|Notable Italian Americans:
Madonna · Fiorello LaGuardia · Robert De Niro · Francis Ford Coppola · Ray Romano · Nancy Pelosi · Frank Sinatra · Joe DiMaggio · Samuel Alito · Jay Leno · Jon Bon Jovi · William Paca · Rudy Giuliani · Al Pacino · Kelly Ripa · Martin Scorsese · Enrico Fermi · Mark Calcavecchia · Chris Botti
6.0% of the US population (2008)
|Regions with significant populations|
|Found in the Northeast, New England, Midwestern United States, West Coast, Florida
Heavily concentrated in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York City, Upstate New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland-Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and South Florida.
|Related ethnic groups|
An Italian American (Italian: italoamericano singular, Italian: italoamericani plural) is an American of Italian ancestry, and/or may also refer to someone possessing Italian/American dual citizenship. Italian Americans are the fourth largest European ethnic group in the United States.
About 5 million immigrated to the U.S. The greatest surge of immigration, 1880–1914, brought 4 million Italians to cities in the Northeast, where most began as unskilled laborers. Italian Americans have moved from the bottom of the economic scale (in 1910) to the upper half by 1970. They have tended strongly to emphasize the family, the Church, fraternal societies, and politics.
The Italian sailor Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first European explorer to pass New York Harbor. The first Italian to live in what is now the United States was Pietro Cesare Alberti, a Venetian sailor, who settled in New York on June 2, 1635. Other Italians played an important role in early United States history, such as Filippo Mazzei, an important Italian physician and a promoter of liberty, and a close friend of Thomas Jefferson; He acted as an agent to purchase arms for Virginia during the American Revolution. The Taliaferro family, originally from Venice, came to America in the 17th century from England, and was one of the first families to settle in Virginia. Until 1880 Italians arrived in the US in relatively small numbers, mainly from Northern Italy, and in most cases lost conscience of their origin and amalgamated with the surrounding American ethnic groups. A typical case is represented by the Waldensians, a Protestant group from Piedmont. Since colonial times there have been Waldensians who found freedom on American shores, as marked by the presence of them in New Jersey and Delaware. Some Waldensians living in the Cottian Alps region of Northern Italy migrated to North Carolina in 1893 and founded the most notable Waldensian settlement in North America in Valdese, North Carolina, where the congregation uses the name Waldensian Presbyterian Church.
The numbers soared late in the century, with emigrants coming especially from Southern Italy, including Sicily and Campania; smaller but significant numbers came from the northern regions of Liguria and Veneto. Large numbers (about one in three) returned to Italy after a few years earning money in the U.S. From 1914 to 1919 the World War made movement very difficult. In 1924 the Johnson Reed Act imposed a quota. Most were from rural places and had little education.
From 1890 to 1900, 655,888 immigrants arrived in the United States, of whom two-thirds were men. The main reasons for Italian immigration were the push factor of poor economic opportunities in Italy during this period, particularly in the southern regions, and pull factors of easily obtained jobs and the presence of friends and relatives. In the United States, Italians settled in and dominated specific neighborhoods (often called "Little Italy"), where they could interact with one another, establish a familiar cultural presence, and find favorite foods. Most arrived with little cash or cultural capital (that is, they were not educated) since most had been peasant farmers in Italy, they lacked craft skills and, therefore, generally performed manual labor.
Civic and social life flourished in Italian-American neighborhoods, with many people belonging to hometown societies. Chain migration that brought many people from a particular town or region to the same American neighborhood meant that even new immigrants had extensive social networks which helped in the adjustment to America. Many Italians arrived in the United States hoping to earn enough money to return home and set themselves up in a business or with a farm. Among immigrant groups to America, Italians had the highest rate of returning to the old country. Their neighborhoods were typically older areas with overcrowded tenements and poor sanitation. Tuberculosis was rampant. Italian immigration peaked from 1900 until 1914, when World War I made such intercontinental movement impossible. In some areas, Italian immigrants met hostility and even violence, even lynching.
In the ten years following 1900, about 200,000 Italians immigrated annually. With the imposition of the 1924 quota, 4,000 per year were allowed.
