Vincent J. Cannato

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The first full history of America’s landmark port of entry, from immigration post to deportation center to mythical icon.

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 the greatest mass migration 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 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. 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.

Praise for American Passage . . .

"The story of America is one of immigration. 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, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"To his great credit Cannato does not pretend to answer our tough questions about immigration, nor to find a 'usable past' in the history of Ellis Island. He just tells one heck of a story that oozes with relevance." —Walter A. McDougall, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Throes of Democracy

"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!" —Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge

"Although Ellis Island is about immigrants from far-away places, it is in fact as American as Thanksgiving and apple pie. It reminds us of who we were and who we are, and especially of how Americans came to be different from most other peoples. This amazing story is recounted beautifully in Vincent Cannato's well-written and evocative book, which will bring pleasure and profit to readers." —Kenneth T. Jackson, editor in chief, Encyclopedia of New York City

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Vincent J. Cannato

Vincent J. Cannato is associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He received his BA with honors in Political Science from Williams College and his PhD in History from Columbia University. At UMASS-Boston, Prof. Cannato teaches courses on New York City history, Boston history, immigration history, and twentieth-century American history.

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Cannato discussed America’s constitutional and policy history regarding immigration on Liberty Law Talk.


Cannato's American Passage wins the 2010 Massachusetts Book Award for Nonfiction [ more . . . ]


Cannato discusses American Passage on the Cambridge Forum. [ Watch ]


Cannato discusses New York mayor John Lindsay on the PBS documentary "Fun City Revisited: The Lindsay Years." [ Watch ]


Cannato discusses American Passage on the Diane Rehm Show.


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Vincent J. Cannato's Book Publications

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