The Italian Diaspora

Southern Italy, the hottest and poorest region of Italy, is often referred to as the Mezzogiorno. One hundred years ago, Italians from across Italy, and especially this region, were leaving in droves. The high point for Italian immigration to the USA was 1915. During that period, thousands of those immigrants settled in my town of Clarksburg, West Virginia. The majority of those who came to Clarksburg were from Calabria and the remote high mountain village of San Giovanni in Fiore. They brought their culture, their food, their love of family and community. They changed the history of Clarksburg, greatly enriching my home town, just as so many other small towns and cities across the world have been enriched by Italian immigration. In total, over 15 million Italians have left Italy in the past 100 years in two great waves. The first was from about 1880 to the 1930s. The second was from the end of WWII to 1970s. These new arrivals were often greeted with suspicion and fear. Most who came were unskilled. Yet, they prospered, their children succeeded in school, and they wove themselves into the great tapestry that is America.

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