It's estimated that two million Italian immigrants arrived between 1900 and 1914. About a third of these immigrants intended to stay only briefly, in order to make money and return to Italy. They were commonly referred to as "Birds of Passage." While one in four did return home, the rest either decided to stay or were prevented from returning by the world war. Many Italians primarily Sicilians settled in Wisconsin in Milwaukee County and surrounding counties with large numbers in the cities of Milwaukee and West Allis. They also settled in up north Wisconsin. Primarily along the upper Michigan area.
The internment of several hundred Italian citizens during World War II was often overshadowed by the more severe Japanese American experience. Recently, however, books such as Una storia segreta (ISBN 1-890771-40-6) by Lawrence DiStasi and Uncivil Liberties (ISBN 1-58112-754-5) by Stephen Fox have been published, and movies, such as Prisoners Among Us have been made. They showed that during World War II, roughly 600,000 Italians who had never taken American citizenship were required to carry identity cards that labeled them "resident aliens." Some 10,000 people in war zones on the West Coast of the United States were required to move inland. After war with Italy was declared in Dec. 1941, several hundred people deemed by the FBI to be supportive of Italy were held in detention camps for up to two years. Lawrence DiStasi claims that these wartime restrictions and internments contributed more than anything else to the loss of spoken Italian in the United States. The government forced many Italian-language papers and schools to close because of their past support for what was then an enemy government.
In the 2000 U.S. Census, Italian Americans constituted the fifth largest ancestry group in America with about 15.6 million people (5.6% of the total U.S. population). Sicilian Americans are a subset of numerous Americans of regional Italian ancestries. As of 2006, the Italian-American population climbed to 17.8 million persons constituting 6 percent of the population.
In the 1930s, Italian Americans voted heavily Democratic. Despite superficial support for Mussolini in 1940, Italian American voters stayed with the New Deal Coalition and voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Since 1968, voters have split about evenly between the Democratic (37%) and the Republican (36%) parties. The U.S. Congress includes Italian Americans who are regarded as leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties. The highest ranking Italian American politician is currently Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who became the first woman and Italian American Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and former Republican New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was a candidate for the U.S. presidency in the 2008 election, as was Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman on a major party ticket, running for vice-president as a Democrat in 1984. Two of the justices of the Supreme Court—Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito—are Italian-Americans, appointed by Republican Presidents. Both vote as members of the conservative wing of the court, along with Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts. The new Second Lady, Dr Jill Jacobs Biden's father's family name was originally Giacoppa.
The Italian American Congressional Delegation currently includes 30 Members of Congress who trace their ancestry back to Italy. They are joined by more than 150 Associate Members who are not Italian American, but have an interest in the Italian American community. Since its founding in 1975, the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) has worked closely with the bicameral and bipartisan Italian American Congressional Delegation, which is led by co-chairs Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio. For more information on the National Italian American Foundation, visit .
The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) hosts a variety of public policy programs, contributing to public discourse on timely policy issues facing the nation and the world. These events are held on Capitol Hill and other locations under the auspices of NIAF's Frank J. Guarini Public Policy Forum and its sister program, the NIAF Public Policy Lecture Series. NIAF's 2009 public policy programs on Capitol Hill featured prominent Italians and Italian Americans as keynote speakers including Leon Panetta, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Franco Frattini, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Italy.
Italian-Americans have served an important role in the economy of the United States, and have founded companies of great national importance, such as Bank of America (by Amadeo Giannini in 1904), and companies that have contributed to the local culture and character of U.S. cities, such as Petrini's Markets (founded by Frank Petrini in 1935), among many others. Italian-Americans have also made important contributions to the growth of the U.S. economy through their business expertise, such as the management of the Chrysler Corporation by Lee Iacocca, and the creative innovations of Martin Scorsese for film companies such as Columbia Pictures and Warner Brothers.
About two thirds of America's Italian immigrants arrived during 1900-24. Having little education or training, most of them became unskilled laborers heavily concentrated in the cities. The 1970 census revealed, however, that of the second generation under 45 had achieved a level of education approaching the national average.
