Segments in this Video

Latin Lover (03:36)


Italian immigrant Rudolph Valentino came through Ellis Island at age 18. He became a silent film star by taking exotic roles, and faced racial discrimination in Hollywood--echoing national attitudes toward Italian-Americans.

Racial Profiling (02:44)

In the early 1900s, immigrants came to America in record numbers. Southern Italians were singled out at Ellis Island as inferior.

Pressure to Assimilate (02:18)

Southern Italians were expected to cut homeland ties and learn English--but many resisted citizenship, and feared their children would lose their identity in schools. Leonardo Coviello's teacher renamed him Leonard Covello.

Stigmatizing Italian Cultural Practices (01:39)

Protestant social workers visited immigrant neighborhoods, lecturing on hygiene and the American diet and pressuring families to adopt Anglo-Saxon practices.

Loyalty Conflict (02:28)

Orphaned children were forbidden from speaking Sicilian. Public school students had to choose between loyalty to their parents and advancing in America. An Italian-American man recalls being ashamed of his culture among classmates.

Labor Struggle (02:17)

In Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912, Italians led the fight for worker's rights. Textile factories were dangerous and the industry cut pay when legislation limited hours worked.

Lawrence Textile Strike (02:54)

In January 1912, Italian-American laborers walked out after receiving pay cuts, leading 15,000 strikers to form picket lines. International Workers of the World representative Arturo Giovannitti arrived.

Sermon on the Common (02:31)

After two weeks of clashes with police, Lawrence strikers grew weary. Hear an excerpt of Giovannitti's speech that unified Italian-Americans with workers from other nations. He was arrested on false murder charges.

Labor Victory (03:47)

Lawrence strikers sent their children to New York City, raising national awareness of working conditions. President Taft ordered an investigation and mill owners settled the strike. Leading the movement gave Italian-Americans a new sense of pride and belonging.

Italian-American Religious Practices (03:57)

East Harlem parishioners parade a Madonna. In the early 20th century, the Irish controlled Catholicism in America. They saw Italian rituals as pagan and inferior, and called immigrant worshipers the "Italian Problem."

Religious Discrimination (03:21)

Irish priests sent Italian Madonna worshipers to church basements, but they couldn't prevent parades. Thousands of Italian-Americans gathered in East Harlem to affirm their culture; Irish clergy disapproved of the spectacle.

Anarchist Movement (02:28)

By 1919, three million Italians resided in America, occupying the lowest rungs of society. Learn about the attraction of anarchism among the community. In 1917, the U.S. government had started cracking down on anarchist groups opposing the war.

Anarchist Bombings (02:35)

On June 2, 1919, a man carrying dynamite tripped outside Attorney General Mitchell Palmer's home, detonating the bomb. A coordinated attack across the nation targeted politicians and business leaders. In response, Palmer arrested and deported anarchists.

Sacco-Vanzetti Case (01:45)

Anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested for a robbery and murder believed carried out by an Italian gang. Learn about their involvement in the labor movements.

Sacco-Vanzetti Trial (02:32)

Hear ways in which the judge and jury were biased against anarchism and Italians. In 1927, the defendants were sentenced to death; rallies protested the verdict on the basis of ethnic discrimination and injustice.

Racial Oppression (03:19)

Hear Vanzetti's statement after his death sentence. He and Sacco were executed in August 1927; they symbolized animosity toward Italian Americans. In 1924, President Coolidge had signed the Johnson-Reed Act setting Italian immigration quotas.

Prohibition (02:10)

Bootlegging presented an opportunity for Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants. Ironically, outlawing alcohol created organized crime.

Frank Costello (03:07)

During Prohibition, young Italian immigrants became rich while their parents struggled. Young gangsters "studied" under Arnold Rothstein; learn about Costello's success.

Italian-American Mafia (02:53)

Prohibition ended in 1933. Costello organized crime conglomerates, mirroring U.S. capitalism. Their exploits cast a shadow over ordinary Italian-Americans, who were trying to advance in society.

Credits: Becoming Americans (01:50)

Credits: Becoming Americans

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Becoming Americans

Part of the Series : The Italian Americans
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Written and produced by John Maggio and narrated by Academy Award-nominated actor Stanley Tucci, “The Italian Americans” explores the evolution of the Italian community, from “outsiders” in the late nineteenth viewed with suspicion and mistrust to some of the most prominent leaders of business, politics and the arts today. This film explores racial discrimination faced by immigrants from 1900 to 1930. In public schools, children were taught to reject their Italian identity to assimilate to American culture. Arturo Giovannitti led the largest labor strike of 1912, winning better working conditions and wages. When Italian Americans were marginalized by the Irish Archdiocese, they took to the streets to reinforce their beliefs and culture. Anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti’s execution reinforced negative stereotypes, while Prohibition bred a new kind of organized criminal. Distributed by PBS distribution.

Length: 55 minutes

Item#: BVL93445

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.