November 21, 2010
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
Manhattan, NY 10011
American Passage, The History of Ellis Island
Vincent J. Cannato
Professor Cannato masterfully illuminates the story of Ellis Island from the days when it hosted pirate hangings witnessed by thousands of New Yorkers in the 19th century, to the turn of the 20th century when massive migrations sparked fierce debate and hopeful new immigrants often encountered corruption, harsh conditions, and political scheming. American Passage captures a time and place unparalleled in American immigration and history, and articulates the dramatic and bittersweet accounts of the immigrants, officials, interpreters, and social reformers who all play an important role in Ellis Island’s chronicle. Providing readers with a glimpse into the lives of these individuals, Cannato masterfully narrates this complex and often heart-wrenching epic.
Though the last immigrant was processed at Ellis Island over fifty years ago in 1954, this comprehensive history traces the importance of this historic location well after the final immigrant set foot there. American Passage illustrates the port of entry’s lasting legacy, from the discussion of the detention of aliens during World War II, to the rebirth of Ellis Island as a national monument. As immigration policy, national security, and the war on terror remain at the forefront of national debate today, this timely history offers Americans an important perspective on how the nation addressed similar challenges a century ago. In this sweeping history, tracing the dramatic stories and evolution of this influential American landmark, Cannato reveals that the history of Ellis Island is ultimately the story of what it means to be American.
Professor Cannato teaches history at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and is the author of The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
A book-signing will follow the presentation.