Italian immigrant family aboard ferry en route to Ellis Island

Having traveled steerage class across the Atlantic, a Southern Italian immigrant family is aboard the shuttle ferry en route to Ellis Island for processing to eventually become naturalized Americans (Courtesy of the New York Public Library).

Italians have been in America since colonial times. However, it was not until the 1880s when the Southern Italian peasants began immigrating to this country in large numbers that journalists, authors, commentators, and scholars noticed them as a distin ctive group. Some concluded that the Southern contadini with their swarthy appearance, flamboyant behavior, and criminal activity posed a threat to the Anglo-American way of life. Others viewed them as potentially good Americans because of their familial orientation, intense work ethnic, and their tendency toward self reliance.

This bibliography puts the primary and secondary materials that have come from this period under control and shows that more work needs to be done to document the Italian American historical and cultural experience in earlier times when Italians living in this country were few to the present day when the immigrants and second, third, and fourth generation ethnics follow a pattern that is different from mainstream American life and from that of their forebears.

I have presented four areas of interest. The first, Scholarly Studies, treat the Italian American experience as a holistic interdisciplinary subject where the fields of sociology, history, and folklife make important and overlapping co ntributions. The second, Literature, consists of imaginative writing composed by the immigrants themselves and can be used as primary resources for research. The third component, Informant Showcase, brings to light an imp ortant kind of information--oral and visual data--that Italian American scholar s and others interested in ethnic American folklife will find useful for supple menting the historical and ethnographic record. Finally the Links section attempts to put these materials within the broader popular Italian and Italian American tradition.

I have had to rely on numerous bibliographies and studies that contain bibliographies to create this site. These published sources are fugitive, out of print, and some are difficult to locate. Though I have included my own research and data here, I am indebted to the Italian American scholars who provided the majority of the citations.

This site was created for the Mediterranean Section of the American Folklore Society. Those interested in becoming members of the Section can fill out the online form .

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Last Update: 08/15/06