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American Passage: The History of Ellis Island

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For most of New York's early history, Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today the small island 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 For most of New York's early history, Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today the small island 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. In American Passage, Vincent J. Cannato masterfully illuminates the story of Ellis Island from the days when it hosted pirate hangings witnessed by thousands of New Yorkers in the nineteenth century to the turn of the twentieth 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 a 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. Cannato traces the politics, prejudices, and ideologies that surrounded the great immigration debate, to the shift from immigration to detention of aliens during World War II and the Cold War, all the way to the rebirth of the island as a national monument. Long after Ellis Island ceased to be the nation's preeminent immigrant inspection station, the debates that once swirled around it are still relevant to Americans a century later. In this sweeping, often heart-wrenching epic, Cannato reveals that the history of Ellis Island is ultimately the story of what it means to be an American.


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For most of New York's early history, Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today the small island 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 For most of New York's early history, Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today the small island 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. In American Passage, Vincent J. Cannato masterfully illuminates the story of Ellis Island from the days when it hosted pirate hangings witnessed by thousands of New Yorkers in the nineteenth century to the turn of the twentieth 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 a 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. Cannato traces the politics, prejudices, and ideologies that surrounded the great immigration debate, to the shift from immigration to detention of aliens during World War II and the Cold War, all the way to the rebirth of the island as a national monument. Long after Ellis Island ceased to be the nation's preeminent immigrant inspection station, the debates that once swirled around it are still relevant to Americans a century later. In this sweeping, often heart-wrenching epic, Cannato reveals that the history of Ellis Island is ultimately the story of what it means to be an American.

30 review for American Passage: The History of Ellis Island

  1. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This probably deserves more like 2 1/2 stars. I also feel bad because it is not that this is a bad or poorly written book, it's just that it was not what I was expecting. This is a scholarly and somewhat dry history of Ellis Island. Although it does include the stories of immigrants who went through the island, there is too much (in my opinion) about the administration and political bickering surrounding the island. I am interested in the politics of immigration overall, but less so in just the This probably deserves more like 2 1/2 stars. I also feel bad because it is not that this is a bad or poorly written book, it's just that it was not what I was expecting. This is a scholarly and somewhat dry history of Ellis Island. Although it does include the stories of immigrants who went through the island, there is too much (in my opinion) about the administration and political bickering surrounding the island. I am interested in the politics of immigration overall, but less so in just the island's leadership over the years. I guess overall I was expecting more personal immigration stories that gave a feeling for what it was like to come through Ellis Island. This book was much more academic and pretty much all the accounts seem to have from newspaper articles. I would have loved if Cannato went out and found letters, interviews, etc from regular people and told about their experiences. One thing that surprised me was that contrary to popular belief (and in fact, contrary to my own family lore) the officials at Ellis Island did not in fact change anyone's name upon entry. The ship's clerks or later paperwork after entering may have done that, but not island officials. Who knew?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vikas Singh

    A fantastic account of the history of Ellis island -right from its opening to its closure as immigration point and later development as historical centre. At times it becomes boring with too much emphasis on capturing the government record. More case histories could have given the book a humane face

  3. 5 out of 5

    Johnny Williams

    well Just when I was awarding three stars --it hit me about how much in depth research had to go into this book --and I added a star. This is certainly not a armchair read-- you lean back with and just enjoy but rather one that you sit up straight and learn. It is more of a textbook than anything else. That being said it is a top shelf text on our immigration system--it humanistic slant-- its policy slant --its evil and good all wrapped up for us. You will see how personalities first ruled the s well Just when I was awarding three stars --it hit me about how much in depth research had to go into this book --and I added a star. This is certainly not a armchair read-- you lean back with and just enjoy but rather one that you sit up straight and learn. It is more of a textbook than anything else. That being said it is a top shelf text on our immigration system--it humanistic slant-- its policy slant --its evil and good all wrapped up for us. You will see how personalities first ruled the system-- and even some presidents took a keen interest. You will learn how the treatment of women was much different than that of men-- of how corruption took its place and how wars changed its mission. Public opinion --- special interest groups -- prejudices and much more are salted into Vincent's work. You will finish this book far better informed about how our present views on immigration were forged a few decades ago-- and yo9u will wonder if like me-- of how we ever tolerated parts of it-- So if you are a student of immigration -- or curious about a unique part of our history -- or just want to be better informed on the subject or want to debunk some myths- -- this is a book for you --

