118: “The Island of Hope and Tears:” Ellis Island

History That Doesn't Suck

Aug 29 2022 • 1 hr 7 mins

“That’s the light of freedom! Remember that. Freedom.” This is the story of 40% of modern America’s ancestors—this is the story of Ellis Island. Religious persecution. Economic devastation. Stifling political regimes. Whether fleeing for their lives or simply to improve them, Europeans—especially Eastern and Southern Europeans—are flocking to turn-of-the-century America. But no port is busier than New York City. The journey is no laughing matter. Many immigrants are traveling nearly penniless as they make their way to major port cities. They then endure the filth, stench, and overcrowding of steerage for two-weeks on the Atlantic, all with the hope that they’ll pass the health and legal inspections of Ellis Island. The vast majority will, but the fear of being turned away—of being separated from family members allowed in, or being sent back to Europe destitute–is terrifying. This is the Island of Hope … and the Island of Tears. This is Ellis Island. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices