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Lesson 3*: ​Immigrant Experiences ​of Korean Americans: The Sammy Lee Story


"Major Lee, we’ve only got one doctor who can win an Olympic gold medal. We’ve got hundreds of doctors who can repair the wounded. You can go, but you better win,” one of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff members told him. (The New York Times, 2000.)

Lee at the 1952 Olympics (Source: Wikipedia)

*This lesson was adapted from the lesson Dr. Sammy Lee – Olympic Gold Medalist, Korean American Community Leader, by Dr. John Park, Professor of Asian American Studies and Director of the Migration Initiative at UC Santa Barbara.  Supplemental activities were developed by Dr. Grace Cho, Professor at California State University, Fullerton. 

Lesson Standards

  • History/Social Science Analysis Skills

  • History/Social Science Content Standards

  • ​Common Core Grades 6-12 Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects


Lesson Features

  • TOPICS:  Immigration laws, Korean American immigrant experiences


  • NOTABLE KOREAN AMERICANS: Sammy Lee (1920 - 2016)

  • SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Comparison/Contrast Essay​, Double-sided Timeline

  • LITERATURE EXTENSIONS: Book Reviews and Storytelling


Lesson Overview

  • Students are introduced to the experiences of Korean American immigrants through Sammy Lee’s life story.  They reflect upon and critically analyze the responses of Sammy Lee and his family to the racism and discrimination they faced as immigrants, consider ways the immigration laws have changed over the 20th century, and identify ways to advocate for Korean American immigrants. 


Lesson Activities and Assessments



  • There are two activities in this lesson. Each activity requires approximately 55 minutes and includes homework.

  • The Summative Assessment Comparison/Contrast Essay will also require at least one 55 minute period.​​


Objectives and Learning Goals

  • Students will be able to define and give examples of immigration, discrimination, citizen, and permanent resident.

  • Students will be able to give examples of immigrant experiences and issues they or their family faced in the United States.

  • Students will be able to list immigrant laws passed in the 20th century identify how they shaped immigrant experiences past and present.

  • Students will be able to critically analyze Dr. Sammy Lee’s response to the racism faced by Asian Americans while also playing an important role as an ambassador for his sport and the United States. 

  • Students will be able to identify ways to advocate for Korean American immigrants.


Additional Resources​​



  • Alien Land Law - passed in 1913, it prohibited "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning agricultural land or possessing long-term leases over it, but permitted leases lasting up to three years. It affected the Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean immigrant farmers in California (Definition from Wikipedia).

  • Dixiecrat - Southern democrats who were opposed to desegregation and civil rights legislation and policies.

  • Immigrant - anyone living in the U.S. who is not a U.S. citizen.

  • Immigration laws - laws and enforcements dealing with immigration into the United States.

  • Race-based segregation - segregation based on “race.”

  • White supremacy - belief that white people are the superior race and should dominate society. ​​

Lesson 3 Resources

Lesson 3 Presentation (PDF)

Lesson 3 Teacher's Guide (PDF)

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