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Journeys West: unit vocabulary

This is an introduction to some important words and concepts you'll find in this unit. You probably know some already, while others might be new to you. Take some time to get to know them all before you get started.

Groups of related words

Migrant, emigrant, and immigrant

A migrant is a person who moves from one country to another. The words immigrant and emigrant are two other ways to describe migrants. The difference comes down to point of view: an immigrant describes someone who has moved into a country, and an emigrant describes someone who has moved away from a country.
In the 19th century, millions of Americans moved from the eastern states to the western half of North America. For most of the 1800s, the lands they moved to weren’t part of the United States—Native peoples lived there. So Americans who moved to those Native lands were immigrants to the West, and they were also emigrants from the East.

Slavery, enslave, enslaved person, and enslaver

Slavery means taking away someone’s freedom, forcing them to work for no money, and controlling where they can and can’t go.
To enslave someone means to force them into slavery. Someone who’s been forced into slavery is called an enslaved person, while the person who forces an enslaved person into slavery is an enslaver. Enslavers believe that the enslaved people they control are their “property”, or that they “own” them.
In 1860, just before the American Civil War, there were 4.4 million Black Americans. 488,000 were free citizens, and just under 4 million were enslaved. Knowing about slavery in the US is key to understanding America’s past and present. For example, 10 of the first 12 US presidents were enslavers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

Relocate and remove

Relocate means to move to a new place. You can relocate yourself, and you can also relocate someone else, or something.
If you remove someone, that means you take them out of one place and make them go to another place.
For example, in the United States in the 19th century, thousands of white Americans wanted to move to lands where Native peoples already lived. With the support of the US government, white Americans removed thousands of Native peoples from their homes, forcing them to relocate to other parts of North America.

Other unit words

Word: agriculture
  • Definition: farming
  • Sample Sentence: The settlers were looking for land that was good for agriculture: either for raising animals or growing crops.
Word: consequence
  • Definition: something that happens as a result of something else
  • Sample Sentence: Bison almost became extinct in the 19th century as a consequence of overhunting.
Word: destination
  • Definition: a place where someone is going
  • Sample Sentence: As I hopped onto the back of the wagon, I asked my mother where we were going and she said, “Our destination is the Oregon Territory.”
Word: encounter
  • Definition: meet or experience something you weren’t expecting, or for the first time
  • Sample Sentence: I’ll never forget the first time I encountered a rattlesnake: it looked me right in the eye!
Word: expand
  • Definition: grow or become bigger
  • Sample Sentence: Over the 19th century, the United States expanded from 16 states to 45.
Word: government
  • Definition: the people who run and control an area, like a country, state, or city
  • Sample Sentence: In the USA, the President is the head of the government.
Word: prior
  • Definition: earlier, before
  • Sample Sentence: Prior to settling in Oregon, Jonathan Beckett worked in a Boston fish market.
Word: territory
  • Definition: an area of land, or a region
  • Sample Sentence: The Oregon Territory once covered an area that now spans several US states, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.
Word: vast
  • Definition: very large
  • Sample Sentence: Many city dwellers who were tired of living in crowded conditions were attracted to the vast spaces of the West.

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