Yearning to Breathe Free—The Story of New York City in Eight Immigrant Waves: An Eight-Part Course with Benjamin Rubin - Context Travel

Yearning to Breathe Free—The Story of New York City in Eight Immigrant Waves: An Eight-Part Course with Benjamin Rubin


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Immigrant stories are the American story, and nowhere is this more true than in New York. First settled in 1625, the city more than any other in the United States has been shaped by successive waves of immigrants, each of whom saw the city as freedom, opportunity, or a fresh start, and each of whom remade the city and were remade by it. To understand these successive migrations across four centuries of the city’s history is to understand the diversity and uniqueness of New York’s present.

Each group of immigrants came to New York at a different time in its history, and by recounting them in succession (Dutch, English, Western European, Chinese, Eastern European, Italian, African-American, and Latin American) we also see the city grow and change, facing new challenges and new opportunities along the way.

Led by an expert on American History, Ben Rubin, this course will Outline 400 years of New York history through the eyes of the city’s immigrants. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased appreciation for the history and culture alive in one of America’s greatest and most vibrant cities.

 

Lecture 1: Dutch (1625-1665)

The first Europeans to settle permanently at the mouth of the Hudson River came for profit and established a thriving trading post they called New Amsterdam. Although the settlement only lasted a few decades, it left a lasting legacy on the geography, culture, and identity of what would become New York.

Lecture 2: English (1665-1775)

From the conquest of New Amsterdam to the American Revolution, New York grew from a minor colonial outpost into a bustling city, one of the largest in the British Empire. This growth was primarily driven by migration from the mother country as people flocked to the opportunity offered by a fresh start in the New World.

Lecture 3: German and Irish (1776-1850)

In the first half of the 19th century, New York's population exploded 20 fold, driven by the opening of the Erie canal and unprecedented industrial growth. While domestic immigration accounted for some of the thousands of new workers chasing new opportunities, the majority of them came from Western Europe, in particular Germany and Ireland, seeking to escape political unrest and famine respectively.

Lecture 4: Chinese (1840-1880)

The first of America's immigrant waves to come from outside Europe, the Chinese arrived first on the West Coast, but like the other groups before them, eventually made their way in droves to New York seeking opportunity. Despite facing brutal discrimination, they persevered and produced one of the city's most enduring and iconic ethnic enclaves, Chinatown.

Lecture 5 Eastern European and Jewish (1880-1925)

With the opening of Ellis Island and the symbolic gift of the Statue of Liberty, New York cemented its place as the world's haven for refugees, not only in the popular imagination and in reality. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, large numbers of Eastern Europeans, including many Ashkenazi Jews left the Old World's stagnation and oppression for the promise of the American dream. In the process, they made New York the largest city on Earth.

Lecture 6 Italian (1900-1930)

Few immigrant communities in America are as universally associated with New York as the Italians. Arriving by the millions in the early 20th century, the Italian community not only gave New York Little Italy, and dozens of its most famous political and cultural leaders, but also the city's most iconic food tradition, New York pizza.

Lecture 7: African American (1915-1970)

The Great Migration of African Americans out of the South and into the cities of the Northeast and Midwest permanently reshaped urban America, and New York is no exception. Following jobs and opportunities, the city's new Black residents overcame discrimination to give the city some its most enduring cultural engines from New York Jazz to the Harlem Rennaissance to East Coast Hip Hop.

Lecture 8: Caribbean and Latin American (1960-the present)

New York remains a vibrant center of immigration even to this day, welcoming tens of thousands of new arrivals every year. Since the 1960s the most numerous of the city's immigrant communities have come from the Caribbean and Latin America, including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Colombia. Like so many groups before them, they have added new food, music, art, and holiday traditions to the already rich tapestry of life in New York City.

Ben Rubin is a public historian specializing in the American Revolution and Early America. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science from Hanover College, a Master’s in American History from Western Carolina University, and is a Ph.D. candidate in History and Culture at Drew University, as well as a graduate of the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University. Ben taught history and writing at Bloomfield College for five years before leaving academia to start his own music education business, JC Instrumental. He continues to work in public history with Context Travel, leading both in-person walking tours and virtual conversations on early American history, and at Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution, where he has been a fellow since 2007. His work has been published in both academic and public history journals, and you can hear him most recently as a featured guest on the History Happy Hour podcast. He currently lives in Jersey City, New Jersey with his wife Dana, daughter Sylvie, and dog Oslo, and spends his free time playing music, rock climbing, playing board games, and following Cincinnati Reds baseball.

 

How does it work?

This is an eight-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $280 for eight lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

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H
H.M.
Sorry you missed it!

The first class of eight on Immigration to New York City makes me glad I signed up. I like the way he integrated maps and pictures for someone who has visited NYC but does not it well. I learned so much. Great class.

Customer Reviews

Based on 1 review
100%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
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H
H.M.
Sorry you missed it!

The first class of eight on Immigration to New York City makes me glad I signed up. I like the way he integrated maps and pictures for someone who has visited NYC but does not it well. I learned so much. Great class.