The Italian American Experience
“The function performed by the family, church, and neighborhood in reinforcing ethnic identity can no longer be relied upon. If we do not do something about it quickly and effectively, authentic Italian American culture is in danger of extinction.”
Historian, Casa Italia
Between 1880 and 1920, nearly five million Italians immigrated to the United States in search of a new life. Two-thirds of them stayed here, and in so doing they developed a culture of work, family, religion, and local community neither solely Italian nor strictly American but a mixture of both.
The experiences of the 20th-century Italian American were often ones of struggle and discrimination, stereotyping and misgiving. Speaking little or no English, many struggled to carve out their own place in an urbanizing American society. And many did so successfully, some to the ends of great fame and fortune. Together, Italians from every corner of American life forged a unique culture comprised of work, family, cuisine, religion, language, politics, art, and literature. It is a culture formed by community, tradition, and countless stories shared around the kitchen table.
Today, Italian Americans stand at the threshold of a critical point in their history. Family bonds and cultural traditions are not the same today as they were generations ago. Through decades of migration and assimilation, cultural treasures, legacies, and histories are slowly being lost.
Italian Americans possess a spirit, a history—a legacy—all their own. It is this individuality—this Italianitá—that must be preserved.