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tom Spann

    An historical masterpiece. Much has been written about Ellis Island, and I have not read it all. But I cannot imagine how any historian could write a better account of Ellis Island. American Passage is not just about an immigrant receiving station in the New York harbor. On a much broader scale it is a story of America's still unresolved struggle over immigration itself. A struggle that was acute enough in the heyday of Ellis Island but exists today on a scale unimaginable in the early days of i An historical masterpiece. Much has been written about Ellis Island, and I have not read it all. But I cannot imagine how any historian could write a better account of Ellis Island. American Passage is not just about an immigrant receiving station in the New York harbor. On a much broader scale it is a story of America's still unresolved struggle over immigration itself. A struggle that was acute enough in the heyday of Ellis Island but exists today on a scale unimaginable in the early days of immigrant processing on the island. Cannoto writes with clarity and incredible insight and understanding. No dusty historical tome here. This is a look back, of course, but American Passage is a book for today on a very real and critical level.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    American Passage tells the history of Ellis Island from a multifaceted lens including social, political and economic history that helped to shape this American Icon of Immigration. As one of the main points of entry for immigrants coming from Europe during the immigration booms of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Ellis Island was a symbol for of hope for immigrants as almost 99 percent who landed passed through quickly. Success in quarantine disease and limiting dangerous immigrants were abound American Passage tells the history of Ellis Island from a multifaceted lens including social, political and economic history that helped to shape this American Icon of Immigration. As one of the main points of entry for immigrants coming from Europe during the immigration booms of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Ellis Island was a symbol for of hope for immigrants as almost 99 percent who landed passed through quickly. Success in quarantine disease and limiting dangerous immigrants were abound but as the author points out these successes were not without the tragedies of bureaucracy that left some immigrants heading back home or trapped in legal limbo. The book also covers the time during the World Wars where Ellis Island was used to hold aliens deemed dangerous to the United States (many identified during World War II by none other than J. Edgar Hoover). Finally the book touches upon what happened to the Island after the immigration services shifted to the consular format and was no longer needed. It includes the time spent by Lee Iacocca to convert it into a historical site and the effects/debates that have surrounded that move. Overall this is an excellent and comprehensive summary of Ellis Island that can move slow at times but does a good job of telling the whole story in a small amount of pages.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ana Rusness-petersen

