Ethnic history of New Haven exhibit reveals immigration roots


Sofia RositaniReporter

Immigration has been extensively discussed during Social Justice Month, from Sonia Nazaro speaking out about child immigrants in Mexico to the Voices of Immigration panel, which is involved with the “Ethnic History of New Haven: Pre-1638 to 2000 and Beyond” at Buley Library.

The exhibit tells the history of New Haven and the immigrants who came here seeking a new life, including Italians, Irish, and African
Americans.

The exhibit was created by the Ethnic Heritage Center in the 1990s to show the ethnic background of New Haven from the 1600s to the 2000s. It was shown at New Haven’s City Hall, and the center always adds to the exhibit every year with new information.

The Ethnic Heritage Center has five ethnic societies including Irish, Italian, African, Ukrainian, and Jewish Americans. Lisa Vitale, assistant to dean of Arts and Sciences, said the center has archives dedicated to those specific cultures in New Haven and areas surrounding New Haven.

The exhibit focuses on the history of New Haven, including life during World War II and the influx of immigrants entering America after the war.

“It is focused on New Haven and the immigrant population and how that changed through the years with the census data and what the demographics were like over the years,” said Vitale.

According to Molly Flanagan, a student worker in the Dean of Arts and Science Office, the panels each highlight a certain time in New Haven’s history for each society in every decade, such as the surge of Italian immigrants in the early 20th century or the influx of Irish immigrants becoming the most prominent group in New Haven during the 1940’s.

“I first reached out to them trying to get some research for my thesis, and then we were talking about how they are such a good resource in all of these historical aspects,” said Flanagan. “Then we were trying to think of an event that we could highlight what they do there, beyond just the exhibit in the library, and I think the panel was the first idea we thought about as ‘The Voices Of Immigration’ panel, and then it was like, ‘Oh wait, we can have the exhibit here, also,’”

She also said the first 20 minutes of the Voices Of Immigration panel, which will be in conjunction with the “Ethnic History of New Haven: Pre-1638 to 2000 and Beyond” on Nov. 20, will consist of the five different societies’ representatives talking about their respective group’s experience with immigration.

The Voices of Immigration will also be about Southern staff, students and faculty discussing their experience or their family’s experience in immigrating to America and how it has impacted them.

“Other faculty members or staff who worked on destigmatizing immigration on immigrant students and also sort of worked with immigration law on immigrants in the U.S.” said Flanagan “We will not be focusing on one area of the world. We are hoping that the discussion at the end we will talk about a broad range of different experiences; that’s the intention of this.”

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