Return to the Gateway
This thesis will explore the factors that contributed to the enshrinement of the immigrant, in relation to places relevant to the Old World immigrant narrative. The chapters concentrate on the area around New York Harbor, often referred to as "the gateway," where turn-of-the-century immigrants sailed and settled and to where public memory made its return in the late sixties, seventies, and eighties. Public attentiveness to ethnic identity affected the character of historic preservation, prompting the creation of new symbols of American history. Many Americans' own Roots narratives brought them here, to the very place the immigrants began their American stories. Chapter One puts the spotlight on New Jersey, exploring how Jersey City claimed its part in the immigrant narrative, and how the state government organized its multi-ethnic character. Chapter Two opens to the national level, illustrating how the enshrinement of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty Centennial embodied the nationalism that came with the rise of conservatism. Chapter Three surveys immigrant memory in the Lower East Side, the quintessential neighborhood of nations, exploring what the Lower East Side Tenement Museum has done to pay homage to the "urban pioneers" of American history, using the past to affect contemporary immigration issues. The public memory that took shape at these historic sites resulted from not solely a revived interest in Old World ethnicity, but through a combination of factors. This thesis will also show how the ethnic revival helped draw attention to aspects of American life such as urban living, and provoked public discourse and scholarly research to attend to the people that history previously overlooked.