    Amazing book! I selected this book to read in collaboration with the "Ghosts of Ellis Island" book, which had drawn me, as a photographer, into the subject matter, but which was mostly images and little text. I wanted to know more about the history of the place in its heyday, and how it got to its present state - something to correspond and contrast with the amazingly and colorful images taken of the dilapidated island and its buildings left to succumb to nature after Ellis Island's functional pe Amazing book! I selected this book to read in collaboration with the "Ghosts of Ellis Island" book, which had drawn me, as a photographer, into the subject matter, but which was mostly images and little text. I wanted to know more about the history of the place in its heyday, and how it got to its present state - something to correspond and contrast with the amazingly and colorful images taken of the dilapidated island and its buildings left to succumb to nature after Ellis Island's functional period as an immigration entry point ended. I set out reading this book with the idea that I was reading a history of the physical land that was Ellis Island. Readers are walked through the development of the 3 mile large island that started as Large Oyster Island, became a military base, and then, following Castle Garden's prominence, served as the main sieve of immigration from 1892 - 1954. But there were many times I felt I was reading a book about the history and debate of immigration and immigration law - the ongoing debate of the balance between a completely open-door policy and a completely closed-door policy. Accept the good solid immigrants, reject the misfits, the sick, the ones likely to become a "public charge." I was amazed and slightly shocked how many families were split up when a member or two were denied entry to the country, and the rest of the family entered, just continuing their lives without the rejected member(s) of their immediate family. This element of immigration policy and its development over time, corresponding to world events of the day, was very interesting, and made the book very relevant and timely for today's society, it was just not what I initially thought I'd be reading about. There were also the fascinating discussions of Ellis Island's supplemental role during war time periods as an enemy alien holding cell, and the unique and crazy stories of people attempting to pass through Ellis Island into the United States. Deceitful prostitutes, theatrical and musical artists seeking not to be immigrants, but just to perform in America who had their lives derailed by scandal and rejection, alleged criminals who were stranded on the island, denied access to the U.S. but had their home countries also deny their citizenship, all illustrated the power of Ellis Island to change lives. I found this book to be well researched, well written, very detailed and full of knowledge. There were many times you, as the reader, could just see the immigrants fearfully walking through the buildings of Ellis Island, lined up, suitcases in hand, dreading their uncertain future. I did find it hard, at times, to piece together stories and policies discussed in the book and to place them in their corresponding time line to glean additional information from what else was going on in the world that might have impacted or determined these decisions, as the book wasn't presented in a strictly consecutive form - it jumped around a bit. The main core of the book followed a solid time line, but some of the tangents led readers off to different era, only to be brought back abruptly to an earlier time. Additionally, the book did not need its Epilogue, which only served to lecture to readers and state as obvious the conclusions the author came to while researching and writing the book. The normal summation had already been completed skillfully throughout the book by repeating the main points, and in the book's final chapter, which ended with skill and a thought provoking lead out. The Epilogue detracted from this strong finish. Overall, this book is DEFINITELY worth reading and adding to your library, especially when paired with "Ghosts of Ellis Island." It allows one a window into the past struggles, allows an illuminating and newly, more completely educated perspective into the issue of immigration, and shows how relevant and timely and important the matter of immigration and the melting pot imagery of our nation is in today's society.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    More than what most people might want to know, this seems like a fairly comprehensive history that reveals how politics haven’t seemed to change in more than 100 years. (I’d forgotten about the original nativist party - the Know Nothings of the 1850s). There has never been a time when we haven’t questioned who gets to live in America. As Americans we believe that all are created equal, and yet we can sift through immigrants to exclude them because “Discrimination is at the heart of any immigrati More than what most people might want to know, this seems like a fairly comprehensive history that reveals how politics haven’t seemed to change in more than 100 years. (I’d forgotten about the original nativist party - the Know Nothings of the 1850s). There has never been a time when we haven’t questioned who gets to live in America. As Americans we believe that all are created equal, and yet we can sift through immigrants to exclude them because “Discrimination is at the heart of any immigration policy....But if we are a representative democracy, then should our immigration laws not reflect the popular will?” Each side finds the other arguments morally repugnant and at odds with “our values.” The author describes the difficulty of holding our mix of conflicting ideas simultaneously as a kind of “intellectual schizophrenia.” The last chapter rather masterfully sums up the issues - and the hypocrisy on both sides - and left me thinking that we are still a long way from striking the right balance. “If the regulation of immigration is somehow tied to the rise of the burgeoning federal government, then our contemporary attitudes toward government are not helping. Many of those who wish stricter controls and regulation of immigrants are often on the political right and are often the same people who call for limited government intervention in the marketplace. Conservative attacks on (big) government make the call for stronger action against immigrants seem hollow.” "Many who call for fewer restrictions on immigration...are on the political left, but they are often the same people who call for greater government involvement in the economy. They increasingly minimize the right of national sovereignty and dismiss nationalism as an outmoded and reactionary ideal, yet they wish to galvanize the nation for universal health care and other welfare-state programs....These liberals support federal action everywhere but immigration... Labor unions... which used to be supporters of immigrant restriction because of their genuine concerns for the effect of cheap labor on wages….now have a laissez-faire attitude… and (their) belief that their survival hinges upon support from foreign-born workers in the service economy.” The battle will only grow more heated. "Studying Ellis Island’s history provides little ammunition for those who wish either stricter or more lenient immigration laws... History rarely provides neat lessons that can be utilized for present political purposes. If history teaches anything, it is that the past was filled with imperfect people who made imperfect decisions in dealing with an imperfect world." We will have to find a balance between the competing ideals of universalism vs national sovereignty, a policy of non-discrimination vs democratic self-rule, and feelings of generosity vs pragmatism. … and it must be resolved as some level of exclusion." The devil is in the details.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gary Null

