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PAE Students Learn about History of Immigration in Maine

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PAE Students Learn about History of Immigration in Maine
Posted on 02/12/2016
This is the image for the news article titled PAE Students Learn about History of Immigration in MaineTwo English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes at Portland Adult Education recently took a walking field trip to the Maine Historical Society to see a fascinating exhibit titled “400 Years of New Mainers.”  Friends of Portland Adult Education paid for the students’ admission.

Students had fun finding the flags of many of their home countries painted on lobster buoys hanging by the museum’s entrance.  The buoys are part of an art project aimed at welcoming new Mainers to Portland. Make It Happen! students from Lyman Moore Middle School and Casco Bay High School painted the buoys with the flags of their home countries.

The Maine Historical Society exhibit profiles immigrants from several countries, and it features artifacts brought by immigrant families.  One student was surprised and delighted to see a Koran on display.  Two students asked if they could contribute some of their own artifacts.

 A looping video at the exhibit tells the story of the Lewiston High School soccer team that won the state title last fall.  Many of the players are refugees from Somalia and other African countries.  

A Portland Adult Education student wept with joy when she recognized a Lewiston High soccer player who grew up in her neighborhood in Turkey.  She hadn’t seen him for many years.

One part of the exhibit discusses conflicts over the centuries between immigrants and other residents of Maine.  A painting depicts the burning of a Catholic church in Bath in the 1800s.  A photo shows a huge gathering of Ku Klux Klansmen in Portland in 1923.

Students were surprised and unsettled to learn that the Klan once had such a large presence in Maine.  When they learned that one of the Klan’s main targets was French-Canadian Catholics, one student noted the irony of Americans founding this country in order to have religious freedom and then denying that right to others.  Another student remarked that immigration and religion are an explosive combination.

Two students from Central America scoured the exhibit for the stories of Latino immigrants, and they were disappointed to find only one photo.  One of them brought the omission to the attention of the museum’s education director.

Another student summed up what he learned at the exhibit this way: “A lot of people came (to America) from a lot of places for a lot of reasons.”