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New York Back Then

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ImageThe first inhabitants of New York (and America at large) are known as the Native Americans, or Original Americans. They are a group of indigenous peoples that encompass diverse tribes, states, and ethnic groups. It is recorded that the Lenape Native Americans were the inhabitants of the land in 1524, when Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano arrived in the region, under the commission of the French crown, and named it 'New Angouleme'. However, European settlement did not begin until 1614, with the founding of a Dutch Fur trading settlement on the now southern tip of Manhattan. This Dutch Fur trading settlement was known as 'New Amsterdam'.


It wasn’t until 1664, when the British conquered the city, that the now famous and recognizable name of 'New York' was given. The British named the region 'New York' after the English Duke of York and Albany (A.K.A. James II of England). Moreover, under British rule New York became an important trading port. The city was utterly transformed by immigration during the 19th century and 20th century.  It was during this time that Manhattan developed into a melting pot of people and neighborhoods from different cultural backgrounds. Several factors influenced New York to become a melting pot.

For instance, the visionary development of the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 laid the geographical foundations of what encompasses Manhattan today. Also, the development of the New York City subway in 1904 helped merge the city, and in turn nationalities, together. In the 1920s, New York City flourished culturally with the arrival of African Americans from the South (known as the Great Migration). Soon after the African American migration, a cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance flourished. During this period, New York also developed economically and structurally, experiencing major changes and modern developments in its skyline.

However, with the onset of the 1929 Stock Market crash and the Great Depression followed by WWII, New York experienced some rough times economically. Yet, New York braved it out and soon after WWII it experienced another economic boom. New York City also welcomed a new wave of immigrants during this postwar period. These immigrants hailed from Europe and the majority of them settled in eastern Queens.  

During the 1990s, with Wall Street symbolizing America’s economic strength, immigrants from Asia and Latin America came to New York in search of the American Dream. On September 11, 2001, this dream was sought to be shattered by terrorist attacks which destroyed the World Trade Center and claimed the lives of about 3,000 people. Nevertheless, New York’s resilience has shown through by the unity and collaboration experienced by its multicultural residents after the attacks. A building known as the 'Freedom Tower' will be built in the WTC’s place, and set to be completed by 2010.


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