Thursday, July 2, 2009

The History of Ellis Island

None of my ancestors came through Ellis Island. Some were here before Columbus landed. Others got here well before Ellis Island opened in 1892. Family lore says another branch of the family snuck in through Canada. More recently, my sister-in-law and her family flew into JFK from El Salvador. Still, on a recent trip to Ellis Island with my niece, I was deeply moved by the thought that we were standing in the place where 12 million immigrants first touched American soil.

In American Passage: The History of Ellis Island, Vincent J. Cannato, a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, captures a time and a place unparalleled in American history. The book is filled with dramatic and bittersweet accounts of the immigrants, officials, interpreters, and social reformers who all played an important role in Elllis Island's chronicle. Professor Cannato traces the politics, prejudices, and ideologies that surrounded the great immigration debates--debates that are still relevant today.

Sweeping, often heart-wrenching, American Passage reveals that the history of this small island is ultimately the story of what it means to be an American.


  1. Oh, interesting. I'll have to check it out! Both sides of my family game to America from Ellis Island (via Italy and Germany) so it would be interesting to read the real story (even though their fantastical versions are very fun to hear - passed down, of course)

  2. Very cool read! It is rare to read these kind of posts in the web nowadays! Thanks.

  3. I have this book and I would say, I recommend this to those who know very little of out culture and where it came from!