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American Passage: The History of Ellis…
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American Passage: The History of Ellis Island (original 2009; udgave 2010)

af Vincent J. Cannato (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
302865,300 (3.77)14
Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today it stands alongside Plymouth Rock in our nation's founding mythology as the place where many of our ancestors first touched American soil. Ellis Island's heyday--from 1892 to 1924--coincided with one of the greatest mass movements of individuals the world has ever seen, with some twelve million immigrants inspected at its gates. Historian Vincent J. Cannato illuminates the story of Ellis Island, from the 19th century days when it hosted pirate hangings, 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. Accounts of immigrants, officials, interpreters, and social reformers all play a role in the chronicle. Long after Ellis Island ceased to be the nation's preeminent immigrant inspection station, the debates that swirled around it are still relevant.--From publisher description.… (mere)
Medlem:rmdcroach
Titel:American Passage: The History of Ellis Island
Forfattere:Vincent J. Cannato (Forfatter)
Info:Harper Perennial (2010), Edition: 1, 496 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

Detaljer om værket

American Passage: The History of Ellis Island af Vincent J. Cannato (2009)

  1. 00
    The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice af Chad Millman (Othemts)
  2. 00
    Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America af Erika Lee (kathleen.morrow)
    kathleen.morrow: Both are well researched and painstakingly documented histories of immigration into America, but also focus on individual stories and told in a really readable narrative voice.
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American Passage offers a comprehensive history of Ellis Island from the 1890s to today. Cannato's thesis is that the history of Ellis Island as an immigration inspection station parallels the history of American attempts to restrict immigration. Prior to Ellis Island opening in 1892, there had been few restrictions against immigration in United States history, with the Chinese Exclusion Act of a decade earlier being the first major restriction legislated by the Federal government.

The opening of Ellis Island itself was part of a Federal immigration reform effort that began with taking over the state immigration inspection station at Castle Garden in 1890. The move to Ellis Island was prompted by three factors. One, the need for an isolated location to screen passengers for infectious diseases. Two, to isolate newly arrived immigrants from the scam artists who gathered around Castle Garden. And three, to similarily keep immigration agents seperate from the temptation of bribery and corruption that occurred in lower Manhattan.

While the earliest exclusions of immigrants were for disease and disability, movements soon grew to agitate for greater restrictions on immigration, often based on prejudice and fearmongering. Immigrant aid societies often stood up to defend immigrants, there were also a good number of naturalized citizens and descendants of immigrants who saw the current immigrants as inferior. Much of the discrimination was against immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. Laws would be made to exclude immigrants based on political beliefs, the suspicion that an immigrant would become a "public charge," eugenic ideas of intelligence, and moral turpitude. Major politicians in both parties seemed to straddle the line between welcoming immigrants and stricter restrictions. Interestingly, three consecutive Presidents (Roosevelt, Taft, & Wilson) ended up vetoing one of the anti-immigrant crusaders greatest desires, a literacy test. Another interesting reform proposal was to create equality by having all immigrants - not just those from steerage - screened at Ellis Island, but was quickly shot down by the elites from first and second class who did not want to mingle with their "inferiors."

It should be noted that despite all these efforts to restrict immigration, only 2% of the arrivals at Ellis Island were denied entry. The lack of staff and resources meant that the flood of immigrants passing through each day received only cursory inspection. And many of the agents were sympathetic to the new arrivals and did not follow the regulations to the letter of the law. When eugenecists were conducting research on Ellis Island, the immigration station's doctors were angered that their research interpreted that natural confusion of immigrants in a stressful situation as a sign of inferior intellectual capacity.

By 1924, the anti-immigration forces pushed quota acts through Congress, ending mass immigration. Around this time, the numbers immigrants crossing the borders of Mexico and Canada began to surpass those entering through New York. Requiring potential immigrants to go through screening at American consulates in their country of origin, also slowed the number of new arrivals.

For its final three decades of operation, Ellis Island served primarily as a detention center. Noted anarchist Emma Goldman spent her last days in America at Ellis Island before deportation. Suspected Axis sympathizers - primarily German-American - were rounded up in the early days of the United States entry into World War II. During the Cold War it would hold communists, or those suspected of communist sympathies. Ellis Island closed as an immigration and detention center in 1954 as the United States entered into a period of low immigration.

The buildings on Ellis Island fell to ruin over the ensuing decades with various proposals for what to do with the island put forth from time to time. One of the more interesting ideas came from an organization of African American capitalists who hoped to use the island as a utopian community to help recovering addicts and criminals prosper by producing goods for sale. The Nixon administration gave a lot of support to the idea as a way that Republicans could make connections with Blacks in a way that was opposite to the Great Society reforms.

Ellis Island would eventually be renovated as kind of a side project of Lee Iacocca's public-private partnership to renovate the Statue of Liberty for its centennial in 1986. Cannato discusses the efforts to make a proper museum and shrine that places Ellis Island in its proper historical context. The idea that immigration is a shared part of American heritage is one that is questioned by people descended from indigenous peoples, those brought to America by force and enslaved, and even Anglo-Saxon Americans who see their ancestors as "settlers" rather than immigrants.

