On Saturday a friend and I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Although The Statue of Liberty is beautiful and historic, I found that Ellis Island was much more interesting and compelling. The exhibits showed the faces of the immigrants some hopeful, some joyous in the expectations that this great, strange new country would bring a new life, where there would be freedom whether it be from persecution, religious freedom or freedom from being hungry and impoverished. Some faces were cautious, and some frightened.
The exhibits also showed the posters of our sordid history. Posters and exhibits explained the removal of Native Americans from their sacred lands, warnings for colored people of Boston to be wary of watchmen and police officers who had been employed as kidnappers as slave catchers. Another photo showed a woman on a porch pointedly indicating to a sign that stated” Japs Keep Moving This is a white Man’s Neighborhood”.
I thought of my own ancestors, some who came from Ireland, others from Germany. How difficult it must have been for them to leave their homeland. My husband’s grandmother came from Poland. Her family came to escape the pogroms in the attempts to be rid of Jews.
From Ellis Island, one can see the glorious Statue of Liberty. The pedestal has the inscription of the sonnet written by Emma Lazarus. Part of which reads “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to be free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
I heard one young visitor to Ellis Island say to his Mom, “Either you were happy and excited when you came here, or nervous and scared”. I believe this still holds true today. I hope that more us can be happy and excited here; rather than nervous and scared.