The Italian communities were poor, but married women typically avoided factory work chose home-based economic activities such as dressmaking, taking in boarders, and operating small shops in their homes or neighborhoods. Italian neighborhoods also proved attractive to midwives, women who trained in Italy before seeking work in America. Unlike shopkeepers or factory workers, midwives largely chose careers before leaving Italy and shaped their lives around work rather than their work around their lives.
Italian women fared better in Western cities like Denver and San Francisco than did their compatriots in eastern urban centers. Italian women in the first two generations stayed largely within the Little Italy. Married women worked within their homes or in family-owned businesses while single women held jobs in light industry, but often only temporarily. In the third generation, women who came of age during the 1940s-1950s, opportunities expanded as women gradually were accepted in the workplace and as entrepreneurs. Third-generation women also had much better job opportunities because they haD a high school or college education and were willing to leave Little Italy and commute to work.
Similar to Italian descendants in other nations such as Brazil and Argentina, Italian Americans have assimilated into the mainstream American cultural identity. Many Italian-Americans can trace several generations back in this country. Many have intermixed with other ethnic groups. They are well represented in all lines of work. Many Italian Americans still retain aspects of their culture. This includes Italian food, drink, art, annual Italian American feasts, and a strong commitment to family, including extended family. Italian Americans influenced popular music, especially in the 1940s and continuing in the 2010s, one of their major contributions to American culture.
Additionally, the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) - a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. - works to represent Italian Americans, spread knowledge of the Italian language, foster U.S./Italy relations and connect the greater Italian American community.
Among the most characteristic and popular of Italian American cultural contributions has been their feasts. Throughout the United States, wherever one may find an "Italian neighborhood" (often referred to as 'Little Italy'), one can find festive celebrations such as the well known Feast of San Gennaro in New York City, the unique Our Lady of Mount Carmel "Giglio" Feast in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, Italian feasts involve elaborate displays of devotion to God and patron saints. On the weekend of the last Sunday in August, the residents of Boston's North End celebrate the "Feast of all Feasts" in honor of St. Anthony of Padua, which was started over 300 years ago in Montefalcione, Italy. Perhaps the most widely known is St. Joseph's feast day on March 19. These feasts are much more than simply isolated events within the year. Feast (Festa in Italian) is an umbrella term for the various secular and religious, indoor and outdoor activities surrounding a religious holiday. Typically, Italian feasts consist of festive communal meals, religious services, games of chance and skill and elaborate outdoor processions consisting of statues resplendent in jewels and donations. This merriment usually takes place over the course of several days, and is communally prepared by a church community or a religious organization over the course of several months.
Currently, there are more than 300 Italian feasts celebrated throughout the United States. These feasts are visited each year by millions of Americans from various backgrounds who come together to enjoy Italian delicacies such as Zeppole and sausage sandwiches. Though in past, and still unto this day, much of Italian American culture is centered around music and food, in recent years, a large and growing group of Italian American authors are having success publishing and selling books in America.
Some of the authors who have written about everyday, hardworking Italians are Pietro DiDonato, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dana Gioia , Executive Director of the National Endowment for the Arts; Daniela Gioseffi , Winner of the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry, and Helen Barolini, author of The Dream Book, a collection of Italian American women's writings. Both women are American Book Award winners  and pioneers of Italian American writing, as is poet, Maria Mazziotti Gillan. These women have authored many books depicting Italian American women in a new light. They, along with several other poets and writers, can be found at Italian American Writers .
A scholarly literature has emerged that examines the literary output. Common themes include conflicts between marginal Italian American and mainstream culture, and tradition-bound immigrant parents opposed by their more assimilated children.
Gardaphé sees the rise and fall of cultural myths and differences as a continuous process comparable to the ebb and flow of a conversation between mainstream and minority, between audience and writer, each of whose fortunes may fluctuate. He especially stresses "omertà" (the code of silence that governs what is spoken or not spoken about in public), and "bella figura' (the code of proper demeanor or social behavior that governs an individual's public presence). Looking at The Godfather (1969), Gardaphé argues that the key to this novel's enormous popular success lies in Mario Puzo's ability to make readers envy and even fear the mystery and the power inside the "Italianità" that he represents through the Corleone family.
