I am so proud to be a third generation Italian American and consider myself lucky to have grown up in an Italian neighborhood in Union City.
As we celebrate Italian American Heritage Month, I think it would be a good thing if everyone like me took the time to learn about the struggle of our ancestors.
When they came to this country, many had to overcome adversity so that we could have the life we live today.
There’s a great four-part PBS series called “The Italian Americans,” which does a great job of telling our story.
It’s a story every Italian-American should be proud of, and it starts with family.
When the Italians first arrived here, they were not given a shrine, but rather a shovel.
They were not welcomed with open arms but rather looked down upon.
Italians were the victims of the largest mass lynching in this country when 11 were hanged in New Orleans after being found not guilty of murdering a police chief.
Theodore Roosevelt, according to TheAmericanMag.com, called it “pretty good stuff”.
When World War II broke out, hundreds of Italian “enemy aliens” were sent to internment camps and over 10,000 were driven from their homes.
In 1941, Italian-American Yankee center Joe DiMaggio was America’s most popular man despite his parents being unwanted enemy aliens. Go figure.
These are just a few of the adversities faced by Italian Americans.
The achievements are far too many to celebrate in just one month.
Some of the greatest singers are Italian-American.
In New Jersey, we have our own “Fab Four”.
They would be Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli, real name Francis Stephen Castelluccio, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen who is part Italian.
Take this John Paul George and Ringo.
We could also talk about movies like “The Godfather,” TV shows like “The Sopranos,” and how Italian Americans have to face and overcome the mob stereotype to become one of the most prosperity of the country and the world.
BTW, did you know that Bank of America was first known as Bank of Italy?
So much to know, so much more to discover.
I passed on these stories and showed my sons Lennon and Albert “The Italian Americans” while eating pizza. It made for a great family evening followed by lots of conversation.
The views expressed in the above post are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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