Story of the Making of the American People

The story of the making of the American People - the permanent exhibition at the heart of the museum - will be told in four chapters:


20,000 before present (est.)-1607: migration of American Indians, early European explorers and earliest settlements

We propose that the full story must encompass the history, so far as it is known, of the first peoples to have settled in this land and became indigenous to it. That is thought to have taken place some 20,000 years ago. This seldom told and little understood story about the great and diverse civilizations and peoples that prevailed in North America before 1607 is an integral part of the history of the American people. more...


1607-1820: the near extinction of Indians, English and other Western European settlement, the African slave trade and the establishment of the United States

The second chapter would cover those who came through the colonial period, 1607 to 1820, focusing prominently on the inflow of Western Europeans and Africans in the East and Hispanics in the Southwest, and the near extinction of Indians. The movement within the continent of the settlers and the remnants of the native tribal groups would also be covered. more...


1820-1924: century of immigration; ancestors of most Americans arrive

This chapter would cover those who came from throughout the world during the great century of immigration, 1820 to 1924. This 104-year period, characterized by industrialization and urbanization and punctuated by the Civil War, saw 36 million immigrants flow to the United States. About two-thirds, 22.4 million, came between 1881 and 1920, and the decade 1901 to 1910 alone saw 8.8 million immigrants, almost a million every year. While it was generally older stock European immigrants who settled the western frontiers, newer immigrants tended to stake their fortunes in the new urban and industrial frontiers. The additions of peoples through territorial expansion would be covered in Chapters II and III. more...


1924-Present: the ongoing story of American immigration and migration

The ongoing final chapter of this story takes us from 1924 though the present as the Museum portrays the evolving and dynamic rich mixture that we label “American.” Over the last few decades, one of the biggest national stories has been the steady flow of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, from Mexico and other parts of Latin America as well as many other immigrants from Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Europe since 1965. The compelling story of American migration and immigration is still writing itself. more...

NOTE: The material herein is based largely on two books that tell part of this story, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann, and Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life by Roger Daniels. Ideas and material from both authors are presented here to give readers a sense of the story. Leading scholars would be expected to develop a detailed outline of the Museum’s story following the establishment of the Museum.