tv Reel America Island of Hope Island of Tears - 1989 CSPAN March 26, 2018 10:33pm-11:04pm EDT
washington post" reporter tom and lee discuss data privacy in the wake of facebook fall out. also reed wilson will join us and stalk about his new book on the 2014 ebola epidemic and international response. be sure to watch this live tuesday morning. join the discussion. up next on reel america, island of hope island of tears. a 1989 documentary commissioned by the national park service. directed by charles guggenheim and narrated by gene hackman. it describes immigrants passing through america and seeking a better life. this is 30 minutes.
here they sang their first american songs, experienced their first american christmas and hanukkah. here they waited and began permission to pass over to the new land. tens of millions of us have relatives who came this way. sat in this room. part of the largest human migration in history. for the many who came, some were turned away. but even they would leave part of themselves in america to rep mind us why they had come so far. why they had made the journey.
>> you never know how hard it was to leave her. it was the hardest thing i ever had to do. >> she said if you lead, why i don't ever want you to come back again. >> long hard life. >> europe had always lost its children to america. now there were new reasons to leave, industrial change and political unrest had brought
increased joblessness and poverty to italy and southern europe. reaching as far north as the industrial cities of poland and russia. in america, they were saying there was a future, perhaps a fortune to be made. the southern european ports of nape ls iris and nope ls they gathered upon the ships to measuring. some were package, leaving to seek work and return. others with hopes to find at the end of the journey a good permanent life that awaited they were told, 3,000 miles across the sea. in the rural areas of eastern europe they had an edition to poverty, other reasons to look to america. the government was taking young
boys to the army, the mother's life time she might not see him again. in always there was the place, the historic persecutor of the armenian slow vac and jew. >> what i see now, i see the possession santa be begging, hey, take me, take me away. the whole town was around, everybody came to say good-bye and didn't foe how to say good-bye. >> all the russian, armenia and if everyone could just get out of there.
>> making their way to the rail heads, they saw passage to the sea. some had money for the journey and some did not. turning back was seldom an also negative. >> i didn't pay no ticket, sit on the train and wait for luck. >> we carry a load of bunch of pigs, if you don't move a purchase of cattle a bunch of pigs you put them in the passenger car. that's the way they looked at us. >> for many, entering the great port cities of northern europe
was like entering a new world. they had reached the sea and the immigrant was now in the hands of the steam ship company. immigrants from the east and north swarmed into brieman and live liverpool to be passed to measuring. they stood in line together, those who saw america as an venture, those who saw america as a beacon of hope. it was a business of numbers, an operation designed to house, feed and process 4,000 people at a time. to identify those whom american authorities might reject and return to europe at steam ship
expense. >> lock your hair, your hair, if there was a net in your hair you'd have to shampoo. >> fearing epidemics, huge facilities were established to fumigate clothing, baggage and people. processed and ticketed they waited for their ship. they boarded in many parts of europe and in many kinds of vessels. most to new york and some to other ports. but they had one thing in common, they were traveling steerage and the steam ship company understood the profit in
numbers. they begun a journey that could last from a week to a month. >> that was the last time that it ever ran again, that was the last trip she made. she should have never made that one either. >> for some it would be a voyage without incident. for others the crossing would provide days for which they recall ill prepared. >> they gave us a tin plate with a fork and a spoon, cup of soup and bread. 15 days.
>> and off we go. i was if the cellar. little lights going on down there all the time. little lights. we were riding in the steerage like some animals. >> you could see a lot of water but you didn't see the sky. no sky. >> to escape the throbbing engines and spoiled food, those with blankets came on deck for air. >> chef sick all the time, people didn't foe where the
everybody went over to the railing and just admired. >> i thought i was in heaven. my god, is this the city in the air. i've never seen a building like that, but beautiful. i had to cry. >> everybody was just waiting to get off that -- standing waiting to get off that ship. they were just wourning where you're coming to and what is going to happen to you, you
know, in your mind. >> still separated from the first class and cab en /* cabin who was processed from the people on board. this one from the pier to an island in upper bay. crowded into barges and ferries they approached the place that had become a legend in their mind. >> i couldn't get my eyes off that, it's great. kind of glad to see it as bad as
it was. it was good to see any kind of land. it was. >> i called in the houses that i left in my town, this was like a whole city. i almost felt smaller than i am. [speaking foreign language] >> when i came through these doors i saw all these people, i figured well i'd have to stay here for good because all these people, what are they doing here. and nobody was happy. you don't know what's going to happen.
