Italian Americans and Race during the Era of Mass Immigration

Authored by: Peter G. Vellon

The Routledge History of Italian Americans

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415835831
eBook ISBN: 9780203501856
Adobe ISBN:


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In April 1924, A.L. Adee, a successful furniture maker located in Vancouver, Washington, wrote Congressman Albert Johnson, cosponsor, along with Senator David Reed, of the Immigration Act of 1924. In a brief letter of support for Johnson’s restrictive efforts, Mr. Adee declared that the United States had “acted as a garbage Dump for Europe long enough I should think” and “I say let’s quit.” Adee concluded his diatribe by warning that if unfettered immigration should continue, southern Italians, in particular, posed the most dangerous threat to America. Imagining an America with increasing numbers of southern Italian immigrants, Adee resentfully exclaimed he would have “to take orders from a Dago.” 1 During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries fear, mistrust and downright scorn of the southern Italian immigrant remained prevalent throughout the United States. During this period, the issue of mass immigration, predominantly from southern and eastern Europe, provoked consistent debate and exasperation over what kind of country America should strive to be. Although immigrants received support from many who felt their contributions outweighed their shortcomings, by 1924 longtime advocates of immigration restriction would eventually win the day. A primary factor in the push to halt the continued influx of southern Italians revolved around race.

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