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12_Jacob Lawrence Migration series 1940.png

Departures and arrivals

In the process of migration, the journey becomes the first contact with the changes that immigrants have to face. The departure and arrival points were transitional spaces that remained as symbols of a new dream life. For instance, Ellis Island may not appear large on a map, but it is an unparalleled destination in United States history after welcoming more than 12 million immigrants. For over 62 years, it was the main station for processing immigrants that arrived on the eastern shore, where they spent up to a few hours before entering New York. Records have been kept over the years, and now it can be stated that an estimated 40% of the American population are the descendants of the immigrants that passed on Ellis Island.

The significance of the moment or places that mark the migrant activity has been a source for artists. Jacob Lawrence created a 60-panel Migration Series which depicted the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. The image above seems to be an essentialization of boarding the train. Yet, they didn’t cross any national border but headed to a different life and culture in their own country. So what happens behind the boundaries when ideals are (ex)changed?



[1] Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence (1940 - 1941)

[2] Ellis Island, the Immigration Station New York Harbor (1933)

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