Symposium at Tulane University, September 23-24: “The Italian Immigrant Experience: Between Black and White”

Sep 14, 2022 666

September 23 - 24, 2022. A symposium sponsored by: The Department of French & Italian at Tulane University and The Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College/CUNY. The Lavin-Bernick Center Stibbs Room (203). 311 Newcomb Hall, 1229 Broadway, New Orleans, LA. LIvestreaming and in person. Register for the Zoom webinar!

Like many other U.S. cities, New Orleans has been plagued by a history of ethnic and racial discrimination, riots, hate crimes, and violations, particularly targeted against the African-American community. Issues of discrimination and violence against Italian Americans in New Orleans go back to the late 19th century, a time when New Orleans received a massive wave of immigration from Italy, and Italians were often seen as racially “black.”

While not comparable to the experiences of Black Americans who have shouldered and continue to shoulder the burden and legacy of slavery to this very day, the scapegoating of Italian immigrants in New Orleans over 100 years ago bears some similarities.

The most infamous example of violence against the Italian community was the lynching and murder of eleven Italian Americans by a vigilante mob for their alleged role in the killing of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy. One of the largest single mass lynchings in American history, the incident reflected the times during which Italian immigrants to the United States were not considered white and were the subject of discrimination and hate crimes.

The African-American community in New Orleans and beyond has of course borne the brunt of discrimination and the violent hate crime of lynching. In fact, with the recent 2020 report from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the documented lynching of Black people in the United States is a staggering number of almost 6,500 between 1865 and 1950.

The 1891 mass lynching of Italians in New Orleans, which New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell addressed in a speech in 2019, serves however as a springboard for exploring a time when African Americans and Italian Americans were put in the same racial category.

Held in the Lavin-Bernick Center at Tulane University, this Symposium will feature scholars who have studied the Italian-American and the Black experiences here in New Orleans, as well as in the U.S. at large. They include Frank I. Williams, George de Stefano, Mark A. Reid, Jessica Barbata Jackson, and John Gennari. “Putting the experiences of both communities in the spotlight on the same program,” notes Professor Anthony Julian Tamburri, “will provide insights as to what could and should be done in order to achieve even greater progress going forward regarding inter-ethnic connections and alliances.”

The Symposium is a collaborative project between the Department of French and Italian of Tulane University and the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute (Queens College, The City University of New York). The event will also be streamed live.

Details of the Symposium – streaming links, location, date, and time – are available on the website of Tulane University’s Department of French and Italian.

For more information, contact: [email protected] 

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SOURCE: John Calandra Italian American Institute

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