Emma Lazarus Project

The Emma Lazarus Project explores the story of Emma Lazarus, a fifth-generation American Jew caught in an important turning point in American and Jewish History. The initiative—including an exhibit, curriculum and poetry contest—uses primary sources straight from the archive to encourage students to piece together Emma’s fascinating story, and to join the ongoing conversation about American identity.

Bring the story of Emma Lazarus to your classroom.

Emma’s life and legacy will inspire your students to participate in the ongoing conversation of what it means to be an American.

Possible Pathways

This curriculum offers teachers a modular digital framework which gives them the agency to make choices about what fits into their curriculum and time constraints. Within each step students are encouraged to make interpretations, debate ideas, and state their convictions.

From the Archives


Download the Curriculum

In 1883, Emma Lazarus wrote The New Colossus, a poem now affixed to the Statue of Liberty and a vital part of America’s story and identity. Emma’s life and message will inspire your students to participate in the ongoing conversation of what it means to be an American.

Step One

Download The Discovering “The New Colossus” Activity

This activity encourages students to explore Emma’s poem and reflect on her message. Students are then encouraged to generate their own questions about Emma Lazarus which will be revisited throughout the next steps.

We have also created an extension activity which dives deeper into how Emma used langauge and poetic devices to communicate her message. Download The ELA Extension Activity

Step Two

Possible Pathways Through the Archive

  • AJHS has created a 12 minute film and digital storybook that brings AJHS’ archives to life through animation which you can share with your students.
  • AJHS has created two model lessons for how to utilize The Archive: Emma & Me and A Statue’s Meaning
  • We encourage you utilize The Archive to mix and match sources to deepen and enrich your own lessons!
Step Three

Download Writing New “The New Colossus Activity

In this lesson students create their own New “New Colossus,” expressing their vision and ideals about America. AJHS has created a national poetry contest that asks students “If you could write a poem for the Statue of Liberty today, what would you say?” Visit our poetry contest page to learn more about how to submit your students original work to the poetry contest.

The AJHS has an unparalleled collection on the Lazarus family, as well as material on immigration, anti-Semitism and freedom of religion. AJHS has created an online archive of scaffolded primary sources that have been tagged based on overarching themes. We encourage you to utilize our model lessons, or mix and match sources to deepen and enrich your own lessons! Visit AJHS’s Digitized Collections

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Educators looking for resources to teach social studies, American history, American-Jewish history, civic engagement, English language arts, or poetry and to build skills like inquiry, historical analysis, writing, and creativity
  • Ideal for middle and high school students, but can be adapted to inspire all ages
  • Examine and interpret primary sources
  • Make connections between the past and present - Emma’s life and theirs today
  • Use their voice to engage in the issues that matter to them
  • Write a poem that expresses what it means for them to be American
  • Pull a folder from the shelf to get started with the materials. The curriculum is flexibly designed so that you make choices to best meet your needs and goals - whether you are looking to enhance one lesson or build an entire unit
  • Materials are tagged to help you find what you are looking for and make connections across the resources. Tags include: Statue of Liberty, inequality, immigration, antisemitism, freedom of religion, arts and letters, Jewish identity, American identity
  • Digital story book that tells the story of Emma’s life and her most famous poem
  • Primary source collection which turns your students into historians
  • Activities that give your students a pedestal from which to share their thoughts
  • Watch this 13-minute video for an overview of Emma’s story and to see how her work can inspire your students to contribute their ideas to American identity