Helen Barolini's The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (1985) was the first anthology that pulled together the historic range of writing from the late 19th century to the 1980s. It exhibited the wealth of fiction, poetry, essays, and letters, and paid special attention to the interaction of Italian American women with American social activism.
Mary Jo Bona (1999) provided the first full-length scholarly analysis of the literary tradition. She is especially interested in showing how authors portrayed the many configurations of family relationships, from the early immigrant narratives of journeying to a new world,, through novels that stress intergenerational conflicts, to contemporary works about the struggle of modern women to form nontraditional gender roles.
Among the scholars who have led the Renaissance in Italian American literature are professors Richard Gambino, Anthony Julian Tamburri, Paolo Giordano, and Fred Gardaphe. The latter three founded Bordighera Press, Inc. and edited From the Margin, An Anthology of Italian American Writing, Purdue University Press. These men along with professors like novelist and accomplished critic, Dr. Josephine Gattuso-Hendin of New York University, have taught Italian American studies far and wide, at such institutions as The City University of New York, John D. Calandra Institute, Queens College (CUNY), and Stony Brook University, as well as Brooklyn College, where Dr. Robert Viscusi, founded the Italian American Writers Association , and is an author and American Book Award winner, himself.
As a result of the efforts of magazines like VIA: Voices in Italian Americana, "Ambassador," a publication of the National Italian American Foundation and Italian Americana, and many authors old and young, too numerous to mention, as well as early immigrant, pioneer writers like poet, Emanuel Carnevali, "Furnished Rooms," and novelist, Pietro DiDonato, author of "Christ in Concrete " -- Italian Americans are beginning to read more of their own writers. A growing number of books featuring ordinary, hardworking Italians—having nothing to do with criminality—are published yearly to confront the perceived television and Hollywood stereotyping of this ethnic group. (See "Stereotypes," below.) Famed authors like Don DeLillo, Giannina Braschi, Gilbert Sorrentino, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gay Talese, John Fante Tina DeRosa, Kim Addonizio, Daniela Gioseffi, Dana Gioia, to name a few who have broken through to main stream American literature and publishing, are changing the image of Italians in America with their books, stories, poems and essays far too numerous to cite. Many of these authors' books and writings are easily found on the internet and on Italian American Writers  as well as in bibliographies online at Stonybrook University's Italian American Studies Dept. in New York  or at The Italian American Writers Association website. The cultural face of Italian Americana is widening and changing daily to combat stereotyping by American movies and television.
Reeder (2010) examines issues of masculinity in Italian men who migrated during the period 1880-1930. At issue is the conflict that resulted when the rural Sicilian conception of masculinity, based on a system of honor, encountered a more modern and less hierarchical value system. Reeder contends that the American conception of masculinity and manliness was based exclusively on the values of market capitalism not thde familial and social relations that were the basis of honor in Italy.
Most immigrants had been Catholics in Italy, at least nominally. In spite of Catholic dominance among the immigrants, Italian religious minorities—such as Waldensians, Greek Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Italian Jews—also took part in the immigration to America.
In some Italian American communities, Saint Joseph's Day (March 19) is marked by celebrations and parades. Columbus Day is also widely celebrated, as are the feasts of some regional Italian patron saints, most notably St. Januarius (San Gennaro) (September 19) (especially by those claiming Neapolitan heritage), and Santa Rosalia (September 4) by immigrants from Sicily. The immigrants from Potenza, Italy celebrate the Saint Rocco's day (August 16) feast at the Potenza Lodge in Denver, Colorado the 3rd weekend of August. San Rocco is the patron saint of Potenza as is San Gerardo. Many still celebrate the Christmas season with a Feast of the seven fishes. In Cleveland, Ohio, the Feast of Assumption is celebrated in Cleveland's Little Italy on August 15. On this feast day, people will pin money on Blessed Virgin Mary statue as symbol of prosperity. The statue is paraded through Little Italy to Holy Rosary Parish. For almost 25 years, Cleveland Catholic Bishop Anthony Pilla would join in the parade and mass due to his Italian heritage. Pilla resigned in April 2006, but he still celebrates.
