Student Activity

Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck’s “On Discovering America”

Activity 1 | Activity 2 | Activity 3

Activity 1

American author Pearl S. Buck returned to the United States in 1934 after spending most of her life in China. Upon her return, Buck found a climate of religious intolerance and ethnic prejudice as various groups struggled to identify themselves as the only "true" Americans. In her essay, "On Discovering America," published in the June 1937 issue of Survey Graphic magazine, Buck explores the meaning of the term "American" and immigrant relations in the 1930s.

Test your knowledge of immigration by taking the PBS Immigration: Myths and Realities online quiz at the EDSITEment-reviewed New Americans website. Additional information is available at the "Myth or Reality" review of immigration facts and fictions.


Activity 2

Read Pearl S. Buck's essay, "On Discovering America," available at the EDSITEment-reviewed American Studies at UVA website. You may also want to visit the Pearl S. Buck biographies and "Immigrant Fiction" essay for further reading.

Pay particular attention to Buck's observations of immigrant relations and how she defined the term "American." Answer the questions on the worksheet, referring to the essay and the American Immigration Policy handout as needed.



Activity 3

Use the following websites to conduct Internet research on how the media (in documents, photographs, audio, video) portrayed American immigrants in the 1930s. You will use this information to create a computer presentation.

Answer the questions below (also available in PDF format). Keep these notes for your presentation.

Note: you may download a printable PDF worksheet with these questions.

  • What is the subject of the artifact (photograph, audio, video, document)?
  • What can you tell about the person or people in or described by the media item?
  • What is going on in the photograph / audio / video / document?
  • Where might the media item have been created? By whom?
  • Who is the creator? What cultural biases may exist? How can you tell?
  • What other observations can you make about the media item?