Columbus Day and the Great Italian-American Arrival

How Columbus's historic voyage came to symbolize Italian-American perseverance.

Columbus Day has become synonymous with Italian-American Heritage Day, a time in which we remember the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents, and the contributions Italian-Americans have made in the U.S.

The time-honored Columbus Day parades began in the late 1800s as Italian immigrants strived to create a sense of self-esteem and dignity during a period where they were subjected to lynchings, bigotry, and prejudice throughout the country.

(ISDA President Basil Russo explores why the holiday is valued by Italian Americans.)

The Great Arrival

The vast majority of first generation Italian immigrants took their first steps on U.S. soil at Ellis Island, after a grueling Atlantic voyage.

In the 1880s, they numbered 300,000; in the 1890s, 600,000; and through the turn of the century, more than two million. By 1920, when waves of migration began to taper off, more than 4 million Italians had come to the United States, which represented more than 10 percent of the nation’s foreign-born population.

Today, there are more than 18 million Italian-Americans that carry on traditions and represent a heritage that has permeated American culture.

During Italian American Heritage Month, we rally together at parades across the nation to champion the noble and ever-evolving American spirit.

Marching together

Columbus Day is not a holiday set aside to honor an individual—it’s a day that recognizes a monumental historic event that began the process of over 500 years of worldwide immigration to this continent by people seeking a better life for their families.

It’s not only a day for Italian Americans, but for all people of every race and ethnicity, to collectively celebrate the contributions each group has made to our nation.

ISDA plans to march for and promote these principles on Monday, and we hope you join us.


Make the pledge and become a member of Italian Sons & Daughters of America (ISDA) today. 

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