While most Italian-American families have a Catholic background, there are converts to Protestantism as well. In the early 1900s, about 300 Protestant missionaries worked in urban Italian American neighborhoods. Some have joined the Episcopal Church, while still retaining much of the Catholic liturgical form. Some have converted to Evangelical churches. Fiorello La Guardia was an Episcopalian (on his father's side; his mother was from the small but significant community of Italian Jews). Frank Santora is an ex-Catholic Italian-American pastor of Faith Church, a large Evangelical megachurch in New Milford, Connecticut. There is a small charismatic denomination, called the Christian Church of North America, which is rooted in the Italian Pentecostal Movement that came out of Chicago in the early 1900s. An group of Italian immigrants in Trenton converted to the Baptist denomination. Max Lucado—bestselling author, alumnus of Abilene Christian University, and preacher in Churches of Christ—is a prominent leader. The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite), headquartered in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, is a denomination of the Latter Day Saint movement that counts significant numbers of Italian-Americans in its leadership and membership.
According to Census Bureau data, Italian Americans have an average high school graduation rate, and a higher rate of advanced degrees compared to the national average. Italian Americans throughout the United States are well represented in a wide variety of occupations and professions, from skilled trades, to the arts, to engineering, science, mathematics, law, and medicine, and include numerous Nobel prize winners.
According to the PDF (339 KB), from 1998 to 2002 the enrollment in college Italian language courses grew by 30%, faster than the enrollment rates for French and German. Italian is the fourth most commonly taught foreign language in U.S. colleges and universities behind Spanish, French, and German. According to the U.S. 2000 Census, Italian is the fifth (seventh overall) most spoken language in the United States (tied with Vietnamese) with over 1 million speakers.
As a result of the large wave of Italian immigration to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Italian language was once widely spoken in much of the U.S., especially in northeastern and Great Lakes area cities like Rochester, Chicago, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, as well as San Francisco, St. Louis and New Orleans. Italian-language newspapers exist in many American cities, especially New York City, and Italian-language movie theatres existed in the U.S. as late as the 1950s.
Today, Prizes like The Bordighera Annual Poetry Prize  founded by Daniela Gioseffi, Pietro Mastrandrea and Alfredo di Palchi with support from the Sonia Rraiziss-Giop Foundation, and Bordighera Press,  which publishes the winners in bilingual editions, have helped to encourage writers of the diaspora to write and read in Italian. Chelsea Books in New York City and Gradiva Press on Long Island have published many bilingual books also due to the efforts of bilingual writers of the diaspora like Paolo Valesio, Alfredo de Palchi, Luigi Fontanella. Dr. Luigi Bonaffini  of The City University of New York, publisher of The Journal of Italian Translation at Brooklyn College, has fostered Italian dialectic poetry throughout his homeland and the USA. Joseph Tusiani of New York and New York University, a highly distinguised linguist and prize winning poet born in Italy, paved the way for Italian works of literature in English and has published many bilingual books and Italian classics for the American audience, among them the first complete works of Michaelangelo's poems in English to be published in the United States. All of this literary endeavor has helped to foster the Italian language, along with the Italian opera, of course, in the United States. Many of these authors and their bilingual books are located throughout the internet.
Author Lawrence Distasi  argues that the loss of spoken Italian among the Italian American population can be tied to U.S. government pressures during World War II. During World War II, in various parts of the country, the U.S. government displayed signs that read, Don't Speak the Enemy's Language. Such signs designated the languages of the Axis powers, German, Japanese, and Italian, as "enemy languages". Shortly after the Axis powers declared war on the U.S., many Italian, Japanese and German citizens were interned. Among the Italian Americans, those who spoke Italian, who had never taken out citizenship papers, and who belonged to groups that praised Benito Mussolini, were most likely to become candidates for internment. Distasi claims that many Italian language schools closed down in the San Francisco Bay Area within a week of the U.S. declaration of war on the Axis powers. Such closures were inevitable since most of the teachers in Italian languages were interned.
