Italian immigrants

Italian immigrants: Early Immigration

Italian immigrants: Late Nineteenth Century Immigration

Italian immigrants: Twentieth Century Trends

Italian immigrants: Italian Religion and Culture

Italian immigrants: Families

Italian immigrants: Italian Stereotypes

Italian immigrants: Italian Contributions to American Cuisine

Significance: 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.

Profile of Italian immigrants

Country of origin Italy
Primary language Italian
Primary regions of U.S. settlement Northeast
Earliest significant arrivals Seventeenth century
Peak immigration period 1880’s-1920’s
Twenty-first century legal residents* 21,028 (2,629 per year)

*Immigrants who obtained legal permanent resident status in the United States.

Source: Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2008.

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 “Little Italies.” Their assimilation progressed slowly and was often hampered by the perception that many Italians were members of the criminal Mafia. By the late twentieth century, however, Italian Americans occupied prominent positions in most sectors of American life.

Norma Corigliano Noonan

Further Reading

  • 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. 

See also: Anti-Catholicism; Argentine immigrants; Atlas, Charles; European immigrants; Films; Godfather trilogy; History of immigration after 1891; Immigration waves; Italian American press; Little Italies; Ponzi, Charles; Sacco and Vanzetti trial; Tammany Hall.

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notegoraptor0 answers 16 November 2016 23:12 Quote

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