American students often get the impression from history classes that the British got here first, settling Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. They hear about how white Northerners freed the black slaves, how Asians came in the mid-1800s to build Western railroads. The lessons have left out a lot.
Forty-two years before Jamestown, Spaniards and American Indians lived in St. Augustine, Florida. At least several thousand Latinos and nearly 200,000 black soldiers fought in the Civil War. And Asian-Americans had been living in California and Louisiana since the 1700s. Yet such details are rarely mentioned in American history books.
Now, more of these and other lesser-known facts about American minorities are getting more attention. The main reason is the nation's growing diversity. The nation is slowly awakening to the fact that our freedom was won by whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Orientals alike. Advancements in art, literature, industry and sports were made by the people with widely varied ethnic origins.
Erin Texeira of the Associated Press has written an excellent article about America's diversity. I think it should be required reading for all Americans, especially students. You can read the article on many newspaper web sites. I found it on the Seattle Post Intelligencer at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1110AP_Forgotten_History.html.