Course Content
Lesson 1: The Korean Diaspora and Korean Americans
Students are introduced to Korean Diaspora and Korean American immigration patterns and experiences. They compare experiences of Korean Americans in the first and second waves of immigrants and consider how these experiences have evolved over the the 20th century. They analyze oral histories and complete a web-based short research project on locations of Koreans and Korean Americans.
Lesson 2: The First Koreatown and the Legacy of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho
Students explore the life of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, his immigration to the United States, and his life as an activist and community builder. They examine how the first Koreatown was established in Riverside, California, and compare the experiences of Korean, Mexican, and women citrus pickers and packers. Finally, they identify Dosan's contributions to the United States and Korea.
Lesson 3: ​Immigrant Experiences ​of Korean Americans: The Sammy Lee Story
Students are introduced to the experiences of Korean American immigrants through Sammy Lee’s life story. They reflect upon and critically analyze the responses of Sammy Lee and his family to the racism and discrimination they faced as immigrants, consider ways the immigration laws have changed over the 20th century, and identify ways to advocate for Korean American immigrants.
Lesson 4: The Korean Independence Movement and Korean American Identity in the U.S.
Students situate President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points Peace Program and 1919 speech to congress in the development of the Korean Independence Movement. They engage in a jigsaw activity and examine original documents and news reports from the time period to identify how the Korean Independence Movement shaped and was shaped by the formation of the Korean American identify in the United States. Students compose a letter to President Wilson to encourage the United States to support the Korean Independence Movement.
Lesson 5: Colonel Young Oak Kim: Hero and Humanitarian
Students explore the life of Young Oak Kim, and identify contributions he has made to the United States. They complete a Think/Write/Pair Share/Group Share as they reflect on what it is like to be a Korean American/minority struggling through racial barriers like Young Oak Kim. They explore what kinds of microaggressions Kim encountered and consider how he responded to those actions. Students deepen their understanding of the life of Young Oak Kim as a U.S. citizen, war hero and community activist, and they annotate and discuss an excerpt from the biography, Unsung Hero: The Colonel Young O. Kim Story, by Woo Sung Han. They construct a biopoem and/or an argument essay on his life and contributions to American society.
Lesson 6: Aftermath of the Korean War and Korean Transnational Adoptions
Students explore the ending and aftermath of the Korean War. They learn about the history of the Korean War and what war was like from the perspective of Koreans. Students learn about one of the many groups of displaced civilians whose lives were forever changed by the war, Korean children. They learn how Korean children became central to international aid efforts that led to the advent of transnational adoptions. ​ They analyze an article from 1953 about a Korean transnational adoptee and consider the broader impacts of Korean transnational adoptions on Koreans and Korean-Americans. Finally, students learn about transnational adoptions from the perspective of Deann Borshay Liem, a Korean adoptee.
Lesson 7: Saigu and Social Justice
Students are introduced to 1992 LA Civil Unrest and how it impacted Korean Americans. They reflect upon and critically analyze the responses of various individuals and groups to the unrest, examine issues of justice, and consider the legacy of Saigu for Korean Americans today.
Lesson 8: Korean Americans in the 21st Century
Students explore Korean popular culture in the United States, including K-Pop, Korean and Korean American films, food, and more. They compare and contrast K-POP and American Popular music, conduct short research on an example of Hallyu, analyze films, conduct research for a biographical presentation of a notable Korean American, and compose a memoir essay of their own experiences
Korean American Ethnic Studies
About Lesson

​Activity 3.2: How did U.S. Immigration Laws shape Sammy Lee’s Life?


Students learn key laws in the early 20th century that limited the rights of Asian immigrants in the United States, situate these laws in the context of Sammy Lee’s life, and consider how these laws impacted Sammy Lee, his family, and other Korean Americans. Finally, they consider how to advocate for Korean American immigrants.

U.S. President Calvin Coolidge signs the Immigration Act on the White House South Lawn along with appropriation bills for the Veterans Bureau. John J. Pershing is on the left. Source: Wikipedia

 Activity Questions

  1. How did U.S. Immigration Laws impact Sammy Lee and his family?  
  2. How did immigration laws in the United States evolve during the 20th century?
  3. How do these laws impact Korean-Americans today?
  4. What remains to be done to improve U.S. immigration laws?
  5. How can we advocate for immigrant community like Korean American community?

  Instructional Strategies

  • To support these activities, use the Lesson 3 Presentation.


  • Begin this lesson by having students pair up and brainstorm the definitions of the following key concepts: white supremacy, race-based segregation, aliens ineligible for citizenship, and Dixiecrats. Call on pairs to share their definitions.

  Learning More About Sammy Lee

  • Introduce the Lesson question: How Did U.S. Immigration Laws impact Sammy Lee and his family?
  • Have students read the next two sections of A Biographical Overview of Sammy Lee and annotate the text to highlight these terms and references to immigration laws, policies, and court cases.

  Overview of Immigrant Law

  • Review the first two slides on immigration law (What is Immigration Law? and Immigration Laws, 1870-1927) and have students identify where Sammy Lee encountered these laws.
  • Review the third slide (Immigration Laws, 1950-present) and have students share how these laws might impact Korean American immigrants today. ​​

  Double-Sided Timelining

  • Individually, with a partner, or in small groups, have students create a double-sided timeline.  Distribute and review the Double-Sided Timeline Directions.
  • One side should identify critical immigration laws and cases, and the other side should identify important events in Sammy Lee’s life (alternatively, they could interview a family member who was an immigrant).  The timeline can be created on paper or digitally. ​
  • Allow students time to complete their timelines.

  ​ Closing the Activity

  • Review the final two slides (What ideals now govern United States immigration law? and Advocates for Korean American Immigrants). Ask students to share their ideas on what remains to be done to improve U.S. immigration laws and how we can advocate for Korean American immigrants.


  • Lesson 3 Teacher’s Guide and Lesson 3 Presentation are found under Lesson 3 Overview.
  • Handout: Sammy Lee Timeline
  • Handout: Double-Sided Timeline Directions


Sammy Lee Timeline (PDF)
Double-Sided Timeline Directions (PDF)

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