Introduction

This timeline strives to capture the richness of the Italian American experience and to highlight the many valuable contributions this special group has made to the United States. First arriving on its shores five centuries ago in search of opportunity and a better life, Italian Americans have made an indelible mark upon this nation. While not all, most Italians arriving in the United States were from the humblest of origins yet through hard work and resolve, they have become emblematic of the American Dream. Arriving as peasants, they became business and industry leaders, governors and senators, artists and architects, scientists and doctors, educators and attorneys. From artist Constantino Brumidiís masterpieces in the United States Capitol and the legendary performances of Frank Sinatra to Coach Joe Paternoís unmatched record in major college football history and the brilliant leadership of New York Cityís Rudy Giuliani, Italian American contributions and achievements are bountifully evident throughout the nationís fabric as Milestones illustrates.

Milestones also explores the adversities encountered by Italian Americans. Their path was difficult and filled with trial and tribulation. Beyond the palpable difficulties of emigrating to a foreign land and facing anticipated challenges such as language barriers and a new culture, Italian Americans frequently encountered unexpected stereotyping, discrimination, and even violence. One can learn of the nativism and overt bigotry that was manifested in the Sacco and Vanzetti case and their ensuing execution in 1927, as well as, the largest single lynching in American history that witnessed 11 Italian Americans unjustly killed in New Orleans in 1891. Despite obstacles, Italian Americans have admirably persevered and justly taken their place at the American family table, demonstrating that the promise of America remains viable.

NIAF hopes that this timeline will serve as an interactive research and educational tool for people of varied backgrounds, ages, and educational levels. It promises to have special appeal with students and teachers as well as anyone with an appetite for learning. NIAF also hopes that this timeline would present an opportunity for Italian Americans to explore and to reconnect with their special history, which unfortunately has been frequently under-represented in the curriculum of many schools and universities. As many people are versed in the grandeur that was the Roman Empire and the beauty of the Renaissance, not enough is know about the Italians that left their mother country, ventured to the United States, and enthusiastically chose to become Americans. These Italians have accordingly carved out a unique place in American history and nurtured a very special relationship with their adopted nation as this timeline recounts.

While fully immersed into the American mainstream, Italian Americans continue to maintain a prominent sense of ethnicity as it remains a key component in their self identity. This was confirmed with the 2000 Census, which indicated that the number of people reporting to be Americans of Italian descent increased by seven percent since the 1990 Census. This was particularly striking since it countered other European groups who witnessed their numbers decline significantly since the previous census.

Despite their strong ties to their Italian heritage, Italian Americans remain among the most loyal and proudest of Americans. This has been demonstrated time and again, perhaps most notably when more than 1.2 million Italian Americans fought heroically in the Second World War despite a precarious period in this nationís history when many were labeled as enemy aliens, arrested, relocated, and even interned. Milestones addresses this phenomenon, demonstrating how Italian Americans have fully embraced their adopted nation while never forgetting the land that their parents and grandparents left behind.

Capturing the totality of the Italian American Experience is a daunting task and Milestones in no way attempts to serve such a function. Rather, this timeline strives to create awareness and to disseminate information relating to the essence of the Italian American experience. Accordingly, letís utilize this as an opportunity to recognize and perhaps to celebrate these and other milestones Italian Americans have achieved in this great nation.

John Marino
Editor, Milestones of the Italian American Experience






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