The American Dream. We are all familiar, right? Immigrants throughout our history have come to the country with the belief that the opportunities are endless. For the founding fathers, it was the “pursuit of property.” For John O’Sullivan it was the right “to [the] possession of the homes conquered from the wilderness of their own labors and dangers,” and for Franklin D. Roosevelt, it was the “Four Freedoms” – Freedom of Speech and worship, as well as freedom from want or fear.  For many immigrants and people of color, this American Dream was farfetched and difficult to attain, but they continued to try – if not for themselves, but for their children.

But they were met with resistance. Obstacles. Legislation. Discrimination. Hatred and violence.

Who is America? This question can seem simple at first glance, but then gradually becomes more complicated as we contemplate our answer. Over the course of its history, the people of America have changed drastically, diversifying extensively. Each group that has contributed to this diversity has a story – a history that is both unique and sometimes similar to other groups in America. The historical narrative presented here seeks to illustrate the people often overlooked for their contributions to the nation that we call home.

The historical narrative was written under the framework of a few concepts. First, we followed a general timeline that is covered in most U.S. history survey courses. The timeline allows the reader to find some familiarity with the narrative that they have already learned in formative years. This approach might also serve as a refresher for some students. Secondly, while the traditional narrative and timeline was followed, some key events were given less attention, or left out altogether. This was a choice made to diversify the historical narrative and expand the perspectives of the traditional description to include Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous peoples’ voices. Lastly, this is a primer in ethnic studies, and should serve as an opening to widen one’s scope of knowledge with inclusivity and equity in mind.

Historically, some language used to label or categorize groups covered in this book has been problematic. Labels and identity are deeply personal to most people and should be respected.  With those notions in mind, we have aligned our terminology with the generally accepted academic terms of racial groups, along with current trends in accepted language.

The historical narrative presented in this book is meant to assert voices once unheard, voices that believed and continue to believe in the possibilities of the American Dream, voices that embody a fierce spirit of freedom and opportunity. Together, they have been an integral part of the forging of this country. These are their stories.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Our Lives: An Ethnic Studies Primer Copyright © 2022 by Vera Guerrero Kennedy and Rowena Bermio is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book