Despite previous decline, the Italian language is still spoken and studied by those of Italian American descent, and it can be heard in various American communities, especially among older Italian Americans. During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, interest in Italian language and culture has surged among Italian Americans.
The formal "Italian" that is taught in colleges and universities is generally not the "Italian" with which Italian Americans are acquainted. Because the Italian of Italian Americans comes from a time just after the unification of the state, their language is in many ways anachronistic and demonstrates the official dialects of Southern Italy of pre-unification Italy. These dialects, though still spoken along with Standard Italian have also evolved in minor ways. Because of this, Italian Americans studying Italian are often learning a language that does not include all of the words and phrases they may have learned from family.
Generoso Pope (1891-1950), the owner of a chain of Italian-language newspapers in major cities, stands out as the epitome of the Italian American ethnic political broker. He bought the Il Progresso Italo-Americano in 1928 for $2 million; he doubled its circulation to 200,000 in New York City, making it the largest Italian-language paper in the country. He purchased additional papers in New York and Philadelphia, which became the chief source of political, social, and cultural information for the community. Pope encouraged his readers to learn English, become citizens, and vote; his goal was to instill pride and ambition to succeed in modern America. A conservative Democrat who ran the Columbus Day parade and admired Mussolini, Pope was the most powerful enemy of anti-Fascism among Italian Americans. Closely associated with Tammany Hall politics in New York, Pope and his newspapers played a vital role in securing the Italian vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt's Democratic tickets. He served as chairman of the Italian Division of the Democratic National Committee in 1936, and helped persuade the president to take a neutral attitude over Italy's invasion of Ethiopia. He broke with Mussolini in 1941 and enthusiastically supported the American war effort. In the late 1940s Pope supported the election of William O'Dwyer as mayor in 1945 and Harry S. Truman as president. His business concerns continued to prosper under New York’s Democratic administrations, and in 1946 he added the Italian language radio station WHOM to his media holdings. In the early years of the Cold War, Pope was a leading anti-Communist, and orchestrating a letter writing campaign by his subscribers to stop the Communists from winning the Italian elections in 1948.
Voters did not always vote the way editorials dictated, but they depended on the news coverage. At many smaller papers, support for Mussolini, short-sighted opportunism, deference to political patrons who were not members of the Italian-American communities, and the necessity of making a living through periodicals with a small circulation, generally weakened the owners of Italian-language newspapers when they tried to become political brokers of the Italian American vote.
James V. Donnaruma purchased Boston's 'La Gazzetta del Massachusetts' in 1905, 'La Gazzetta' enjoyed a wide readership in Boston's Italian community because it emphasized detailed coverage of local ethnic events and explained how events in Europe affected the community. Donnaruma's editorial positions, however, were frequently at odds with the sentiments of his readership. Donnaruma's conservative views and desire for greater advertising revenue prompted him to court the favor of Boston's Republican elite, to whom he pledged editorial support in return for the purchase of advertising space for political campaigns. 'La Gazzetta' consistently supported Republican candidates and policy positions, even when the party was proposing and passing laws to restrict Italian immigration. Nevertheless, voting records from the 1920s-1930s show that Boston's Italian Americans voted heavily for Democratic candidates. Carmelo Zito took over the San Francisco newspaper Il Corriere del Popolo in 1935. Under Zito, it became one of the fiercest foes of Mussolini's Fascism on the West Coast. It vigorously attacked Italy's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia and its intervention in the Spanish Civil War. Zito helped form the Italian-American Anti-Fascist League and often attacked certain Italian prominenti like Ettore Patrizi, publisher of L'Italia and La Voce del Popolo. Zito paper campaigned against the Italian pro-Fascist language schools of San Francisco.
In the 1890-1920 period—before Prohibition—Italian neighborhoods were often stereotyped as being "violent" and "controlled by the Mafia". In 1891, eleven Italian immigrants in New Orleans were lynched due to their supposed Mafia role in murdering the police chief David Hennessy). This was the largest mass lynching in US history. In the 1920s, many Americans used the Sacco and Vanzetti episode, in which two Italian anarchists were sentenced to death for murder, to denounce Italian support for anarchism and crime.
