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Books  >>  History

Vincent J. Cannato

American Passage

Vincent J. Cannato American Passage The History Of Ellis Island
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Main description:

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.

Review quote:

“Although Ellis Island is about immigrants from far-away places, it is in fact as American as Thanksgiving and apple pie. This amazing story is recounted beautifully in Vincent Cannato’s well-written and evocative book, which will bring pleasure and profit to readers.”

Review quote:

“Cannato does a masterful job of weaving together a slew of singular immigrant stories with the larger issues that surrounded newcomers. He gives us the politics, the health scares and epidemics, the crowding, the corruption and the public policy.”

Review quote:

“Cannato navigates the crosscurrents of immigration since the 1700s, illustrating his tale generously with odd facts and highly readable stories.”

Review quote:

“Cannato resists the temptation to setimentalize Ellis Island. He understands that, now as then, immigration is an issue that leaves Americans uncomfortable and contentious, even as it continues to bring new blood and energy into the country.”

Review quote:

“Historian Vincent Cannato appears to have overlooked nothing in telling the tale of the historic island, now a national monument. . . . Cannato is not only a meticulous researcher and historian, he’s also a lively storyteller. A rare combination.”

Review quote:

“Immigration has long been a critical slice of the American narrative, and here, in American Passage, Vincent Cannato tells its story with great brio. From landing point to national Monument, from immigrants to interpreters, we see the veritable Babel of Ellis Island play out across the years.”

Review quote:

“Mr. Cannato’s writing is vivid and accessible, and his approach is admirably even-handed.”

Review quote:

“Reading Vincent Cannato’s American Passage was an amazing journey into our nation’s immigrant past. Never before has Ellis Island been written about with such scholarly care and historical wisdom. Highly recommended!”

Review quote:

“The story of America is one of immigration. B

"By bringing us the inspiring and sometimes unsettling tales of Ellis Island, Vincent Cannato’s American Passage helps us understand who we are as a nation.”
— Walter Isaacson

“Never before has Ellis Island been written about with such scholarly care and historical wisdom. Highly recommended!"
—Douglas Brinkley, bestselling author of The Wilderness Warrior

The remarkable saga of America’s landmark port of entry, from immigration post to deportation center to mythical icon.

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