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How Italians Became ‘White’

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Congress envisioned a white, Protestant, and culturally homogeneous America when it declared in 1790 that only “free white persons, who have or shall migrate into the United States” were eligible to become naturalized citizens. The calculus of racism underwent swift revision when waves of culturally diverse immigrants from the far corners of Europe changed the face of the country. 

As the historian Matthew Frye Jacobson shows in his immigrant history “Whiteness of a Different Color,” the surge of newcomers engendered a national panic and led Americans to adopt a more restrictive, politicized view of how whiteness was to be allocated. Journalists, politicians, social scientists, and immigration officials embraced the habit, separating ostensibly white Europeans into “races.” Some were designated “whiter” — and more worthy of citizenship — than others, while some were ranked as too close to blackness to be socially redeemable. The story of how Italian immigrants went from racialized pariah status in the 19th century to white Americans in good standing in the 20th offers a window onto the alchemy through which race is constructed in the United States, and how racial hierarchies can sometimes change.

Darker-skinned southern Italians endured the penalties of blackness on both sides of the Atlantic. In Italy, Northerners had long held that Southerners — particularly Sicilians — were an “uncivilized” and racially inferior people, too obviously African to be part of Europe. 

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Italian Immigrants

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Click the link below for article:

https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/173298

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nilesh Kumar
    Jul 13, 2020 @ 11:44:48

    Very informative. great blog

    Like

    Reply

    • Mohenjo
      Jul 13, 2020 @ 18:24:42

      Thanks so much for your comment and visit!

      Like

      Reply

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