Gabaccia (2007) explores the origins of the term 'Little Italy' in New York in the 1880s and its portrayal in print and popular culture. Though the exact location of 'piccola Italia' in New York during this time is unknown, the increasingly popular trend of urban tourism led to an influx of people seeking the entertainment and spectacle that could only be found in predominantly immigrant neighborhoods. The 'safe danger' that Little Italy represented spread throughout the United States in the late 19th century, increasing American fascination with Italian neighborhoods, which in turn inspired fantastic print and theater renditions of immigrant life.
Before 1920 the movie industry was based in New York City, with its large Italian community. Italian immigrants were shown as innately violent in early gangster films. After 1915 heartbreaking melodramas of destitution and misfortune adopted instead a combination of muted 'othering' and universal characterizations.
Rampant anti-immigrant sentiment brought in the Immigration Act of 1924 and the nation's Italian Americans moved to defeat it. The small percentage of criminal elements active in the Italian American community, Black Hand practitioners and those who came up during the Prohibition Era, only lodged prejudices more firmly in the public’s mind. The most publicized protest from the community came in 2001 when the Chicago-based American Italian Defamation Association (AIDA) sued Time Warner for distributing HBO’s hit series The Sopranos because of its negative portrayal of Italian Americans. The results are still inconclusive.
The National Italian American Foundation, the National American Italian Association and other Italian American organizations have asserted that the American Mafia in the United States have never numbered more than a few thousand individuals, and that it is unfair to associate such a small minority with the general population of Italian Americans.
Contrary to public belief, organized crime existed in America long before the migration of Italians from southern Italy. The Italian-American contingent of organized crime, although late in arriving, dominated the already flourishing crime families of the various ethnic groups. Taylor Street Archives
Most recently, MTV launched its new reality television show called Jersey Shore, which plays upon the stereotype of the guido, prompting criticism from groups such as the National Italian American Foundation, the Order Sons of Italy in America and from some people living in the area.
Domino's Pizza recently pulled their commercials from airing during the show. Tim McIntyre, the company's vice president of communications, stated, "One of the ads happened to show up and once we saw what the program was, we decided that the content wasn't in keeping with what we're all about."
Between 1870 and 1970, the migration of 26 million people from Italy produced an uneven geography of Little Italies worldwide. Migrants initially clustered residentially in many lands, where their festivals, businesses, monuments, and practices of everyday life attracted negative attention. Neighborhoods labeled as "Little Italies" came to exist almost exclusively in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Little Italies were, to a considerable extent, the product of Italo-phobia by the English-speaking world. Ethnocentrism and anti-Catholicism by English-speakers helped to create an ideological foundation for fixing foreignness on urban spaces occupied by immigrants, who seemed racially different from the earlier Anglo-Celtic and northern European settlers.
Most immigrants lived in "Little Italys" until after 1945, when younger families moved to the suburbs. By the 1970s gentificiation of inner city neighborhoods and the arrival of new immigrant groups caused a sharp decline in the old ethnic enclaves.
States with high concentrations of Italian Americans include Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Among major cities across the country, New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Miami, and Providence have America's six largest Italian communities. New Haven and its surrounding suburbs also exhibit a high Italian concentration (New Haven's mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Congressional Representative Rosa DeLauro are both Italian-Americans). Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania also have a high concentration of old steel Italian-Americans, as shown in the map below. The governor of West Virginia, Joe Manchin (D) is also relative to the ethnicity in that region.
Chicago's Legendary Taylor Street has been called the port-of-call for Chicago's Italian American Immigrants. Taylor Street's Little Italy became the laboratory upon which Hull House, America's first settlement house, founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Starr in 1889, tested its sociological theories and formulated its protests to the Establishment. The Italian American experience, as documented in the chronicles of Chicago's Taylor Street Archives, receives a unique treatment, abandoning political correctness in favor of some hardhitting, fingerpointing historical accuracies. Chicago's Italian American experience begins with the mass migration from the shores of southern Italy, the Hull House experiment, the great depression, World War II, and the machinations behind the physical demise of a neighborhood by the University of Illinois in 1963.
