From Friday, April 17th to Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, New York City will celebrate Immigrant Heritage Week. Declared an official, annual celebration by Mayor Bloomberg, Immigrant Heritage Week is a unique celebration of the vibrant immigrant cultures, history, and communities found in every corner of the City. In the past years, the celebration began on Monday but this year it starts on Friday, April 17th. Why April 17, you might ask?
April 17, 1907 marks the occasion of Ellis Island immigration officials processing the largest number of immigrants in a single day: 11,747. Did you know that close to 40 percent of Americans can trace their ancestry to immigrants who passed through the Ellis Island immigration center between 1829 and 1954? This includes songwriter Irving Berlin, who arrived from Russia in 1893 at the age of 5, and Bob Hope, who emigrated from England in 1908 at age of 4. His original name was Leslie Hope. Ellis Island was the first point of entry for millions of immigrants arriving by steamship in search of freedom and the great opportunities they believed the United States could offer. The Statue of Liberty, symbolizing liberty and democracy, was often the first image they would see as their ship came into the harbor. Since 1954 immigrants have been arriving to United States through many ports of entries, but the American dream of living in freedom in the land of opportunity remains the same. I know that each time I pass it on the Staten Island Ferry ride, my heart skips a beat, and I get overwhelmed with pride of being an American—a naturalized citizen, I must add. We at the New York Public Library serve the City’s diverse immigrant communities and are a proud partner of the 6th Annual Immigrant Heritage Week Celebration offering free events and activities throughout the libraries in Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island. Help us celebrate the City’s rich immigrant history by attending the many library events to be enjoyed by all: families, adults, young adults and children. Music & Dance from Bangladesh performed by members of the Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts Also visit the Mayor’s Office on Immigrant Affairs website for listing of city-wide events. View photos of Ellis Island immigration in the NYPL Digital Gallery and the set on Flickr.