History

Where do we come from?

We are the descendants of proud but poor and oppressed immigrants who were forced to leave their homeland in search of jobs that would allow them to feed and care for their families who were often left behind in Italy.

Our ancestors came to America with nothing. And as harsh as Italy’s expulsion was, America’s welcome was even harsher.
Italian immigrants were subjected to unconscionable prejudice and injustice.

They were ostracized socially, forced to live in squalid conditions in ghetto neighborhoods called “Little Italy,” and only allowed to work the most dangerous and lowest paying jobs. They worked in coal mines, steel mills, sweat shops, dug ditches for tunnels and built roadways, railways and buildings.

But through hard work, and a willingness to help one another through the formation of lodges and societies, our immigrant ancestors overcame prejudice, poverty and illiteracy.

They raised good families. They taught their children the meaning of respect as relates to their elders, their teachers, and the law, as well as teaching them the importance of a strong work ethic.

They remained devoted to their Catholic faith. They worshiped in churches they built, and they recreated religious processions and celebrations that they brought with them from their homeland.

Despite the many ties to their traditions, these immigrants became among the most loyal and dedicated Americans, showing their love for their new country by enlisting in unprecedented numbers to fight for America in both World War I and World War II.

These are the people who formed the Order Italian Sons and Daughters of America in 1930.

These are the people who had little material wealth to show for a lifetime of hard work.

These are the people who never complained about their plight in life because they believed their toil would provide a better life for their children.

These are our ancestors and it is their stories that provide us with our greatest sense of pride.

It is now our duty to honor their memories and their sacrifices.

We do so by preserving their stories and passing on their values, customs and traditions through our participation in the ISDA.

— Basil M. Russo, National President


Want to learn more about your history?

Visit or call The Carmela Pellegrino ISDA Historical Library at the ISDA Headquarters
419 Wood St., #3
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
T. (412) 261-3550

ISDA’s Historical Library is always accepting donations of books and other materials. Please contact us to make a donation today.

 

Here are some other resources that are great for historical research.

Read: La Storia: Five Centuries of the Italian American Experience, a novel written by Jerre Mangione and Ben Morreale

From the early Italian adventurers who played an important role in the European expansion across the Atlantic to the political and business leaders of the 1990s, this book tells a dramatic story. The heart of the story is the mass migration that took place between 1880 and 1924, when a whole culture left its ancient roots to settle in the cities and towns of America.

Watch: The Italian Americans, a comprehensive docuseries by John Maggio and Muriel Soenens

The Italian Americans reveals the unique and distinctive qualities of one immigrant group’s experience, and how these qualities, over time, have shaped and challenged America. Unlike other immigrant groups, many Italians did not come to America to stay…Read more

Episode 1: La Famiglia Roots (1880 – 1910)
Episode 2: Becoming American (1914–1930)
Episode 3: Loyal3Americans (1930–1945)
Episode 4: The American Dream (1945 to present day)

Visit: The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles
644 North Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Open Tuesday through Sunday 10:00am to 3:00pm
Closed on Major Holidays
Free Admission, Donations Encouraged

Read about IAMLA’s permanent exhibitions

1927 protest against the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, photo courtesy of Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, from the exhibition Dago!