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

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 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 conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 8 reviews
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(8)
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Harriett Michael (San Rafael, US)
Learning History is fun.

By focusing on New York City and how different waves of immigrants transformed it into The Big Apple, we were able to learn American and World History in an organic way. By that I mean that it grew along with the country and pulled immigrants to come while being pushed out of their countries.

A
Anonymous (Orinda, US)

Guest did not leave comment

H
Harriett Michael (San Rafael, US)
Glad to watch snd learn

Learning how the different waves of immigrants have made New York City what it is today by learning the impact different people have made on The City makes history fun.

H
Harriett Michael (San Rafael, US)
Kudos to the class!

This course explains how the 8 different waves of immigrants made NYC what it is today. Starting with the Dutch, each week focused on the next major group to arrive. Each was unique and the same as few came wealthy. It allows us to appreciate how immigrants had an impact on where they landed if from another country or continent. They built are country and this course tells us how one city changed over time because the immigrants arrived, bringing their culture with them, adding to what was already there.

H
Harriett Michael (San Rafael, US)
A terrific way to learn the History of NYC v

Mr. Rubin covers the important parts of the 8 immigrant waves that made NYC what it is today. He compares the different waves and explains how they are alike and different from the others. He is well organized and the talks show the depth of his knowledge.

Customer Reviews

Based on 8 reviews
100%
(8)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
H
Harriett Michael (San Rafael, US)
Learning History is fun.

By focusing on New York City and how different waves of immigrants transformed it into The Big Apple, we were able to learn American and World History in an organic way. By that I mean that it grew along with the country and pulled immigrants to come while being pushed out of their countries.

A
Anonymous (Orinda, US)

Guest did not leave comment

H
Harriett Michael (San Rafael, US)
Glad to watch snd learn

Learning how the different waves of immigrants have made New York City what it is today by learning the impact different people have made on The City makes history fun.

H
Harriett Michael (San Rafael, US)
Kudos to the class!

This course explains how the 8 different waves of immigrants made NYC what it is today. Starting with the Dutch, each week focused on the next major group to arrive. Each was unique and the same as few came wealthy. It allows us to appreciate how immigrants had an impact on where they landed if from another country or continent. They built are country and this course tells us how one city changed over time because the immigrants arrived, bringing their culture with them, adding to what was already there.

H
Harriett Michael (San Rafael, US)
A terrific way to learn the History of NYC v

Mr. Rubin covers the important parts of the 8 immigrant waves that made NYC what it is today. He compares the different waves and explains how they are alike and different from the others. He is well organized and the talks show the depth of his knowledge.