ANTI-IMMIGRANT RHETORIC HAS GOTTEN pretty heated this election season, but historically, this is nothing new to America. Though we pride ourselves on being a melting pot, we also have a tendency to go through periods of xenophobia and jingoism. There was a time, though, when our ancestors were arriving in this country, and we don’t always have a window into their experience.
But the New York Public Library has curated this collection of photos taken mostly by Augustus Sherman on Ellis Island in the early 20th century. What it shows us about our immigrant past is both haunting and beautiful — even those from European countries seem incredibly foreign by modern standards.
Sherman was a clerk while working on Ellis Island, and the pictures he took give us a glimpse into the humanity of immigrants from all time periods. Immigrants could look scared, proud, out-of-place, or totally at peace. Immigrants are humans, and they carry all of the complicated baggage being a human entails.
The full album is available on Flickr.