    My goal when I began reading this book was to get a better understanding of what my grandfather and his family experienced when they immigrated through Ellis Island from Germany in 1904 and 1905. I was pleasantly surprised to gather a “boat load” (pun intended) of additional information about the times. This is a fascinating read and was difficult to put down. It’s amazing how many similarities there are between concerns about immigration today and the attitudes of 100 years ago. There were conce My goal when I began reading this book was to get a better understanding of what my grandfather and his family experienced when they immigrated through Ellis Island from Germany in 1904 and 1905. I was pleasantly surprised to gather a “boat load” (pun intended) of additional information about the times. This is a fascinating read and was difficult to put down. It’s amazing how many similarities there are between concerns about immigration today and the attitudes of 100 years ago. There were concerns about immigrants taking jobs from American workers, becoming wards of the state, bringing disease, being “alien radicals.” There was much debate on how to screen and weed out the undesirables and send them back. Other serendipitous gems I gleaned from this book included many historical tidbits I had been unaware of: The predecessor to Ellis Island was Castle Gardens, German saboteurs infiltrated American soil and blew up a munitions storage facility on Black Tom Island near Ellis Island before American troops entered the first World War, German-Americans were rounded up and sent to relocation camps during World War I, 143,000 blacks immigrated through Ellis Island between 1899 and 1937, and much more. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in immigration.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David