Italian Americans dominated the inner core of the Hull House neighborhood, 1890s–1930s. One of the first newspaper articles about Hull House (Chicago Tribune, May 19, 1890) acknowledges the following invitation, written in Italian, sent to the residents of the Hull House neighborhood. It begins with the following salutation: "Mio Carissimo Amico"…and is signed, "Le Signorine, Jane Addams and Ellen Starr." The Bethlehem-Howard Neighborhood Center Records further substantiate the observation that, as early as the 1890s, the inner core of "The Hull House Neighborhood", from the river on the east, Roosevelt Road on the south, Harrison Street on the north, and on out to the neighborhood's western most boundaries, was virtually all Italian.
The 1924 historic picture, Meet the 'Hull House Kids', was taken by Wallace K. Kirkland Sr., one of the Hull House directors. It served as a poster for Jane Addams and the Hull House Settlement House. All twenty kids were first generation Italian Americans…all with vowels at the end of their names. "They grew up to be lawyers and mechanics, sewer workers and dump truck drivers, a candy shop owner, a boxer and a mob boss." That picture became a classic and was circulated throughout the world.
Chicago's current and official "little Italy" is concentrated on the city's northwestern side and neighboring Elmwood Park, which has the highest concentration of Italian Americans in the state. Harlem Avenue, "La Corsa Italia", is lined with Italian stores, bakeries, clubs and organizations. The Feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel, in nearby Melrose Park, has been a regular event in the area for more than one hundred years. The near west suburbs of Elmwood Park, Melrose Park, Schiller Park, Franklin Park, River Grove, and Harwood Heights are where many Italian Americans live. Suburban Stone Park is home of Casa Italia, and the area's Italian American cultural center.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin is home to many Italians, on the east side and downtown sections, especially. Brady Street, considered Milwaukee's little Italy is lined with many pizzerias. The largest Italian American festival in United States, Festa Italiana, is hosted in the city. The third ward in Milwaukee was home to many arriving Italians. Italians that immigrated to Wisconsin were primarily from Sicily and southern Italy. West Allis, Wisconsin also has large numbers of Italians, with about 15 to 20 pizzerias and Italian bars. There is also a large concentration of Italians in up north Wisconsin primarily near the upper Michigan border. Door County Peninsula was a hot spot to go to for Milwaukee and Chicago Mobsters. The Milwaukee mafia is run by the Balistieri family and numbers at 15 to 20 made members. Italians also settled in neighboring counties such as Waukeshaw, Sheboygan, and others. The city of Milwaukee has over 70 pizzerias and Milwaukee county has over 120 or so.
Festa Italiana is the largest Italian American festival and is hosted every July in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Flag twurrlers come from Italy for the festival and many Italian singers come and the cunnolis are great.
Birmingham, Alabama, was representative of smaller industrial centers. Most Italians in the early 20th century came to work in the burgeoning iron and coal industries. Dorothy L. Crim founded the Ensley Community House in the Italian district in 1912 at the behest of the Birmingham City Mission Board. From 1912 to 1969, Ensley House eased the often difficult transition to American life by providing direct assistance such as youth programs and day care services, social clubs, and 'Americanization' programs.
The top 25 U.S. communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Italian ancestry are:
An Italian American is an American of Italian descent. It may mean someone born in the United States with Italian parents or grandparents or someone born in Italy who moved to the United States. The largest group of Italians moved to the United States in the early 1900s; two million moved between 1900 to 1914. Only Irish and Germans moved to the United States in bigger numbers. In 2000 the government counted 15.6 million Italian Americans in the United States. This means that in the year 2000, for every 1000 Americans, 56 of them were Italian Americans.
Italian Americans have been an important part in building the United States. Many great politicians, inventors, scientists, soldiers, musicians and film makers (actors and directors) have been Italian Americans. The Mafia in the United States was made by some Italian Americans but nearly all Italian Americans have nothing to do with it.
New York City has more Italian Americans than any other city in the United States. More than 3 million Italians live in or near New York. The states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Florida and Massachusetts also have large Italian American populations. There are large Italian-American populations in the cities of Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, which each have over a half million Italians.