Every year the president of the United States signs an executive order designating the month of October as National Italian American Heritage Month, in recognition of the achievements and contributions made to American culture by Italian-Americans.
On June 23, 2009 the New Jersey Senate approved a measure to permanently designate October as Italian-American Heritage month. The legislative response was driven by a grassroots effort by UNICO National through its Anti-Bias Committee. UNICO is the largest Italian-American service organization, founded in 1922 in Waterbury, Connecticut. Unico is the Italian word for unique, one of a kind. Over the years, UNICO became an acronym that stood for Unity, Neighborliness, Integrity, Charity, and Opportunity (UNICO National). UNICO's national headquarters is right around the corner on Rt. 46 in Fairfield, NJ.
To learn more about the history of Italian-Americans, explore the exhibit Milestones of the Italian American Experience, created by the National Italian American Foundation.
Ellis Island & Italian Immigration
Between 1880 and 1920, nearly four million Italians immigrated to the United States. Between 1890 and 1910, approximately 85% were from southern Italy (Nelli 1973). Among those Italian immigrants were my great-grandfather Leonardo Romano, his wife Maria Romano and their two sons, Pasquale (age 3) and Matteo Luciano Romano (11 months), my grandfather. The passenger record and ship manifest (pasted below) show that my family arrived at Ellis Island, NYC on April 29, 1901 on a ship called Patria that originated from Naples, Italy. Their last place of residence was Roseto (Foggia), Italy. See the photo above.
First Name: Leonardo
Last Name: Romano
Last Place of residence: Roseto
Date of Arrival: April 29, 1901
Age at arrival: 31 y Gender: M Marital Status: M
Ship of travel: Patria (1882)
Port of departure: Naples
Manifest line number: 0027
If your immigrant ancestors (Italian or otherwise) arrived at Ellis Island, you can search the records of Ellis Island for free at this link.
Humbert S. Nelli, “Italians,” in The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, Stephen Thernstrom, ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), 545.