A Dynamic History
People often use words like those to describe New York City — but usually not Staten Island.
During a yearlong celebration of Staten Island’s 350th anniversary, Wagner Professor Lori Weintrob and the rest of the festivities’ organizers are aiming to upend inaccurate Staten Island stereotypes.
“History shows that Staten Island was a very dynamic place that changed again and again,” Weintrob says. “Every 25 years, it was a different place. Whatever important historical event you pick, you’ll find a Staten Island connection.”
Examples Weintrob cites include Staten Island’s important role in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements; nationally influential Staten Islanders such as Cornelius Vanderbilt (pictured here), the nineteenth-century shipping and railroad tycoon; and visits to the island by the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Susan B. Anthony, Langston Hughes, and the Dalai Lama.
Associate professor of history at Wagner, Weintrob is co-chair of the SI350 committee, a wide-ranging group of volunteers who are organizing the festivities, which began on August 22, 2010. On August 22, 1661, the government of New Netherland authorized Staten Island land grants for a group of Dutch, French, and Belgian immigrants.
One focus of the anniversary year is the identification of 350 important historical sites on Staten Island. History trails organized around 12 different themes, from military history to food and drink to the environment, will showcase these sites, which represent turning points in Staten Island’s history with local, national, and global significance. Plans are underway to publish an encyclopedia and guidebook based on the history trails.
Another major event will be an academic conference, co-sponsored by Wagner and entitled “Staten Island in American History and 21st-Century Education.” It will be held March 19–20, 2011, at the College of Staten Island. Contests for schoolchildren and teachers to incorporate local history into the classroom are occurring throughout the year as well.
“It’s about getting people interested in their local history, wherever they’re from,” says Weintrob. “Places in your community have significance.”
Visit www.si350.org for complete information, interactive timelines, photo sharing, and fun activities like a Staten Island history quiz. Do you have memories of Staten Island’s 300th anniversary celebrations in 1961? SI350 would like to hear about them. E-mail email@example.com.