Our lucky New York-based colleague Guy LeCharles Gonzalez attended the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards yesterday. He got the scoop on the latest Ellis Island exhibits and rubbed elbows with the stars (well, at least he was in the same room).
Here’s Guy’s report:
Emilio and Gloria Estefan (below) accepted the inaugural B.C. Forbes Peopling of America Award in a star-studded 8th Annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards ceremony yesterday, hosted by actress Candice Bergen in the historic Great Hall on Ellis Island.
The awards celebrate the lives and work of individuals who immigrated to America and their descendants; with the Forbes honor going to those who arrived through a port other than Ellis Island. It reminds us that America continues to be the destination for those seeking freedom, hope and opportunity.
Accepting the award alongside her husband, musician Gloria Estefan noted the common denominator shared with the day’s other honorees—Joe Namath, Eric Kandel and Jerry Seinfeld—that no matter where they or their families had come from, or when, they all sought to escape some form of tyranny. In America, they’d found a home where they could live freely and pursue their dreams.
Sponsored by the Forbes family in honor of patriarch B.C. “Bertie” Forbes, the Peopling of America award is also named for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation‘s newest project: the Peopling of America Center.
The center will expand the Ellis Island Immigration Museum to include the entire panorama of the American immigrant experience—from native American groups to today’s New Americans, whose numbers are growing exponentially.
The new center is an ambitious $20 million effort to make Ellis Island even more compelling and relevant for the coming decades, with the goal of telling all of our stories about being and becoming Americans.
Its precursor, the Peopling of America exhibit, is in the Great Hall’s former Railroad Ticket Office, where immigrants could make travel arrangements to their final destinations in the United States. Several displays visually chronicle the more than 60 million people who’ve come to the United States, voluntarily and by force, since 1600.
This map details sources and destinations of the Atlantic slave trade:
This exhibit compares immigration (blue arrows) to emigration (red arrows) by decade:
Other displays include an interactive Map of Diversity, which can show the number of people in each state who claim a certain race or ancestry (based on US census data); maps and charts of historical immigration patterns; and the American Flag of Faces, a “living and interactive exhibit” to which anyone can add a photo (names and captions are searchable online).