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Ellis Island: Place and Paradigm

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Summary

Vincent DiGirolamo, Baruch College, CUNYCUNY Graduate CenterHistorian Vincent DiGirolamo discusses the historiography of early 20th-century immigration through Ellis Island. The Ellis Island paradigm he describes is the traditional immigrant narrative: push and pull factors lead poor Europeans to sail to the United States in search of better opportunities, they come through Ellis Island and over a generation or two, through a process of assimilation, they eventually “become American.” This is problematic because many immigration stories do not fall neatly into this paradigm. The traditional narrative leaves no room for the many migrants who returned to their home countries; it ignores issues of race that affect the kinds of opportunities people have access to when they get here; and it does not acknowledge people who entered the United States through other ports. In this 30-minute podcast professor DiGirolamo places the subject of Ellis Island immigration during this period into historiographical perspective.

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