SI 350 Lecture Series Celebrates Staten Island History
Contact: Raina Williams, 718-354-4607; cell 917-932-4399
The New York Council on the Humanities has awarded a grant to SI 350, a coalition of Staten Island cultural and educational organizations, for a series of nine free lectures open to the public. The grant will pay for honoraria and consulting fees for lecturers. Gateway National Recreation Area is one of the member organizations. Gateway includes three areas on Staten Island: Fort Wadsworth, Great Kills Park and Miller Field.
The Humanities Lecture Series is based on the theme of "One Island, Many Stories." Expert scholars examine Staten Island's overlooked social, cultural, political and economic diversity. All lectures are free and open to the public.
The first lecture will take place Tuesday, February 15 at the College of Staten Island. Jonathan Zimmerman of New York University focuses on the history of education in his lecture "After the Voorleezer House: The Little Red Schoolhouse from the 1690s to Today." Zimmerman, a professor of history and education, is the Director of the History of Education Program at New York University.
Other lectures include "A Century of Staten Island Women in Business and the Arts," to be held March 11 at the Jacques Marchis Museum of Tibetan Art. Environment and ethnicity will be examined together in "A Borough of Parks: From Olmstead and Robert Moses to the Future" on April 7 a lecture sponsored by the Greenbelt Nature Center. Immigration again comes into focus on April 11 with "Italians, Chinese and Other Old and New Immigrants to Staten Island," held at Wagner College. In June, Lawrence Hogan of Union County College will discuss "The Negro Leagues in Staten Island and New York."
One of the highlights of the series will be a lecture on "Staten Island, Brooklyn and the American Revolution" by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edwin G. Burrows, professor at Brooklyn College, and Philip Papas, professor at Union County College. Burrows is the co-author of Gotham: A History of New York to 1989. Papas authored That Ever Loyal Island: Staten Island and the American Revolution. The lecture will take place at Gateway's Fort Wadsworth on August 28, days after the 350th anniversary takes place. Living history encampments will take place as well.
On August 22, 1611, 19 families of French, Belgian and Dutch descent petitioned the Council of New Amsterdam for land grants on the island. However, the Lenni-Lenape—a diverse group of various Native American tribes in the region—had already inhabited the island for over five centuries. They called the island "Aquehonga," an Algonquin term meaning "place of high sandy banks." After Europeans colonized the island, the population changed due to immigration and the addition of both enslaved and free Africans. One of the organizations behind SI 350, the Sandy Ground Historical Society, represents the oldest free African-American community in the United States, a community that still exists today.
SI 350 was formed to mark the 350th anniversary of the founding of Staten Island by European settlers. Lectures will explore Staten Island history from the early days of European settlement to the present day. SI 350 will also mark the anniversary through the creation of public programs, interpretive media and a book.
According to Sara Ogger, Executive Director of the New York Council for the Humanities, only 15% of this year's applicants received grants. The Council was impressed with the "breadth of the organizations and the quality of presentations," according to Charles Markis, who authored the grant application by SI 350.
About Gateway National Recreation Area
Established in 1972, Gateway National Recreation Area has more than 26,000 acres of marshes, wildlife sanctuaries and recreational athletic facilities, miles of sandy beaches; indoor and outdoor classrooms; picnicking and camping areas, as well as historic structures and military installations, airfields, a lighthouse, and adjacent waters around New York harbor. The park offers urban residents in two states a wide range of recreational opportunities year round. With more than 9 million visitors a year, it is the third most visited national park in the country. For information about Gateway's three units—Jamaica Bay, Staten Island and Sandy Hook—or to find out about public programs, see the park's Web site at http://www.nps.gov/gate/index.htm