

2.      High school students will understand immigration and how new social patterns, conflicts, and ideas of national unity developed amid growing cultural diversity.