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Italians In America. Daniella Flori Race and Cultural Identities EDU 506 Summer 2009. Explanation of Dilemma.

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Italians in america
Italians In America

Daniella Flori

Race and Cultural Identities

EDU 506

Summer 2009

Explanation of dilemma
Explanation of Dilemma

  • Since the discovery of America, which was founded on the belief of freedom and equality, all men, women, and children have not always been treated as such. Italians were on the forefront of locating America and in the beginning were treated as equals. Life for the Italians began to change, dramatically, around the 1900’s and they began to experience discrimination in many different ways, from housing to employment. It was not until 1942 that Italians were once again treated equally and fairly.

Historical timeline
Historical Timeline

  • 1492 – Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus) son of a weaver was born in Genoa, Italy. Under King Ferdinand of Spain, Colombo was asked to attempt to find a new route to Asia, but instead landed on the New World, which is now North America

  • 1496 – Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) and Amerigo Vespucci set sail for the New World. Neither reached the New World, however, Amerigo’s name was used when European map makers named the new world, America

  • 1519 – Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian gentleman, accompanied Ferdinand Magellan, as he set sail, in September, 1519. Pigafetta’s manuscript is one of the most important geographical documents in existence. This voyage was to become the first to circumnavigate the globe in a sailing vessel

  • 1639 – Peter Caesar Alberto is described in the historical archives of Kings County (New York) as “the Italian”. He is regarded as the first Italian to reside in Brooklyn, N.Y. and is credited with developing a large tobacco plantation in WallaboutBay

  • LoGatto, A. F. (1972). The Italians in America 1492 - 1972 (4th ed.). Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, Inc.

Historical timeline cont
Historical Timeline cont…

  • 1773 – Philip Mazzei arrived in Virginia and his revolutionary spirit and strong ideals of democracy quickly bound him by Jefferson’s hoops of steel . Mazzei and Jefferson collaborated on a series of articles expounding political freedom. Mazzei profoundly stated:

    • “All men are by nature equally free and independent. This equality is essential to the establishment of a liberal government….A truly republican form of government cannot exist except where all men – from the very rich to the very poor – are perfectly equal in natural rights”

    • 1776 – William Paca, a member of the distinguished Continental Congress, signed the American Declaration of Independence, thus cutting off the American colonies from Mother England. Prior to this, Paca had served in the Maryland legislature.

    • 1778 – Alien and Sedition Act of 1778 ( a piece of legislature designed to deport any foreign born citizens who supported the Republican party or published any writings against the Government of the United States) is enacted

    • 1827 – Father Joseph Rosati was appointed to be the first Bishop of the newly created diocese of St. Louis, Missouri. He is also responsible for the first hospital and orphan asylum in the Middle West. A school for deaf-mutes is said to have been the first of its kind in the country.

    • 1835 – Antonio Meucci, alleged to be the inventor of the telephone, arrived in Cuba from Italy to become Superintendent of Mechanism and Science Designer of the Tacon Theatre. While experimenting with electricity, by sheer chance, he heard a voice transmitted through an electric wire. To be near a source of technical equipment, he moved to New York in 1850.

    • 1904 – AmadeoGiannini, banker and businessman , was the founder of Bank of Italy in California. It is now called the Bank of America, the largest banking institution in the world

    • LoGatto, A. F. (1972). The Italians in America 1492 - 1972 (4th ed.). Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, Inc.

Historical timeline cont1
Historical Timeline cont…

  • 1913 – Angelo Prati, first Italian born educator to become a public school principal in the United States. (Public School 145, Bronx, New York)

  • 1913 – Anthony Caminetti was appointed Commissioner General of Immigration by President Woodrow Wilson

  • 1936 – Matthew Abbruzzo was appointed the first federal judge of Italian origin to the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, by Franklin D. Roosevelt. At this time there were only fifteen federal judges.

  • 1936 - Victor Anfuso, former United States Congressman and judge of the New York State Supreme Court, founded the Italian Board of Guardians in Brooklyn, New York, to assist many children with Italian names who appeared in court without benefit of counsel or sympathetic guidance

  • 1941 – Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese, and the United States declared war on Italy, Japan, and Germany

  • 1942 – On Columbus Day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Italians were no longer to be considered enemy aliens

  • LoGatto, A. F. (1972). The Italians in America 1492 - 1972 (4th ed.). Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, Inc.

  • Important acts
    Important Acts

    • The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798

      • Under the threat of war with France, Congress in 1798 passed four laws in an effort to strengthen the Federal government. Known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts, the legislation sponsored by the Federalists was also intended to quell any political opposition from the Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson.

      • The first of the laws was the Naturalization Act, passed by Congress on June 18. This act required that aliens be residents for 14 years instead of 5 years before they became eligible for U.S. citizenship.

      • Congress then passed the Alien Act on June 25, authorizing the President to deport aliens "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" during peacetime.

      • The third law, the Alien Enemies Act, was enacted by Congress on July 6. This act allowed the wartime arrest, imprisonment and deportation of any alien subject to an enemy power.

      • The last of the laws, the Sedition Act, passed on July 14 declared that any treasonable activity, including the publication of "any false, scandalous and malicious writing," was a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment. By virtue of this legislation twenty-five men, most of them editors of Republican newspapers, were arrested and their newspapers forced to shut down.

