November 20, 2018

Becoming American: Film and Discussion Series

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The Gables to present six vital Community Conversations on immigration issues set in historical context

For more information, please contact: 

Julie Arrison-Bishop
978-744-0991, ext. 152

SALEM — On Wednesday, Dec. 5, from 6 to 8 p.m., The House of the Seven Gables begins a timely and thought-provoking series of six Community Conversations on current immigration issues against the backdrop of America’s immigration history. 

The series begins with “The Century of Immigration: 1820–1924,” and features a documentary film about New York City titled “The Power and the People” as well as a documentary about Jewish Americans, “A World of Their Own.”Each of the six conversations will be hosted by the scholar and moderator Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello, Ph.D., and each will include films followed by discussion. The series is open to the public and it is free of charge.

“This program is a natural fit for The House of the Seven Gables,” says Executive Director Kara McLaughlin. “If it should be held anywhere, it should be held here given our history supporting educational programs for immigrants.” Since 1910, proceeds from tours of The House of the Seven Gables have been used to fund settlement programming for new immigrants in need of English language skills, jobs training and child care. This programming, begun by Caroline Emmerton, one of Salem’s most entrepreneurial philanthropists, continues to this day.

“Anyone interested in contemporary immigration issues will find this series of value,” says McLaughlin. “According to polling surveys done after the recent midterm elections, immigration was the number two issue concerning voters, second to healthcare.”

The Gables is one of 32 sites around the country to present this six-part series that was conceived and organized by City Lore in collaboration with the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience. The series is funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Both Salem State University and the North Shore Community Development Coalition have partnered with The Gables to help make this series possible.

“The idea behind the series is to provide opportunities for a wide range of people to come together to understand the dynamic and complicated histories of people,” says Dr. Duclos-Orsello. “We want to have structured, civic and civil dialogues using the documentary films as a springboard.”

Salem elected to become a Sanctuary for Peace after engaging in a number of serious conversations about immigration both at The Gables and throughout the city. But the matter is dynamic and vital. “Immigration looks different at different times just as the experience is unique to each immigrant,” says Duclos-Orsello. “We can keep the conversation we started going, and we can learn both from the past and from one another.”

Duclos-Orsello is a scholar of American and New England Studies with an expertise in immigration and ethnic history, social history, community K-12 outreach and museum education. She is professor and chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and she is coordinator of American Studies at Salem State University. She has facilitated scores of conversations where sensitivity and civility determine the baseline for safe and productive dialogues. 

To register for one or more of the Becoming American Community Conversations at The Gables, visit, email erincon@7gables.orgor call 978-306-7001.

The Community Conversation schedule is as follows:

December 5  —  The Century of Immigration: 1820–1924

Featuring a documentary film about New York City titled “The Power and the People” and a documentary about Jewish Americans, “A World of Their Own”

January 16 — Promise and Prejudice

Film: “Welcome to Shelbyville”          

February 6 — Between Two Worlds: Identity and Acculturation

Film: “The New Americans — The Nigerians”

March 6 — Help Wanted? Immigration and Work

Film: Destination America, “The Golden Door”

April 3 — Family and Community

Film: “My American Girls”

May 1 — Immigration and Popular Culture

Film: “The Search for General Tso”

About The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association and its dual mission 

The mission of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association is to preserve The Gables’ National Historic Landmark and leverage its power as an icon of American culture to engage diverse audiences and provide education opportunities for the local immigrant community. For more information visit

In 2018, The House of the Seven Gables celebrates a singular milestone. Built 350 years ago, it is still a place where stories are made. Ever the provider of shelter and support, The House of the Seven Gables inspires us as it once inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne. Where sea captains once found their footing, immigrants become citizens, visitors explore period rooms, historians pore over archives, children frolic in the gardens, and authors find inspiration. Celebrate this milestone with us and make your own stories at The House of the Seven Gables.


The film, “A World of Their Own,” about the early Jewish American immigrant experience, is one of the films to be shown at the first in a new series of Community Conversations at The Gables.