Coming to America through Galveston

The largely forgotten story of Galveston as a major gateway for immigrants will be on display at Moody Gardens for the next ten months. Rod Rice reports that "Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America through Galveston Island" opens tomorrow.

Hamburg Line PosterIt tells the story of Galveston's almost 80-years as a major port for immigration. It began in 1845 and lasted until 19-24. In the 19th century most immigrants were northern European protestants, but as the number of Catholic immigrants from southern and eastern Europe increased anti-immigrant flames were fanned resulting in new laws that dramatically slowed immigration ending Galveston's run as a major immigration port.

Long before Ellis Island's Immigration Center was built in 18-92, people came to America through Galveston.

"Basically people pretty much walked on in."

Suzanne Seriff is an anthropologist at UT Austin and guest curator of the display.

"You didn't need a passport, you didn't need a visa, so you didn't need much of anything in the mid-1800's to come to the United States."

Seriff says Galveston saw immigrants not only from Europe, but also from Central and South America and Asia. Until the Civil War it was a major port for the transport and sale of slaves. In the early 20th century there was even an immigration plan called the Galveston Movement.

"Which was a plan to bring Jews from Russia and Poland to save them from the pogroms of Czarist Russia."

Forgotten Gateway tells the story of the danger of the journey here, the making of a new life, discrimination and becoming an American.

It was five years in the making and has already been in Austin. Following it's run it Galveston it will come to Houston.

Bremen postcard

Images are courtesy of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
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Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...