The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw a large-scale influx of Italian immigrants to the United States. Most of them settled in East Coast cities such as New York and Philadelphia. By the early twenty-first century, people of Italian heritage constituted 6 percent of the total American population and ranked as the fifth-largest ethnic group in the United States.
Italian immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in 1911.
Italians began immigrating to North America during the early colonial period, but massive Italian immigration began only during the late nineteenth century. The new immigrants faced problems similar to those encountered by earlier waves of foreign immigrants, such as the Irish. Most of them tended to gravitate to the eastern cities, in which they created
Immigration from Italy to the United States was only a trickle before the 1880’s. The British colonies contained small pockets of Italians, who brought Italian horticulture and
Later Italian immigrants were important in the development of the early wine industry in
The political unification of Italy in 1879 did not bring better lives to the majority of Italians, who began to emigrate in large numbers to Brazil,
Anti-Italian sentiments among native-born Americans grew along with the burgeoning numbers of Italian immigrants. Propaganda against the Italian immigrants usually focused on fears of the Mafia. Throughout the United States, Italian immigrants were targets of violence, even lynching, by anti-immigrant
Some immigrants returned to Italy, but most remained in the United States permanently. Male heads of families generally arrived in the United States first. As they became established, they sent for the rest of their families. Over time, notions of returning to Italy faded. Occasionally, however, some family members remained in the United States while others returned to Italy, traveling back and forth whenever possible. This was especially true after World War II.
Immigrants who came to the United States during the twentieth century, especially after World War I (1914-1918), enjoyed a brief period of relative prosperity. However, the Great Depression of the 1930’s proved an especially difficult time. By then, Italy was under Benito Mussolini’s Fascist rule, so returning to Italy was out of the question for many immigrants. In 1939, Italy followed Nazi Germany into World War II and became a declared enemy of the United States.
Historically, most Italians have been
Although a majority of Italian Americans have remained Catholics, they have not occupied a place in the leadership of the American church that reflects their numbers. Some Italian American men and women entered the Catholic clergy and religious orders but not in the same numbers as Irish Catholics have done. Consequently, the American church has continued to have a predominantly Irish imprint. Despite the large numbers of Italians in New York City, there has never been an Italian American cardinal in the city’s archdiocese.
Not all Italians were or are Catholic. Some have joined Protestant churches in small communities lacking Catholic churches. Others have left the Roman Catholic Church after getting divorced and remarrying–practices on which Catholics frown. By the early twenty-first century, Italian Americans were prominent in a variety of Protestant denominations.
The Americanization of an Italian family is a subtheme of Francis Ford Coppola’s
The Italian immigrant culture encouraged education as a central part of the goal of achieving better lives. Consequently, Italian Americans have had higher-than-average graduation rates from high schools and average to above-average rates of completion of higher degrees. The Italian family culture subscribed to the concept of the
The conviction of
As time passed and Italians moved into the American cultural mainstream, groups such as the Italian American Civil Rights League (formerly the Italian American Anti-Defamation League) and the
The art of cooking has always been part of the Italian domestic landscape. From
Brodsky, Alyn. The Great Mayor: Fiorello LaGuardia and the Making of the City of New York. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003. Biography of New York City’s famous Italian mayor that emphasizes his role in the city’s development. Cannistrero, Philip, and Gerald Meyer, eds. The Lost World of Italian American Radicalism. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003. Collection of essays about the various facets of Italian radicalism, especially after World War I. Ciongoli, A. Kenneth, and Jay Parini. Passage to Liberty: The Story of Italian Immigration and the Rebirth of America. New York: Regan Books, 2002. Glossy and engaging history of Italians in America, going back to the eras of Christopher Columbus and Filippo Mazzei. Guglielmo, Thomas A. White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. History of Chicago’s Italian community that focuses on racial aspects of the Italian experience, from characterizations of Italians by themselves and other groups to their relations with the African American community. Iorizzo, Luciano J., and Salvatore Mondello. The Italian Americans. 3d ed. Youngstown, N.Y.: Cambria Press, 2002. Well-written scholarly history of the evolution of the Italian American community in the United States. Poe, Tracy N. “The Labour and Leisure of Food Production as a Mode of Ethnic Identity Building Among Italians in Chicago, 1890-1940.” Rethinking History 5, no. 1 (2001): 131-148. Study of Italians in Chicago that focuses on food, culture, and residential patterns. Vecchio, Diane C. Merchants, Midwives and Laboring Women: Italian Migrants in Urban America. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2006. Brief history of Italian immigrant women in the United States. Vecoli, Rudolph J. “European Americans: From Immigrants to Ethnics.” International Migration Review 6, no. 4 (Winter, 1972): 403-434. Analysis of the historiography of European immigration that reviews the approaches of some of the major immigration historians, revealing the interpretations that evolved over time.
History of immigration after 1891
Italian American press
Sacco and Vanzetti trial