    This was a long but fun read and I learned a lot about Ellis Island and how it was used for different purposes over its functional life from the most recognized as an immigrant screening and processing center to a prison to hold enemies during WWII and as a convalescent center for American soldiers after WWI as well as other uses. It describes the early use as a place to hang pirates and its development into the Ellis Island complex. It held my interest as it listed the different people in charg This was a long but fun read and I learned a lot about Ellis Island and how it was used for different purposes over its functional life from the most recognized as an immigrant screening and processing center to a prison to hold enemies during WWII and as a convalescent center for American soldiers after WWI as well as other uses. It describes the early use as a place to hang pirates and its development into the Ellis Island complex. It held my interest as it listed the different people in charge and the changing philosophy about who and how many should be let into America from various countries and ethnic groups, often sounding like various arguments heard today. Everyone concerned about immigration should read this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    This books traces the origins of Ellis Island and the politics involved in the immigration process. There is little information about the actual immigrants; instead the narrative concentrates on policies that shaped the process. The book reads more like a text book and often becomes bogged down in minutia. That said, it does shed light on how the United States shaped its admission criteria to pass through "the golden door"......and it's pretty damn depressing. The author has researched the subje This books traces the origins of Ellis Island and the politics involved in the immigration process. There is little information about the actual immigrants; instead the narrative concentrates on policies that shaped the process. The book reads more like a text book and often becomes bogged down in minutia. That said, it does shed light on how the United States shaped its admission criteria to pass through "the golden door"......and it's pretty damn depressing. The author has researched the subject well and presents it honestly.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    This is an incredibly well-researched monograph by a historian who I will pay close attention to. The detail, precision and smooth narrative flow kept me glued to this book. Given the scale of the subject, the Vincent Cannato has to be lauded for his very successful effort at compiling everything into a very digestible form. He is very skillful at not overwhelming the reader with facts and dates and he is very good at keeping his balance on the tightrope that is American immigration history. Sur This is an incredibly well-researched monograph by a historian who I will pay close attention to. The detail, precision and smooth narrative flow kept me glued to this book. Given the scale of the subject, the Vincent Cannato has to be lauded for his very successful effort at compiling everything into a very digestible form. He is very skillful at not overwhelming the reader with facts and dates and he is very good at keeping his balance on the tightrope that is American immigration history. Surveying the historical landscape of the geography of Ellis Island until its closure in 1954 and its subsequent re-opening as a memorial, American Passage delivers a timely and efficient rendition of one of the most momentous moments in American history. Cannato deftly follows the meandering travels of US policy toward immigration: first it was a state issue, then it became federal, then it bounced from the Department of Labor and Commerce to the Department of Justice (in 1940). Along the way it was a source of selection and ostracization and detention, essentially becoming a mirror of US attitudes toward immigration. The author even discusses immigration versus the American black experience and the politics of selective historical memory and its implications for the present day. He writes, "Historians should be wary of writing history that provides a 'usable past.'" Toward the end of the book he warns us that, "How people interpreted the meaning of Ellis Island was becoming more important than what had actually occurred there." We a similarity in present-day Spain where they are struggling with some portions of their past that took place during the Spanish Civil War. "Memory is something that changes with time," notes Cannato. He is right. Depending on who you ask there are different versions and interpretations of the meaning and significance of Ellis Island. Missing from Cannato's survey is any mention of the US Refugee Act of 1953 which inspired/instigated immigration from Communist countries as a a way of fomenting brain drain. It would have been interesting to see how this played with the immigration policies adopted for use at Ellis Island. Despite this ommission, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    As the USA Today said of author Vincent Cannato, he "is not only a meticulous researcher and historian, he's also a lively storyteller." This book makes United States immigration history come alive by telling so many of the stories that have unfolded throughout the history of Ellis Island. The history of this place brings to light the way that some of the same debates and pressure points that we experience with regard to immigration today have flared up at earlier times as well, over the course As the USA Today said of author Vincent Cannato, he "is not only a meticulous researcher and historian, he's also a lively storyteller." This book makes United States immigration history come alive by telling so many of the stories that have unfolded throughout the history of Ellis Island. The history of this place brings to light the way that some of the same debates and pressure points that we experience with regard to immigration today have flared up at earlier times as well, over the course of the history of the United States. Indeed, as one progresses through the recollections of decision-making and development of immigration policies, it becomes striking to realize how the stringent logic that immigration officers and administrators used to determine who was allowed to enter the country alludes to (and sometimes identically represents) the type of logic used by Nazis in World War II Germany. Relatedly, like the prison camps along the southern United States-Mexico border today, Ellis Island was at some points in its history referred to as a concentration camp. This is not to say that every story is a tragic one when it comes to the history of Ellis Island -- there are stories of reprieve and new beginnings and new hopes. It can also certainly and accurately be said that other countries, today and throughout the history of nations, have stringent, life-denying immigration policies as well. And perhaps there are no other kind of policies to have when it comes to nations and closed borders. But there is a particular kind of shadow of shame over the history of Ellis Island and over this nation's history more broadly. A shadow of shame because we are in a country that claims to welcome the weary and downtrodden, and a shadow of the ever-present notion of a border determined and maintained by settlers on a land that was stolen. This we have yet to resolve. In his final chapter, in light of facing this difficult, sometimes heart-wrenching history, Cannato reflects on what he perceives to be a contradiction of thought held by today's progressive left, one that advocates for open borders and yet at the same time advocates for government-provided national social services. I found that this article in The Nation is a helpful response to that point: https://www.thenation.com/article/ope... This book is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in the history of immigration.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Mackie

