Italians in New York

Italians in New York

Italians in New YorkIn the early 20th century, most major cities in the US had a population of more than 50 thousand people. In each city, there was a neighborhood designated Little Italy. Despite hardship discrimination and struggle, Italian immigrants were able to attain cultural and political influence. In 1919 Alfred E. Smith was elected the first Italian American governor of New York. Around the same time, opera singer Enrico Caruso was internationally acclaimed. In an effort to curb the mass emigration, the Italian government imposed various restrictions, to no avail. When WWI broke out, a quarter of Italy’s population had migrated to the US.

By the year 1921, the number of migrants from all corners of Europe was so high that the government decided to prevent it. Congress passed the Quota Act, which limited the number of immigrants p/year to 3% of the current population in US territory. In 1924, Congress passed a law which was even more severe, the National Origins Act. Thus lowering the number of immigration to 2% of the population of any nationality represented in the US. It is believed that this law sought to prevent the entry of migrants from southern and eastern Europe.

During WWII Italians, who had not been naturalized, were held as prisoners. Many on the West Coast were banned from entering public places and were forced to vacate their homes. About a thousand Italians were detained at a military camp in Montana. Simultaneously, over a million Italian Americans were drafted and sent to war.

Immigration laws remained rigid until well into the 1950s, but by then most Italians in the US were already integrated into society. There were second-generation immigrants like Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra, who became symbols of America. Pizza and spaghetti became the typical food in NYC and Italian neighborhoods became a tourist attraction.