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Italian Immigration

The Picture above is the beginning of a 1131 passenger manifest. This manifest is from a ship called Madonna, This ship made runs from 1905-1924 between Italy and America. During The Italians major immigration period this ship made fifteen trips bewteen Italy and America in 1907 alone.

At the time the only way to get from Europe to America was ships. The Italians took ships from many different ports mostly ending up at Ellis Island. The big push of Italian immigration was when Ellis Island was the main Immagration port. The traval experience was not good. Because so many people were trying to come to America they were packed into ships as many as could fit. It was dirty and they were treated like cargo that the captains just tried to make a profit from.

Italians had a long history of immigrating to other countries and America was just a new place with job opportunities. They would settle around big cities trying to get labor jobs. Major places included Boston, New York, Chicago and Detroit. Italians faced a lot of discrimination by other Americans. Because they took unskilled jobs and settled in groups they didn't really mesh into American society and were treated like outkasts. When they first arrived they had to deal with poor living conditions, low wages, and discrimination. In many ways Italians didn't assimilate to American culture. They took American jobs but many never planned on staying. The ones who did stay settled in pockets with people from their homeland. They continued making their own type of food and liked to buy from other Italians. It wasn't until the generations born in America did they really start to assimilate successfully. Italians were a huge part of the workforce that would be the power behind expanding cities. They also brought us their food which is huge now. When the Italians first got here they were taking low paying labor jobs, and settling around each other. They faced discrimination from many groups of people like almost all other immigrant groups. Today they have successfully meshed their selves into our society. This was easy for them because they were the biggest European immigrant group. After there big immigration push in the early 1900's they still came over but not in such numbers. The later immigrants were easier to accept because they just followed in the steps of all the Italians who had been here earlier.

Peices of legislation that affected Italian immigration were all the Quota acts and the Immigration Act that introduced a literacy test. The Quota Act wasn't greatly effective on Italian immigrants because it was passed in 1921 which was after the big Italian immigration push but it did still restrict large numbers from coming over if they wanted to. However the literacy test was huge because in 1900 the illiteracy rate in Italy was at 70%. Seventeen years later when the act was passed wouldn't have made that big of a difference making it so millions of Italians couldn't immigrate.

Italians were leaving due to overpopulation, poverty, and natural disasters. Natural disasters included Mount Vesuvius and Mount Etna erupting, and a tidal wive that killed 100,000 people. When they left for America in many cases it was only the men leaving who would go work from spring to fall then return to Italy for the colder months. This means they were leaving their family behind for very long periods of time. If the whole family decided to go over they were leaving everything they had and only brought what they could carry on the ship.

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And They Came To Chicago: The Italian American Legacy

Tags: Chicago, Chicago italian, Italian American, Italian-American, Immigration, Italian immigrant, History, Documentary, PBS, NBC5, WTTW11, Joe Mantegna, Italians of Chicago, mantegna, italy, going to Italy, Italian, American, interviews