    Like many people, my family retold a few Ellis Island stories. Several of my father’s family came through that gate, including both my father’s parents and his older siblings. Besides this personal history, my motivation to read this book was a recent trip to Ellis Island. As a historian though, I wanted a solid, well written narrative to balance this very current historical theme. The complexity and exaggerated memories of immigration has plagued the United States since the early 19th century. E Like many people, my family retold a few Ellis Island stories. Several of my father’s family came through that gate, including both my father’s parents and his older siblings. Besides this personal history, my motivation to read this book was a recent trip to Ellis Island. As a historian though, I wanted a solid, well written narrative to balance this very current historical theme. The complexity and exaggerated memories of immigration has plagued the United States since the early 19th century. Ellis Island became the symbolic landmark and artifact to represents the post-Civil War explosion immigration. What Vincent J. Cannato does is to merge the historian’s large-scale narrative with many primary source examples. His academic treatment of this theme is essential to get a clearer understanding of the mixed messages America has sent to those entering. The reader is confronted with immigration restrictionists who cite their mythical Puritan pioneers as superior to any who came later. Then further on you see reformers who bucked the bureaucratic system to do something right for the thousands entering. A good narrative like this should leave the reader honoring the few who do well in hard situations, but grieve over the many who failed. Cannato well depicted the federal efforts to control immigration and illustrated the terrible hypocrisy of Americans over this issue. Grandchildren of immigrants rejected later immigrants and repeated the sad example of previous generations. It appears we have not learned much.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dana Reynolds

    A thorough treatment of immigration into the U.S. by way of NYC, which was the most common location in the country for immigrants to arrive in a new home. My greatest takeaway is the extent to which immigration improves the American economy even if it does so by the initial and massive exploitation of these same immigrants, often by former immigrants themselves. The second and lesser takeaway is how uneven, arbitrary, politicized, and haphazard the immigration process has been. The chaos of immi A thorough treatment of immigration into the U.S. by way of NYC, which was the most common location in the country for immigrants to arrive in a new home. My greatest takeaway is the extent to which immigration improves the American economy even if it does so by the initial and massive exploitation of these same immigrants, often by former immigrants themselves. The second and lesser takeaway is how uneven, arbitrary, politicized, and haphazard the immigration process has been. The chaos of immigration didn't begin on our southern border in the late twentieth century, but has always been a fact of American life. Though immigrants have always been victimized by political fumbling or deliberate exploitation, nothing in this history is remotely as harsh as we have seen when children were forcibly separated from the parents at the southern border under the Trump administration.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter E.

    This was an interesting treatment of Ellis Island's history (up to 2009). It is well-written and researched. Excellent drawings, photographs and maps enhance the book. The most interesting part of the book is the description of specific cases of immigrants coming to Ellis Island. The author spends an inordinate amount of time outlining the political intrigue surrounding Ellis Island development. Full biographies are provided for virtually every figure in Ellis Island's history. This was distract This was an interesting treatment of Ellis Island's history (up to 2009). It is well-written and researched. Excellent drawings, photographs and maps enhance the book. The most interesting part of the book is the description of specific cases of immigrants coming to Ellis Island. The author spends an inordinate amount of time outlining the political intrigue surrounding Ellis Island development. Full biographies are provided for virtually every figure in Ellis Island's history. This was distracting and unnecessary. This approach may have provided a more complete profile of the facility but I found most of this discussion unnecessary and distracting from the main points of the story. The book has value for someone interesting in immigrant activities, U.S. history and political intrigue.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Les

