The post-WWII years are chronicled. Many Italian-Americans enter the middle class, yet some stereotypes prove hard to shake. Despite epitomizing cool to many, for instance, Frank Sinatra is haunted by claims of Mafia ties; and New York governor Mario Cuomo endures similar rumors. Strides are made, however: Antonin Scalia becomes the first Italian-American Supreme Court justice in 1986; and Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman and Italian-American elected to Speaker of the House in 2007.
The second generation of Italian-Americans makes its mark on America. Fiorello La Guardia, for example, becomes the 99th mayor of New York City in 1934; and baseball star Joe DiMaggio becomes an American hero. The dawn of World War II, however, brings with it suspicions about the loyalty of Italian-Americans. Some, such as DiMaggio's parents, are branded "enemy aliens."
Recalling the early 20th century, when more than four million Italians immigrated to America. Among the stories shared are those of educator Leonard Covello and Arturo Giovannitti, who led the largest labor strike of 1912. Also: Italian-Americans worship in the basement of churches controlled by the Irish archdiocese; anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti are executed; and Prohibition breeds a new kind of criminal.
The Italian-American experience is chronicled, beginning with why many Italians immigrated to America. By the late 19th century, "Little Italys" sprang up throughout the U.S., but Italian-Americans were often branded as outsiders and mistrusted by non-Italians. In New Orleans, for example, anti-Italian sentiment erupted into violence and 11 Italian-Americans were murdered by an armed mob.