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Marc Aronson

Apr 20, 2022

Four Streets and a Square

A History of Manhattan and the New York Idea

Candlewick Press 2021

The poet Walt Whitman wrote in his 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass that New York was a “City of the world! (for all races are here, All lands of the earth make contributions here…”)

How that city came to be on the island of Manhattan, and what it has meant for the United States and the world over the centuries, is the subject of Marc Aronson’s new book Four Streets and a Square: A History of Manhattan and the New York Idea (Candlewick Press, 2021).

Aronson argues that the density of Manhattan has put different kinds of people close to each other--fostering curiosity, conflict and new cultural hybrids ranging from blackface minstrelsy to musical theater to street photography To give a focus and structure to his story, Aronson organizes his material around streets and squares that have, in different times, framed formative encounters between New Yorkers: Wall Street, Union Square, Forty Second Street, 125th Street, and West Fourth Street. Aronson’s narrative reaches from the days of Munsee villages to the recent past, but he devotes special attention to Manhattan since 1900, when the island at the center of New York City matured into a global capital of culture, media, and finance. While well aware of the inequalities and injustice present in Manhattan and New York City, and the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, Aronson keeps with faith with the idea of Manhattan as an inclusive home and a site of great cultural energy. Four Streets and a Square is accompanied by a rich array of digital sources and resources at https://marcaronson.com/four-streets-and-a-square/.

Aronson, an author, editor and historian, is on the graduate faculty at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information. He was born in Manhattan and lives in New Jersey.

Robert W. Snyder is Manhattan Borough Historian and professor emeritus of American Studies and Journalism at Rutgers University. He is the author of Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York (Cornell, paperback, 2019) and co-author of All the Nations Under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants and the Making of New York (Columbia, 2019). He can be reached at rwsnyder@rutgers.edu.

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Robert Snyder

Robert W. Snyder, Manhattan Borough Historian and professor emeritus of American Studies and Journalism at Rutgers University. Email: rwsnyder@rutgers.edu.

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