Italian Americans: Assilimilation

What is required of newcomers to become American? This short excerpt from PBS’s The Italian Americans explores the pressure from the dominant culture on Italian America newcomers to assimilate. What did that pressure look like? And, what was the impact on individuals, families, and communities?




Reflection Questions

What does assimilation mean? What does integration mean? What is similar about both words? As you watch this short film, which differences seem most important?

Where did the pressure on Italian Americans to assimilate come from? How much of it was directly imposed from the outside? How much of it was a subtle part of the culture? And, how much was internalized by Italian Americans themselves?

How do you explain the pressure on Italian Americans to assimilate?

What were the consequences for individuals, families, communities, and the country?

Where do you find the pressure to assimilate today? How is assimilation similar and different than the idea of conformity?

Do you think that newcomers face pressure to assimilate today? How does that pressure compare to the pressure faced by Italian American immigrants?

Under what conditions do people face intense pressure to assimilate? When do you find society more willing to accept religious and cultural differences?