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The American Dream. A Unit on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights. The next two slides contain excerpts from American documents. Identify the documents . . .

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The next two slides contain excerpts from American documents. Identify the documents . . .


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life , liberty, & the pursuit of happiness . . .


We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity . . .


How does the depiction of the Dream in the following poem differ from the dream depicted in the Constitution & Declaration?


Let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe . . .

I am the poor white, fooled & pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars,

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek,

But finding the same old stupid plan

Of dog eat dog, of might crush the weak . . .

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean . . .

Desperate despite the dream . . .


The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, plus the actions of the judicial, legislative, and executive branches protect the American Dream of its citizens through Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of all Americans. It is important to note that when America was created, many groups were excluded from being recognized as citizens, but the Constitution, courts and Congress have slowly recognized the rights of most groups in the United States. The story of the American Dream involves three parts:

  • A group coming to America in search of their definition of the American dream, and their original treatment in this country by the US government
  • A group reacting to their initial treatment in the country and fighting to gain their rights & liberties
  • The US government reacting to the movements by the various groups

Before we view stage one of the American Dream for several groups, we must differentiate between civil rights & civil liberties . . .


Civil Rights: rights that the government may not deny or infringe on because of the race, gender, national origin, age, or ethnicity of an individual.

Civil Liberties: freedoms that the government must respect, such as the freedom of speech, press, and assembly that are guaranteed under the US Constitution, legislation, or judicial interpretation.


From 1892 - 1924, more than 16 million people passed through Ellis Island with the goal of achieving the American Dream . . .


Many immigrants’ names were changed by American officials as the immigrants passed through Ellis Island. One immigrant penned these thoughts:


Prospective Immigrants, Please Note: Either you will go through this door, or you will not go through. The inscription on the liberty bell calls to you . . . Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. But will you be allowed to be free? Or only to labor in vain after your name has been changed?


Instruction to all persons of Japanese Ancestry:

You must report for evacuation to Assembly Centers and transportation to War Relocation Camps. You may bring only which can be carried by the individual . . .


17,000 Japanese Americans served in the the Second World War. This, despite the fact that 120,000 Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent to interment camps . . .


Ten persons were convicted of spying for Japan during the Second World War; all were Caucasians.


Look at the slides; read the lyrics to the song “Fortunate Son” by visiting this web site:

Fortunate Son


At the time of the Vietnam War, 18, 19, and 20- year-olds could not vote, but 61% of the 58,000 killed in Vietnam were 21 years old or younger.


Most Chinese immigrants came through Angel Island near San Francisco; many were detained there for months, even years, before they were released into the states . . .


There are tens of thousands of poems on these walls

They are all cries of suffering and sadness

The day I am rid of this prison and become successful

I must remember that this chapter once existed

Sketched on the wall of Angel Island Detention Center


Identify the group and time period depicted in the slides. Read the narrative by Frederick Douglas by visiting this site:

Frederick Douglass


Will you teach your children as we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? This we know; the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth . . . Man did not weave the web of life, he merely is a strand in it . . . What will happen when the secret corners of the earth are heavy with the scent of man and the view of the hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the cricket be? GONE. Where will the eagle be? GONE. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunter? The end of living. The Beginning of survival . . .


Read the lyrics of People of the Sun by Rage Against the Machine by going to this site:

People of the Sun