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Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2011 - 16:45:13 

History & Government  

The Irish Potato Famine - Gangs of New York
By Sarah Lane
Aug 22, 2006, 06:32 PST

Gangs of New York
‘America Was Born In The Streets.’

Grade Level:
9-12, college - Although the information provided in this lesson plan is appropriate for students from 9th-12th grade, only students over 17, or those with their parents permission, should watch Gangs of New York. This film contains high levels of violence and mature content, and is rated R.

Subject: History

Keywords: Lesson Plan, Movies in the Classroom, 1863, Civil War Draft Riots, New York City, Manhattan, immigrants, Irish, gangs, survival, equality, history, New World, riots, New World, Ellis Island, records, pictures, written accounts, newspaper clippings, predecessors, Veteran’s Memories Project, heritage, Irish Potato Famine, immigration, emigrants.

Author: Sarah Lane

Affiliation: ClassBrain, Inc.

Date: 28 February, 2003

Duration: 1 to 2 class periods

Gangs of New York takes place in New York City during the crescendo of the 1863 Civil War Draft Riots. In the midst of urban unrest, in a section of lower Manhattan called ‘Five Points’, a young Irish immigrant named Amsterdam Vallon returns from forced labor to avenge his father’s murder. He befriends an anti-immigrant English gang leader called ‘Bill the Butcher,’ who teaches him how to fight and shares his secrets for survival. When a face from the past remembers Amsterdam, it’s only a matter of time before his identity is revealed and sparks begin to fly. The movie’s premise is Amsterdam’s fight for redemption, personal survival, and a place for his people in the New World.

Watch the film Gangs of New York, 2002, directed by Martin Scorsese. Complete the following project in conjunction with the movie. This film is not recommended for younger viewers. Check the Suggested Book List for post film resources.

Resources and Materials
Gangs of New York (movie)
Gangs of New York - Suggested Book List
ClassBrain’s Ellis Island Article
Veteran’s Memories Kit

ClassBrain’s Irish Potato Famine Article



Irish Potato Famine

This Lesson Plan will focus on how the world’s current events effect America’s immigration numbers. Have students read ClassBrain’s article on the Irish Potato Famine from the Resources & Materials section of this Lesson Plan. Have them choose a major event in history and research the corresponding fluctuation of immigration numbers in the United States. What were the circumstances surrounding the event? Were there political, international, or any other type of ramifications? Were there more or less people entering the United States at this time? What were the repercussions of the population increase or decrease? What was the general population’s opinion of the situation? Where there homeland issues as well? How was the populous divided? Was this situation avoidable? Have the students write an essay that explores the answers to these questions.

Film Facts

Genre(s): Action, Crime, Drama

Rating: R

Family Rating: kids-in-mind

Running Time: 166 minutes

Primary Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz

Director: Martin Scorsese

Music: Bono, Peter Gabriel, Howard Shore

Screenplay: Jay Cocks

Producers: (Primary) Alberto Grimaldi, (Associate) Gerry Robert Byrne, (Co-Producer) Laura Fattori

Studio: Mirimax Film Corporation

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