ModioMedia's documentary And They Came To Chicago: The Italian American Legacy provides a thoughtful examination of the contribution Italian-Americans made - and are still making - to the building of Chicago. The program aired last year, but is available for purchase now on their website. Transcripts of the program are provided in both English and Italian.
Narrated by Tony Award winner Joe Mantegna, And They Came To Chicago: The Italian American Legacy traces an extraordinary chapter of the Italian American experience in the United States. It begins in Chicago in the 1850’s, when Italian entrepreneurs first built thriving businesses around today’s Loop. The Midwest’s manufacturing and railroad center soon became a primary destination for scores of others following the tumultuous aftermath of Italian unification. The saga unfolds from there: the struggle to gain acceptance on the factory floor, the establishment of Italian parishes, the anti-immigrant backlash and Prohibition, aviator Italo Balbo’s flight from Rome to Chicago during the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition, and the heroism of Italian Americans’ servicemen and women during World War Two even as their families’ loyalty was being questioned on the homefront. And finally, the post-war era, a study in contrasts between increased opportunity for Italian Americans and urban renewal’ devastating impact on inner-city Italian neighborhoods.
Through rare archival photographs and footage, interviews with historians and Chicago Italian Americans, And They Came To Chicago: The Italian American Legacy is a universal tale of adversity and triumph, fierce individualism and the strong bonds of community celebrating italianità and the courage of ancestors who first made the journey.