When Italian Immigrants were Tricked into Debt Peonage in the Jim Crow South

Oct 13, 2022 281

In the early 1900s, a small travel agency in Greenville, Miss., began sending representatives to Italy. The dozen or so agents canvassed the arid farms and barber shops of the Abruzzo region, smiling as they passed out brochures reading, “Italians! Do not lose this great opportunity to buy tickets from me . . . for the steamer Manilla . . . for $45.30 with railroad fare paid.” The agents were selling passage to America, with the promise of jobs on arrival at a farm called Sunnyside.

But few of the Italians had the money to buy the ticket. The agents assured them they could pay it back over time. They added that every morning, the company that oversaw Sunnyside would hang a piece of fresh meat from their doorknob. For many Italians, struggling with bad land and an unstable economy, this opportunity for a new start was not only enticing, but potentially lifesaving.

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SOURCE: https://historynewsnetwork.org

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