    Italian immigration surges in the 1880 s
    Italian Immigration Surges in the 1880’s

    • In 1871 when Italy was finally one nation with Rome as its capital, only 12,000-25,000 Italians were living in America

    • In the 40 years between 1880 – 1920, almost 40 million Italians came in a mass exodus to the United States looking for hope and fortune

    Hardships and discrimination
    Hardships and Discrimination

    • Southern Italians were considered outsiders from day one

    • Faced prejudice and discrimination because of :

      • Skin tone

      • Religion

      • Customs

      • Culture

    • Called names such as dagoand wop

    • Forced to take pick and shovel jobs (jobs no one else wanted) such as

      • Digging and tunneling for subways , bridges, and roads

    • Refused admittance to many churches because their religious practices differed from those of the Irish Catholics, who has already established themselves in America

    • As Italians immigrants settled across the United States, they faced deep-rooted prejudices from American nativities. Almost all Italians felt hostility from the larger community, who viewed their customs and religious beliefs with distrust and anger

    • Ciongoli, A. K.

    World war ii and its impact
    World War II and Its Impact

    1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor bringing the United States into World War II. The world changed and Italian Americans were affected greatly.

    • The United States officially declared war on Germany, Japan, and Italy

      • Italian Americans, who had lived in both worlds, now had to choose. They chose to become Americans


    • Immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527 to authorize the United States to detain allegedly potentially dangerous enemy aliens. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies arrested thousands of suspected enemy aliens, mostly individuals of German, Italian, or Japanese ancestry, living throughout the United States.

    • On the night of December 7, 1941, in the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. agents rounded up Italian nationals suspected of disloyalty. Most of them were immigrants in the process of becoming U.S. citizens; many had been in America for decades but had not been naturalized. For the next two years, many Italian Americans lived under strict curfew and some were even imprisoned. Eventually, 600,000 Italian Americans would be branded as “enemy aliens”

    • The authority for these arrests came from Title 50 of the U.S. Code, based on the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which gives the government power to detain aliens in times of emergency. Under this authority, hundreds of Italians were arrested. About 250 individuals were interned for up to two years in military camps in Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. By June of 1942, the total reached 1,521 Italian aliens arrested by the FBI, many for curfew violations alone. Though most of the latter were released after short periods of detention, the effects on them and others in the community are not hard to imagine.

    • Brief Overview of the World War II Enemy Alien Control Program. (n.d.). In The National Archives. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from

    Don t speak the enemies language
    Don’t Speak the Enemies Language

    • The impact these measures had on Italian Americans would be hard to overstate. Many families were separated, forced to evacuate their homes, or give up their livelihood. Others were interned in camps for up to 15 months in states far from their homes.

    • There were cultural casualties as well. Certainly, the government's targeting of those whose first language was Italian hastened the disuse of the Italian language. Many immigrants, clubs, and stores made a point of not using Italian in public, while others stopped teaching the language to their children. The government surely encouraged this trend by its posters proclaiming "Don't Speak The Enemy's Language! Speak American!“

    • The result of this prejudice was devastating. Many Italian American immigrants felt it as never before, and their children felt it too. Their language had become the "enemy's language," their heritage one that was not only alien, but inimical to the American way. It seemed best to abandon both, and thousands did just that.

    • Brief Overview of the World War II Enemy Alien Control Program. (n.d.). In The National Archives. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from

    The end of enemy aliens
    The End of Enemy Aliens

    • On Columbus Day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Italians were no longer to be considered enemy aliens

    • Attorney General Francis Biddle's speech on Columbus Day, with its announcement that the six hundred thousand Italian citizens living in the U.S. were nolonger to be regarded as "enemyaliens," was an act of grand strategy. Once more it has been demonstrated that the best diplomacy is courageous generosity, at least in a conflict, which is not a war of nation against nation but of progress against black re-action, of human aspiration against brutality. It has been a long time since anything has so deeply stirred the five million American citizens of Italian parentage and forty-five million Italians in Italy. Only one other event, occurring a few weeks earlier, created in Italy, a sensation nearly as profound.

    • The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. (n.d.). In Archiving Early America. Retrieved July 12, 2009, from


    • Italians in America had a lot to do with the creation of this nation. Italian Americans located, named, and helped create laws and legislation for this country. They were on the forefront of the development of this country and when a bomb hit Pearl Harbor, people whose ancestors did great good for this country, were now considered the enemy and were harshly treated as such.

    • My work with children and families, will be universally fair and sound across the board, even though some of my ancestors were plagued with such cruel and unjust discrimination and segregation. Even though they lived through tough times, life styles and conditions, eventually things increasingly became better.

    • Currently, prejudices against innocent people manifested after the bombings of the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001. The incident deeply affected the way everybody, not excluding teachers, regard children and families from the Middle East. They are sometimes thought of as being guilty before proven guilty, just like the Italians after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I will not be as judgmental as Americans were toward Italians in 1941. I will treat all families and children equally and fairly in and outside of my classroom.


    • Aldridge, R. (2003). Italian Americans. Philadelphia: Chelsea House.

    • The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. (n.d.). In Archiving Early America. Retrieved July 12, 2009, from

    • Brief Overview of the World War II Enemy Alien Control Program. (n.d.). In The National Archives. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from

    • Ciongoli, A. K. (2002). Passage to liberty the story of Italian immigration and the rebirth of America. New York: Regan Books.

    • De la Cova, D. (Ed.). (1997, December 15). Latin American Studies. In Latin American Studies. Retrieved July 12, 2009, from

    • Iorizzo, L. J., & Mondello, S. (2006). The Italian Americans Third Edition. New York: Cambria P.

    • LoGatto, A. F. (1972). The Italians in America 1492 - 1972 (4th ed.). Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, Inc.

    • Sforza, C. (1942). A Blow for Freedom [Abstract]. Nation, 155(19), 446-447.