>> i had a cold and a dress -- coat and a dress and a pair of shoes, that's it. >> i had about $50 a guess. >> my little basket that's all i had with me. you're lucky to have the one. >> we had no other possessions but that. we had no baggage, we had nothing. >> nothing, except the clothes. we had nothing. >> clinging to their possessions, they entered the great building and climbed the
stairs. >> jesus, mary and joseph i says where am i. >> they would come right into the big hole and there they would call the ship and stay there. they didn't know where they were. it was a noland but they hadn't been in land it was just a big hole. and all you could get was tears and crying of the children. >> the vast majority the process would last less than a day. but now they waited. those from europe and the near east, those who had arrived from caribbean. those who were the first in their family to come to america,
those who would be met. those who came to make money and return, but those who were >> they all had this fear, this worry. they were worried about police, because they were always checked in the other countries. the word government frightened me. government was tyranny. government was offices who looked at you with a sense that they wanted to hate you, eliminate you, and the idea that there was the -- that the policeman would help you was very new to me. a policeman to me was someone who could cut my head off.
>> it was the most dangerous thing for everybody to go through. the eyes. >> trichoma. the dreaded disease of the immigrant. which could lead to certain deportation. >> if there was anything, they would put a chalk mark here, a chalk mark there. >> those identified to be set aside for possible infection represented a small percentage each day, but this was little consolation to a family separated. >> you didn't have to know the people, but you know that somebody's missing. the agony they went through. so you know that somebody's missing. >> all of a sudden the thought, my goodness, they're separating us -- because that's what the
police always did. they separated the men from the women and took care of the rwomn and children. as long as some member of the family, some loving member of the family was with you, life was tolerable. you lived in a relationship of family lovement even though the ore members of the family, you didn't know where they were, you could converse, plan, warm each other. >> i had a feeling that i'm left all alone. it's a terrible feeling. all of a sudden they were gone. >> america did not want to burden of an unhealthy immigrant.
america wanted a person who could make a living and was not bringing into the country an infectious disease. >> they looked your back over, your lungs, your heart and you were sent from one to the other, one doctor to the other. and a lot of people was put on the side. i wouldn't want to be. >> people were rejected because they showed outward signs of illness. what they considered mental difficulties, we didn't call it psychiatry.
we called i neurology, and we said, we are sorry and the ship that brought them had to take them back. that was a tragedy. >> i decided if they ever have to send me back, i'll jump down the water and never go back to russia. i didn't want to see it again. >> built for 1,500, the dining room often fed 3,000. >> there would be dishes and forks and knives and white napk napkins. long tables well set. but when the people went in, it was like chaos. they handed us food. uh, food was not something people gave you.
i didn't like it. but then i tasted it again. i had never seen a banana before. >> for me, white bred was like cake already. >> at night, ellis served the a dormitory for thousands, awaiting the new day. >> reporter:e each morning, the great hall would fill. the noise would begin again. hopefully their papers were in order, a clean bill of health. a letter from a relative guarantees they would not become a charge. proof they were not a contract labor earlier or an alien. in adjacent rooms the detained for given scrutiny, a chance to
make their case. accepting a appeal to washington, the board of inquiry was the rejected immigrant's last chance. through an excerinterpreter, thd the best to overcome a changing immigrant law. but it was not great hall where the vast makejority maced their first and their last test. in his hand, the man at a registry desk held the ship's manifest. in his hand, a piece of paper that could -- >> i couldn't understand english, not one word. >> first question, how much money have you got?
>> you had to have five pounds. my father gave me that five pounds. >> do you know how long? it took a couple of years, two and three years to get that $25. >> when we got nearer and the person at the desk called our names my mother called and turned to me and said, i was never here, how does she know my name. i said, she knows it. >> they asked for my name and i told them this and theyed say, how do you spell it? i didn't know how to spell it and they didn't know and they spelled it l-i-c-h-t. i didn't know any different. then they said, all right,
you're free to go. >> you're free go to hoboken. >> there would soon be question offense what food to buy for the railroad trip to chicago. the ship to boston. it was the strange names, the strange numbers and the fear of losing one offense money. there was the pros of wbuying a ticket to places with unpronounceable names like pittsburgh. but those were details. the island had passed them through. the door to america had opened. >> it was as if god's great promised had been fulfilled. >> i'm going into a free land.
i don't think i ever can explain that feeling that i had that time. there isn't such a thing to be explained. it came out of my system. it's over. not in native land, but means more to me than my native land. it means more to me than my native land. >> it's a miracle. >> i'm glad i'm here. couldn't be any better, could
tuesday evening, american history tv is in primetime. we'll show you 1968, america in turmoil. and we'll hear from jim bennet. and david marry marion as. later the 1970 academy award winning documentary, sbrfs with live veterans about the events that took place at the village of me lie during the vietnam war. american history tv primetime begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span three.
>> thursday morning, we are in olympia washington for the next stop on the c-span bus 50 capitals tour. jay insly basketball your guest on the bus starting at 8:30 eastern. >> up next on reel america, rebirth of seoul. this film, produced by the army, covers major events of the korean war and shows how seoul was heavily damaged by the fightingment it do you means citizens returning to thety after the end of war in 1953 and how with the help of the u.s. army, work began to provide the basic kneads of life -- health care, food, water, shelter and transportation. ♪