Italian Americans

Italian American Heritage Month – more info

About: This initial Italian movement dispersed widely throughout America, but its numbers were too small to constitute a significant presence. By 1850, the heaviest concentration was in Louisiana (only 915 people), the result of Sicilian migration to New Orleans and its environs. Within a decade, California contained the highest total of any state—a mere 2,805—and New York, soon to become home to millions of Italian immigrants, counted 1,862.

Everything changed with mass migration, the first phase of which consisted primarily of temporary migrants—”sojourners”—who desired immediate employment, maximum savings, and quick repatriation. The movement was predominately composed of young, single men of prime working age (15-35) who clustered in America’s urban centers. Multiple trips were commonplace and ties to American society, such as learning English, securing citizenship, and acquiring property, were minimal. With eyes focused on the old-world paese(village), a total of at least half of the sojourners returned to Italy, although in some years rates were much higher. Such mobility earned Italians the sobriquet “birds of passage,” a label that persisted until women and families began to migrate and settlement became increasingly permanent in the years following 1910.

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