AREA ITALIANS DURING WWII
|Charleston and much of WV had
a fairly large Italian population by WWII. These were hard working
people who immigrated as many did , to work the mines. However,
as a group, many Italians had valuable skills in stone masonry,
tile setters, jewelers and more. As Italians
spread out and began to prosper, many became well-known
businessmen. But WWII was a particular issue for the Italians, as
it was for America's Germans: How to convince the rest of the U.S
that they were red, white, and blue..... and avoid any backlash from
10 June 1940 Italy
officially declared war against UK and France, already being a part of
the pact with the other Axis powers since before 1939. This was
of grave concern to America's Italians....
of the ways Italians proved their patriotism was to join the
military in droves. Another was to assure the American public
that they were not only NOT a threat, but valuable allies to
Americans everywhere. This was done in conjunction with local
and national government through the use of newspaper articles filled
with the history of "home-grown" Italians and the valuable asset they
had become to the community. Charleston, like thousands of cities
across America, printed mini histories on the well known minority
businessmen of the day. This not only included Italians, but
other minorities such as Greeks, Syrians and even Chinese.
Charleston had a much larger population of Italians however, and
so a full page was devoted just to them.
Here then are some of the articles and "ads" printed in
June of 1942 by the Daily Mail newspaper
article is interesting, if not just for the stereotypical
thinking of most people at that time. For instance: "Italians are peaceful and lovable. The Sicilians are more reliable than many northerners (Italy) " ( Remember, we had just completed the Gangster period) And my favorite: "He may be of short stature, yet in his own world, he is the king"|
Now.... let's go back 35 years earlier.
The Italians, like pretty much ALL immigrants were often mistreated when they first arrived on our shores.Note: Deepwater is about 30 miles SW of Charleston WV and where the train cars blew up recently.
the use of the word "Dago" in the story. While Italian friends of
mine didnt care if you called them that, it could also be a fighting
word from the wrong person. Many nationalities came to WV
to help build the railroads and work in the coal mines. The days were
long and the pay short. The bosses could get away with just about
anything because we were so secluded and there was always someone to
take your place. This is why the Union came into being years