Not Your Typical Guide to Black New York
The Black Bucket List heads to New York, where we discover there's so much more to black history than the Harlem Renaissance -- like Do or Die Bed-Stuy circa 1838.
In 1990 the Ellis Island Immigration Museum was opened and quickly became a major New York tourist attraction. For many of the museum's 2 million visitors, the highlight is searching the computerized passenger records to find information about their ancestors.
Ellis Island has never been a magnet for African-American tourists. Most of us figure that our ancestors came over on another kind of boat, so why bother? But actually, Ellis Island has a surprising amount to offer African-American visitors. Artifacts, clothing and photographs honor Caribbean immigrants like Marcus Garvey, who played a major role in the Harlem Renaissance. Cicely Tyson and Colin Powell both had family who passed through Ellis Island.
"Three hundred thousand Caribbean immigrants came through Ellis Island, and their story is told here," says Peg Zitko, vice president of public affairs for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. "Their records are also in our database."
In September the center will launch the first phase of a renovation that will extend its focus beyond just immigrants who came through the island to provide a broader look at immigration in America. The first phase will explore immigration before the opening of Ellis Island in 1892 and include an examination of "forced immigration," aka slavery. In 2013 the museum will officially change its name to Ellis Island: The National Museum of Immigration and launch its second phase, which will look at immigration after the '50s.
"Contemporary immigration may be the most interesting part of the story," says Zitko. "Everyone will be represented -- Asia, South America and so on, and certainly Africa."
According to the latest census figures, more than 8 percent of American blacks are now foreign-born, compared with 1 percent in 1960. Of those, 34 percent emigrated from Africa, compared with 1 percent in 1960.