An Open Letter to Students, Parents & Educators
Including Italian-American History in Public School History Curriculums
The inspiration for this website came to me in the winter of 2019, when my daughter was writing an essay for her US History 2 class. The subject matter was the internment of enemy aliens in the United States during World War 2. She was a high school junior at the time, and her US history teacher instructed the class to write an essay about the internment, and to research and report the story of an individual who lived through it.
I asked my daughter if she had picked an individual person yet, and if not, I suggested for her to research the stories of some of the Italian-American Fishermen in California who had their boats and homes seized, and were forcibly relocated. Better yet, track down interviews with any of the remaining internees. I added that many Americans of Italian descent had been imprisoned in various internment camps at the outset of the war, and that their stories were well-documented.
School Curriculum focuses solely on the Internment of Japanese-Americans
Her response was that she’d love to write about the Italian internment, but the curriculum focused solely on the internment of Japanese-Americans. I found this odd, as the internment of Italian-Americans was so well documented by the US Department of Justice, major universities, and research journalists. It surprised me that it was completely absent from the modern American history curriculum. Missing too, was the internment of German-Americans, and a number of other individuals that met the specification of “enemy alien”.
So I suggested that she ask her teacher for permission to write her essay on an Internee from the many affected Italian-American communities across America. Her interest piqued, my daughter discussed her thoughts with her teacher the next morning.
At dinner the next night, my daughter told the family all about her conversation with her history teacher. The outcome of the discussion was that the teacher would certainly allow her to write her paper on the Italian-American internment, and looked forward to reading it. The resulting paper included a section on internees Giuseppe and Maria Scottoline, the grandparents of New York Times Bestselling Author, Lisa Scottoline. My daughter received an excellent grade (94, an A-), as well as an enthusiastic response from the teacher.
Classified History Gets Revealed by the US Department of Justice
As a parent, I came away from the experience with some conflicting emotions. I was quite happy that her teacher openly welcomed an alternative assignment. I was also dismayed at how this important chapter in American history had been completely hidden from the American public. Former President William J. Clinton signed legislation into law on November 7, 2000 that authorized the US Department of Justice to investigate the violation of civil liberties of Italian American civil liberties during World War 2. This Act resulted in the USDOJ report called “Report to the Congress of the United States – A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry During World War 2”, and it was delivered to Congress and made public in November 2001. This crucial history hasn’t made it into the curriculum of American K-12 history classes yet. This goal of this publication chronicles the effort that will accomplish this inclusion.
Italian Heritage Month is also Missing from School Calendars
The Federal Census.gov website recognizes October as Italian Heritage month. Italian-American Heritage and Culture month began with the first proclamation by George H. W. Bush, our 41st president. President Barack Obama made the same declaration on October 14, 2010 – his proclamation is available on the government archive version of his administrations website. It has been 31 years since the first proclamation of Italian-American Heritage & Culture month, and it is still missing from the National Educators Association October Holiday’s page as of July 6th, 2020. Interestingly, National Hispanic Heritage Month, which was first proclaimed 32 years ago, is on the NEA’s October holiday calendar. At this time, Italian-Americans are excluded. We would love to have our month added to the NEA’s annual calendar, so our culture can be shared with students, and enjoyed by all people.
In New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine signed resolution AJR-97 on October 11, 2009, permanently proclaiming October as Italian-American Heritage Month in New Jersey. When this resolution was signed, New Jersey Assemblyman Fred Scalera (D-Essex/Bergen/Passaic) stated the following:
“It is fitting and proper to permanently designate October as the month honoring the significant accomplishments and contributions of the Italian-American community”.
“More than 1.5 million New Jerseyans – or 18 percent of the state population – are of Italian descent, and Italian-Americans have made many crucial contributions to the history of the United States and New Jersey. We hope people throughout the state will take time to recognize the Italian-American heritage, but we’re also encouraging American history classes during Italian-American Heritage Month to discuss and examine the contributions Italian-Americans have made to this country. It’s a rich and historic heritage, and today is day of pride for all Italian-Americans.”
– New Jersey Assemblyman Fred Scalera (D-Essex/Bergen/Passaic)
Italian-American History Should be Included within the US Public Education Curriculum.
This website has been created to provide information to the public about the Italian-American experience, and to supply a research portal for students, educators and public officials to reference original source documents regarding Italian-American history. We also welcome dialogue with educational institutions, such as the National Education Association (NEA.org), the National Council on Social Studies, State-level educators, and all public and private school systems.
We, at Italian-Americans.com, hope that the reader finds this website to be enlightening and thought provoking. As most of the content on this website is of a historical nature, it is imperative that we strive for full transparency regarding data collection methods and fact-checking standards, as well as maintaining the highest journalistic standards possible. The original source documents referenced within this website, as well as personal narratives, are a treasure trove of information invaluable to the planning of curriculum and public communications.