What It Means to Be American
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Explore : assimilation

Identities

Frank Capra Oversimplified the Italian-American Story

In His Life and Career, the Sicilian-Born Director Absorbed His Adopted Country’s Ambivalence Toward Italians

By by Stanislao Pugliese
December 6, 2018

Frank Capra, the director of It’s a Wonderful Life, called the film his favorite, and even screened it for his own family every holiday season. The movie hit close to home in another way: Capra was attempting to represent the story of Italian-Americans like himself, who had a complicated path toward assimilation during the first half of the twentieth century.

Francesco Capra was born in 1897 in Bisaquino, near Palermo, Sicily, the youngest of seven children. (“Capra” means goat in Italian; …

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Ideas

The 41-Volume Government Report That Turned Immigration Into a Problem

In 1911, the Dillingham Commission Set a Half-Century Precedent for Screening Out 'Undesirable' Newcomers

By Robert F. Zeidel
July 16, 2018

The Dillingham Commission is today little known. But a century ago, it stood at the center of a transformation in immigration policy, exemplifying Americans’ simultaneous feelings of fascination and fear toward the millions of migrants who have made the United States their home.

In 1911, the Dillingham Commission produced perhaps the most extensive investigation of immigration in the history of the country, an exhaustive 41-volume study that demonstrated just how vital 19th-century and early-20th-century immigrants were to the U.S. economy. But …

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