American Images: Climbing into the Promised Land

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series American Images

Climbing into America at Ellis Island by Lewis HinesAlmost all Americans trace their lineages to places outside the country. Millions of those lineages run through Ellis Island, the main portal for entry from 1892 to 1954. So many America stories involve this portal that my second choice of Images of America is this iconic photograph of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in 1905.

Does your story involve Ellis Island?

This image is called “Climbing into the Promised Land” (sometimes, “Climbing into America”). It shows immigrants in heavy coats, lugging suitcases and baskets, paperwork in hand. The phrase “climbing up” contains the symbolism of America as the city on a hill, the land of opportunity, the promise of a better life for oneself and one’s family. One reason I am fond of this image is that it was taken right around the same time that my maternal grandfather came through Ellis Island, having spent his infancy in an English poorhouse.

This image was taken by Lewis Hine. Trained as a sociologist, he was one of the first to use the camera as a documentary device. His photography played an important role in social reform. Notably, his images of children in the workplace led to changes in child labor laws.

This week, we are looking at our new gallery containing over 100 American Images. This is a free resource for your personal reflection and for use as an ice breaker in small-group discussion. Please, peruse the gallery and tell us about your favorite images!

Does your family story involve Ellis Island?

What’s your reaction to this image?

What’s your favorite Image of America?

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