Italians and slavery in the US

Over 25 million Italians have emigrated between 1861 and 1960 with a migration boom between 1871 and 1915 when over 13,5 million emigrants left the country for European and overseas destinations.
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Italians and slavery in the US

Postby acamma » 08 Feb 2005, 01:20

I have read that on this site that there were Italians immigrants to places such as Louisianna early in the immigration period. I was wondering if there is any data on the occupations that Italians might have held in the southern regions of the US before or during the US Civil War. I have found some initial census data showing individuals with my last name owning slaves in both Fla. and La. in this period. From talking to a friend with a good background in the history of the south, she believes that Italians (especially those from Sicily) would not be in a position to escape the blatant racism of the time and to see an Italian family owning slaves would probably be impossible. Her believe is that since I have found some census data showing the Camma name also in Ireland (even a parish with that name in Ireland as Camma was the name of an ancient hunting goddess in the celtic or druid religions). There are ship manifests that show individuals with the last name Camma coming to the US from Ireland and I doubt a Sicilian would travel to Ireland first before coming to the US in the 1800's.
Does anyone have any of their own famly history in the US south of that period that might confirm the potential of Italians having control of southern plantations? Or is there data showing what the Italians in that era were doing for work in the south.
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby Essgee » 12 Feb 2005, 16:21

Anthony.....

I cannot help with real data. However, I think for the most part, the ownership of slaves did not apply to Italians. Most pre-Civil War Italian immigrants were from Northern Italy. Some monied classes came in early in the 1800's and would certainly have owned land that eventually was farmed by slaves. It was the economic system of the time.

Many Italians, however, at the time, came as indentured individuals to the South. Had the family arrived in the mid 1700's into the port of Charleston, for example, many would have been indentured themselves and could work off the contracted time as specified. I know I have seen records where indentures sometimes worked as overseers and eventually became land owners and slave owners themselves. Many in the northern parts of Florida as well.

So I think that the "Irish" foundation might well apply in this instance. For sure, the major influx into this country...and into Louisiana...of Sicilians took place after the Civil War and hence, we are not looking at a significant number of Italians who could have had slaves.

There is a good book by A.V. Margavio and Jeronme J. Salomone that gives a history of the Italians to Louisiana. It is called BREAD AND RESPECT: THE ITALIANS OF LOUISIANA. While it does not answer your needs specifically, it is a fascinating study of how Italian immigrants to Louisiana were so different then those that stayed in the Northern parts of America. Also, it has a great bibliography that might help you locate other source material.

Good luck.
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby acamma » 12 Feb 2005, 17:29

Essgee:

Thank you very much for the answer, since today I was in our public library when I pulled up this message, I am going to locate the book you mentioned. I knew there were Italians all over this country but to see a specific book on one area is of major interest to me. I know that some of my aunts and cousins will be interested in the subject so that was a great reference source for us.

Since being the first one to really expand this search of potential family into parts of the country we knew no one directly had gone, it was a major discussion point for me to find a couple instances where we saw our family name associated with potential slave ownership. Since learning of the Underground railroad operations in my state and the importance of the city I live in to it, I really never expected to see my last name on census records with humans listed as their property just a little over a hundred years ago. Since I know that some of the descendants of parts of my mother's side of the family served in the German army during WWII, I know the feeling I got when I toured the Holocaust Museum in DC and a few sites in Russia to think a blood line so close to mine could do that horror. We all know we have skeletons in our ancestrial closets besides potential for true humanitarians - we all just hope that the good outweights the bad. Thanks again for you information and suggestions. One other thing that a local genealogist told me is that since I showed him the use the CAMMA name in other countries he even suspected that it might be a Spanish family using the same name who would of had wealth especially in Florida and possibly Louisianna.l
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby augiedoggie » 22 Feb 2005, 18:07

I found a person in Louisiana with the last name of Galie -which is my family surname from the Ascoli Picena area of Italy-and listed in the census as being Black!!
I have no idea what this means.
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby acamma » 22 Feb 2005, 21:23

