Mon July 13, 2009
Ellis Island: The Story of an American Icon.
By Rich Fisher
Tulsa, Oklahoma – On today's show, we speak with the author and scholar Vincent J. Cannato, who teaches history at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Cannato has a new book out with HarperCollins entitled, "American Passage: The History of Ellis Island." An emblem of our nation's immigrant heritage, Ellis Island has long been revered as the portal through which --- in the late-nineteenth century alone, during its melting-pot heyday (from 1892 to 1924) --- some 12 million new arrivals passed as they entered into America. But as Cannato tells host Rich Fisher on this edition of our program, Ellis Island has also been the site of many well-attended pirate hangings (in the early 1800s) as well as a vast holding center where alleged Nazi sympathizers (at the height of World War II) were detained. Moreover, as Jonathan Yardley has noted of this book in The Washington Post, while Cannato "has written a popular rather than scholarly history of Ellis Island . . . he resists the temptation to sentimentalize the place. 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. Ellis Island may have been converted into something of a feel-good theme park, but the questions it raises remain unresolved."