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Studi e ricerche

2021: Italia contemporanea yearbook 2021

An “inferior class of white aliens”. Italians and the labour movement in nineteenth- and twentieth-century San Francisco

  • Tommaso Caiazza
21 settembre 2022


early twentieth-century San Francisco. It studies the Italians’ integration process through the lens of race by focusing on the racist policies adopted by labour unions, which only admitted “whites” and excluded Asian immigrants. Drawing on a wide variety of sources (the labour press, trade unions’ records, employment data), I will reveal how Italians, although discriminated against and judged as racially inferior, were nonetheless recognised as “white” and therefore assimilated into the labour movement. I argue that this was made possible by the early development of a common “Caucasian” identity among European groups, modelled against Asian immigration, which reduced the tensions that prevailed elsewhere in the United States, namely between the “old stock” and the “new immigrants”, among whom many Italians.


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