I thought this book was an interesting overview of Ellis Island, although it does have a top down focus. Cannato offers a lot of detail about the careers of the directors of Ellis Island and the actions of various politicians and elites from Presidents on down. I would like to also read a book that offers more of the perspective of immigrants passing through Ellis Island, and those detained for longer periods, as well as the everyday employees. I think that would make a good complement to this otherwise excellent history. ( )
1 stem Othemts | Feb 17, 2019 |
Cannato, a descendant of Ellis Island immigrants, takes a look at the history of the island. Although there is information on the early history of the island and on the use of the island after its most renowned usage, the majority of the book deals with the politics of immigration. There is a little information about Castle Island, presented mainly as a background to the perceived need for Ellis Island. There is a brief note at some point in the book that most immigrants were on the island only a few hours; however, the bulk of the material deals with the exceptions to this, giving the reader a more negative view of the island that is perhaps deserved. The politics of immigration were not pretty before Ellis Island, during Ellis Island's days as the main portal, nor are they pretty today. The author gives the reader the impression that those in charge of immigration wanted America to be a land where there were no feeble-minded or persons lacking "moral turpitude." Rather than admitting those persons, they typically deported them, even if the remainder of their family was admitted. I feel the author has drawn too much attention to the exceptions and not enough attention to the typical experiences of immigrants passing through the station. I also have a problem with the rather unorthodox method of citing references used. There is no indication in the text that there is an end note. Instead, one discovers when they get to the end of the book that there actually were some which are keyed to lines in the text. It's definitely awkward. For those interested in the politics of immigration, this might be an interesting read. For those looking for a book on the immigrant experience, you need to look elsewhere. ( )
1 stem thornton37814 | Jan 18, 2014 |
For anyone who has ancestors who came through Ellis Island, this is book that will shed light on the difficulties that were presented to them.

Until 1920, just about all white immigrants were allowed to enter the USA without visas, without medical checks, and without criminal checks. There were no quotas either. Col. John Weber, a Civil War veteran, was he first director at Ellis Island. He was sympatric to the refugees and stated that he believed that "the evils of immigration are purely imaginary" and "greatly exaggerated".
Reports in 1903 showed that of the 857,000 immigrants - 60% of the Italians, Jews, and Slavs were illiterate and came to the USA with $9 ($150 today) and no job arrangements.

About that time the Immigration Restriction League (IRL) worried that the Eastern and Southern Europeans would supplant the white race in America. A new director in 1911, William Williams, worked with the IRL, complaining of their different customs and inability to assimilate. Wm Wms was accused of anti-Semitism and argued that it was only "sociological fact" that Jews were genetically inferior.

A testing was started by Henry Goddard on the new arrivals and his findings were that 83% of Jews and 79% of the Italians were feeble-minded. Why? Being asked to define a table - a Jew replied a place to sit and eat - obviously not Goddard's definition.

A new tester was brought in, Dr. Henry Knox who found that in one example a man that was rated of low intelligence actually spoke 3 languages and was very clever.

After World War I immigrant numbers were reduced - ex. Italians in 1914 296K, 1920 40K, 1924 -4K. Greeks went from 3K - 100.

Lady Liberty's light was slowly extinguished by legislation and quotas.

A fascinating look at early America. ( )
  cyderry | Jan 15, 2014 |
Cannato gives us an informative book, but not of the type one might be expecting. Undoubtedly a great deal of research has gone into the writing of this history but one cannot help but feel that it is written far too often from the point of view of bureaucrats and officials and not the immigrants themselves. Where there are personal stories, they tend to be the ones that have been previously publicized.

While Cannato attempts objectivity with his subjects he clearly paints immigration officials as well meaning and in a difficult position while painting the stories from those detained on the island and political activists as exaggerated, purely for propaganda or outright lies. His harsher treatment of the stories of IWW prisoners and Emma Goldman in comparison to various liberal bureaucrats and supposedly non-political immigrants is very telling.

If one is interested in the history of Ellis Island and New York City and federal government, this book would be of interest. If one is interested in an objective look from all sides of those as Ellis Island, one should look elsewhere. ( )
  twp77 | Jan 21, 2012 |
Vincent Cannato, descendant of Italian immigrants who passed through the notorious immigration station in New York, traces the history of the site through the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I visited Ellis Island twice as a child, but was never able to imagine what it must have been like to arrive there. I’ve only ever known it as a museum rather than the nightmarish welcome to America that it must have been in its day, and I found that this book helped to bring that into focus for me. If you’re looking for the stories of the immigrants themselves, then this probably isn’t the best book for you. It devotes a lot of attention to political wrangling over federal immigration policies, which is interesting if a little long-winded. ( )
1 stem pokarekareana | May 31, 2011 |
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Ellis Island is one of the greatest human nature offices in the world; no week passes without its comedies as well as tragedies.
- William Williams, Ellis Island Commissioner, 1912
Ellis Island was the great outpost of the new and vigorous republic. Ellis Island stood guard over the wide-flung portal. Ellis Island resounded for years to the tramp of an endless invading army. - Harry E. Hull, Commissioner-General of Immigration, 1928
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In Memory of My father Vincent John Cannato (1930-2008) and My grandfather Vincent Joseph Cannato (1893-1983)
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By 1912, thirty-three-year-old Finnish carpenter Johann Tyni had had enough of America.
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Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today it stands alongside Plymouth Rock in our nation's founding mythology as the place where many of our ancestors first touched American soil. Ellis Island's heyday--from 1892 to 1924--coincided with one of the greatest mass movements of individuals the world has ever seen, with some twelve million immigrants inspected at its gates. Historian Vincent J. Cannato illuminates the story of Ellis Island, from the 19th century days when it hosted pirate hangings, 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. Accounts of immigrants, officials, interpreters, and social reformers all play a role in the chronicle. Long after Ellis Island ceased to be the nation's preeminent immigrant inspection station, the debates that swirled around it are still relevant.--From publisher description.

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