This is the scenario I have found on looking at some census materials with my last name(s). From talking to someone else years ago outside the genealogy area but an expert on the slave issue and the aftermath of the that tragedy most slaves due to how they were brought here or how families were split in many cases when they were here did not have their own last names, you have to remember that over the time there were countless generations of slaves born here who did not have any idea of their official ties to their ancestors and thus a last name. Since this country treated slaves as property there really was no official need for last names. If a slave achieved his freedom before the Civil War he either picked a name based on their oral history or many cases took the name of their previous slave owner or the one who helped them achieve freedom. After the war this also was the case. Sometimes slaves did stay on the plantations after the war and worked for very very low income from the former plantation owner. Thus they when census taking was accomplihed many times took the names of the owner of the fields where they worked also. Thus based on that I do believe those listed as blacks in those early census with a last name from my family tree were probably former slaves of that family. What I also found that in Louisianna where I found this instance first there was a property owner with my last name and basically on the same plantation were individuals with the same last name but race listed as black.
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby kamsonr » 23 Jul 2012, 00:00

Hello...I am new to this site.
I response to weather Italians owned slaves in the south..I doubt it. Italians, in the south were considered non-white...and were subjected to the jim crow laws of segragation. In fact 11 Italians were lynched in New Oleans, in the late 1800's.
Frequently, Italians, living in the south, were designated as Black on federal census forms. These were usually dark skined Sicillians.

It was difficult...impossibe, for Italians, in the south, to marry a white person. This resulted in some Italians, especially the very dark ones, to marry Blacks. This is the story of my mom's family. My Great Grandfather, Domencio Mastrogiovanni, an immigrant, had 4 children. Of the 4 children 2 married Blacks in Mississippi. The other 2 moved to Chicago, where they were considered white. My Grandmother, a Scillian, married a Black Man.

I hope this helps

Rosa
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby MiaCarelli » 24 Jul 2012, 22:20

This is an interesting discussion. As an aside, my mother's white, Anglo Saxon step-family considered my father, a dark-skinned southern Italian, "black."
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby notsocajun » 28 Jul 2012, 04:49

The story in our family is that some of our Sicilian family got chased of out Alabama by the Klan and ended up in Louisiana.

I'm also told that after the War Between the States, Sicilians were brought to work the fields and live in the same quarters as the slaves had previously.

When I did a research paper in college on Southern Italian Immigration in the late 1800s, at that time Northern Italians in the country were openly declaring that the Southern Italians were a separate race and not white like the Northerners.
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby Squigy » 28 Jul 2012, 14:52

Interesting topic; I've done a bit of research on prejudice against Italians, and have compiled some newspaper articles on the subject:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/61196877@N ... 928118259/

This article in particular demonstrates the views of Italians, at this time:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/61196877@N ... 7928118259

We can certainly see, that by the majority of Americans, Italians were not considered White; it's highly unlikely that any Southern Italians owned slaves, not only because few lived in the U.S. during slavery, but also because they were seen as much the same as Blacks.

Here's a book with some more information, on this (I won't judge the author or his views, but his sources may be of interest):
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=ohV ... ca&f=false
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby Kfoxx » 25 Mar 2013, 05:45

Hi Rosa,
You are absolutely right. Domencio Mastrogiovanni is my great, great grandfather. After he came to the US in 1907, he married Hannah Smith who gave birth to Lubertha Mastrogiovanni who gave birth to Sara "Cozy" Harvey who gave birth to my mom Sidney Polk who gave birth to me Karensa. I am from Mississipi and I am black, Italian, and Indian. Thanks for your posting.

kamsonr wrote:Hello...I am new to this site.
I response to weather Italians owned slaves in the south..I doubt it. Italians, in the south were considered non-white...and were subjected to the jim crow laws of segragation. In fact 11 Italians were lynched in New Oleans, in the late 1800's.
Frequently, Italians, living in the south, were designated as Black on federal census forms. These were usually dark skined Sicillians.

It was difficult...impossibe, for Italians, in the south, to marry a white person. This resulted in some Italians, especially the very dark ones, to marry Blacks. This is the story of my mom's family. My Great Grandfather, Domencio Mastrogiovanni, an immigrant, had 4 children. Of the 4 children 2 married Blacks in Mississippi. The other 2 moved to Chicago, where they were considered white. My Grandmother, a Scillian, married a Black Man.

I hope this helps

Rosa
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Re: Italians and slavery in the US

Postby kamsonr » 05 May 2013, 04:40

Hi Kfoxx

You are my cousin!!! Your Grandmother was my Aunt Cozy! She was my mom's sister!
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