    This is an outstanding book that goes beyond a flat history of Ellis Island, but puts it in the context of the past and ongoing American debate over immigration. At the heart of the matter is the seeming dichotomy of the US as a refuge for the huddled masses and a place of opportunity, yet a country that agonises over which outsiders to admit and how many. That the tensions over immigration persist is evidenced by the reference to the current Vice-President, while a Congressman, wanting the intr This is an outstanding book that goes beyond a flat history of Ellis Island, but puts it in the context of the past and ongoing American debate over immigration. At the heart of the matter is the seeming dichotomy of the US as a refuge for the huddled masses and a place of opportunity, yet a country that agonises over which outsiders to admit and how many. That the tensions over immigration persist is evidenced by the reference to the current Vice-President, while a Congressman, wanting the introduction of a series of mini Ellis Islands to ensure that the right kind of people were entering the country. Ellis Island has long since to serve its original function, but the heated debate over the "Mexican Wall" shows that this is very much a book for our times.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kevin McAvoy

    Listened to the audiobook from Audible.com I enjoyed this and learned a lot about what immigrants had to go through to enter the USA. My Grandfather passed thru Ellis Island in 1910 with just $18. in his pocket. He must have been a smooth talker because at the time you were supposed to have $25. minimum. Lots of heartbreak and drama and racism obviously but this is real history and worth knowing. Probably this is the most detailed study of the island and could be a textbook for immigrant studies. Thi Listened to the audiobook from Audible.com I enjoyed this and learned a lot about what immigrants had to go through to enter the USA. My Grandfather passed thru Ellis Island in 1910 with just $18. in his pocket. He must have been a smooth talker because at the time you were supposed to have $25. minimum. Lots of heartbreak and drama and racism obviously but this is real history and worth knowing. Probably this is the most detailed study of the island and could be a textbook for immigrant studies. This topic is not for everyone but if you have ancestors that passed thru here it is YOUR history too. Good book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is an interesting book, but not necessarily recommended for the lay reader. There is much discussion about the different heads of Ellis island over the years, and their varying influence on immigration there. It would be very useful for graduate students studying the policies and political changes regarding immigration at this famous entry point. I gave it 4 stars due to the amount of research that was evident.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Probably 2 1/2 stars from me. It was definitely well researched, but a little dry for my liking. I’m also more interested in what happened to Ellis Island after it was officially closed in the 1950s, and very little time is spent on that right at the end. It’s a good read if you’re interested in the politics of immigration and the leadership and policies implemented there.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James Romero

    Informative facts There are a lot of facts that many Americans are not aware of in this book. I am a descendant of Ellis Island emigrants and I found it very enlightening. My great grand parents arrived prior to 1900 and I am told that great grandmother met the ships and helped arriving Polish people get settled in. Again I think this is very informative.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Although immigrants and our feelings toward them, is more relevant than ever, I found this book dry and to the extent that it was non lineal, confusing. More real immigrant stories would have lightened this quite a bit.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael Pellagatti

    Solid Read This was a solid read about the history of Ellis Island. It starts off a bit slow with the history relative to all the political infighting surrounding the island, but finishes off strongly with very thought provoking questions relative to our contemporary situation.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    More detailed than it had to be to make the point, but I learned the extent to which efforts were made to exclude potential immigrants.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bryanna Plog

    Perhaps a bit policy heavy, but a great look at the place that shaped America so much in the 20th century.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Holly Ites

    Recommended for only the most dedicated history nerds.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gayle

    Amzing book about Ellis Ialand, many of the thoughts and protests about immigration are sadly still with us today.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aimee Kempainen

    Challenging read, but very interesting and learned a lot about history and thoughts on where the US is today with immigration. Wanted to learn more after my visit to the Ellis island museum

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elli Williams

    Full of research, first hand accounts, background detail. Excerpts would be good for a History Class. Some sections did run on.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Buxton

    C-. nonfiction, history, Ellis Island, immigration

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I saw Mr. Cannato speak on One Day University about Ellis Island and purchased his book. I have a whole new appreciation of the process of Immigration during that time period.

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