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:

CHAPTER I ­— FIRST PEOPLES COME

20,000 years before present (est.)-1607: migration of humans to and throughout the Western Hemisphere; creation of tribal groups and civilizations throughout Americas; early European explorers and earliest settlements, predominantly Spanish. Extinction of natives after first contact with Europeans. Chapter mid-point is 1492. more...

CHAPTER II ­— THE NATION TAKES FORM

1607-1820: the geography of the story contracts from the Western Hemisphere to what is now the United States and all of its territories; extinction of natives continues; English, Dutch, French, Spanish and other Western European settlement and colonization; the African slave trade flourishes; the United States is established and the Constitution provides the basis for the nation, including slave states and free states elsewhere; immigrants come to the new nation; the nation begins its expansion with the Louisiana Purchase from France taking in new peoples. Chapter mid-point is 1776. more...

CHAPTER III ­— THE GREAT IN-GATHERING

1820-1924: the major century of immigration; ancestors of most of today’s Americans arrive from throughout Europe, at first predominantly from Western Europe and then from Southern and Eastern Europe. The Africa slave trade winds down and ends, but legal racial apartheid ramps up a decade after the Civil War. Indigenous peoples are forced onto reservation lands. As the Industrial Revolution gains strength, immigration from Asia begins; US expands through wars and purchases taking in people and land to the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean islands, Pacific islands, and Alaska, places that had been controlled primarily by Spain, Mexico, England, Russia and Native tribal groups. Westward migration takes place throughout this period and former slaves from the South begin moving north. The Civil War rents the nation. Chapter mid-point is 1865. more...

CHAPTER IV ­— AND STILL THEY COME

1924-2024: the ongoing story of American immigration and migration continues. Immigration slows through the first part of this chapter and many leave the US to go back to their home countries during the Great Depression of the 1930s. After World War II and during the Cold War, refugees and asylum seekers begin flowing here and migrant workers are brought in to harvest the nation’s rich farmlands. Starting in the 1970s, immigrants begin coming from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas in large numbers through 2016. During this chapter, migration westward and to urban, then suburban, areas takes place as well as continued African American migration northward. The nation’s story of both opening and closing doors to immigrants continues. Chapter mid-point is 1965. 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.