Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month is in October. Did you know that it has been more than 140 years since the first Italians immigrated to the U.S.? From movies and music to sports and politics, Italian Americans have had an immense impact on the society and culture of America.
History of Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month
To escape poverty and violence in Southern Italy and the Sicily islands, over four million Italians immigrated to the United States between 1880 and 1924. It is said that during World War I, Italian Americans constituted about 12% of the total armed forces of the U.S. During World War II, Italy had joined the Axis powers and had declared war on the U.S. The Italian-American community in the U.S., however, showed unswerving loyalty to the U.S.
St. John Basilone and 13 other Italian Americans received the Medal of Honor. Enrico Fermi, a nuclear physicist, contributed to the development of the first atom bomb.
In the post-war period, many Italian Americans got involved in politics. The U.S. boasted several well-known Italian American singers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Madonna. The cartoon “Donald Duck” was made by Al Taliaferro, and “Tom and Jerry” was co-created by Joseph Barbera. Award-winning actors and directors like Frank Capra and Martin Scorsese rose to stardom.
Italian Americans were subjected to widespread discrimination and racial profiling. One of the largest lynchings in U.S. history happened in 1890 when 11 immigrants were killed due to their alleged role in the murder of David Hennessy. The movies and mainstream media portrayed Italian Americans as violent criminals. Movies like “The Godfather” and T.V. shows such as “The Sopranos” further made these stereotypes all the more concrete.
To show appreciation towards Italian Americans for their remarkable achievements and contributions in arts, science, and sports, President Ronald Reagan and Congress proclaimed October to be celebrated as Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month.
Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month timeline
More than four million Italians immigrate from Italy to the United States.
Italian-Americans establish their presence in art, music, politics, and the military.
Italian communities are stereotyped by the press as being violent and controlled by the Mafia.
For their distinguished contribution to society and as a token of appreciation, October is proclaimed as Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month.
Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month FAQs
Where can I learn more about Italian immigration to the U.S.?
There are many books written on this topic. “La Storia,” “Passage to Liberty,” and “Long Island Italians” are some of the books you can read to know more about Italian immigration in the 1800s.
Do Italian Americans speak Italian?
A majority of Italian Americans do not speak Italian, although they might toss in a few Italian words during conversations. There are some families, however, who speak fluent Italian.
Are there famous Italian-American boxers?
Yes! World-champion boxers like Rocky Graziano, Jake LaMotta, Willie Pep, Rocky Marciano, and Primo Carnera were all Italian Americans.
How To Celebrate Italian-American Heritage And Culture Month
Visit little Italy
What better way to celebrate Italian Heritage and Culture Month than to immerse yourself in Italian culture completely. Visit little Italy in San Diego, Chicago, or New York and spend some time in the beautiful parks, ball courts, and bakeries.
Celebrations of Italian-American Heritage Month are not complete without having Italian food. Spaghetti Carbonara, Neapolitan Pizza, Ribollita, and Tiramisu are some of the Italian favorites you can try. Check out our post on National Pasta Day to learn more about the history of Italian Pasta.
Watch the fascinating stories of Italian immigrants to understand and appreciate the hardships faced by them and how, against all odds, they managed to be successful in America. You can watch video documentaries on YouTube or Amazon Prime.
5 Facts About Italy That Will Blow Your Mind
It is the fifth most visited country
With destinations like Venice, Rome, Pisa, and Milan, it is no wonder that Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world.
The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater
The Roman Colosseum built in 70 A.D. remains the largest standing amphitheater in the world today.
Ancient Roman games were held here
Gladiator fights, chariot races, and other Roman games were held in the Roman Colosseum.
The smallest country is in Italy
The smallest country in the world, The Vatican City, is in Rome, Italy.
The Dolomites are in Italy
The majestic Italian Dolomitic Alps, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated in the province of Belluno, Italy.
Why We Love Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month
There are over 15.7 million Italian-Americans in the U.S.
The Italian-Americans constitute almost 6% of the U.S. population. Hence, this month allows us to acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of Italian-Americans in building the nation.
It is an opportunity to learn more about U.S. history
This is an excellent time, especially for history nerds, to dig deeper into the history of Italian immigration in the 1800s. It provides an opportunity to learn more about the millions of Italian families that fled Italy in search of greener pastures.
It is the perfect time to enjoy Italian cuisine
This month provides an opportunity to taste Italian dishes that you've never tried before. Many restaurants celebrate Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month by serving either authentic Italian or Italian-American dishes.
Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month dates