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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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Identities

When Two ‘Little Rascals’ Crossed the Color Line

The Friendship Between These Young Hollywood Actors—One Black, One White—Was Ahead of Its Time, but Also an Illusion

By Julia Lee
January 19, 2016

When I was a kid, I used to watch episodes of The Little Rascals on TV in our living room in Los Angeles. My parents were Korean immigrants who had moved to the city in the 1970s, the first in a wave of Korean immigrants who would transform the city’s racial makeup. I had no idea the series had been filmed 50 years earlier, that most of the stars were dead, and that it was once unusual for black and …

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Ideas

America Needs an Integration Policy

We Can't Take For Granted that Our Country Will Continue to Successfully Incorporate Newcomers

By Richard Alba and Nancy Foner
September 29, 2015

The United States takes in far more legal immigrants each year than any other nation on Earth, more than a million. We Americans have a great deal of confidence in our ability to welcome and integrate these newcomers and their children. Indeed, we consider it one of our defining traits as a people, and as a nation.

But our successful integration of immigrants is less exceptional—whether we take that word to mean unique or excellent—than we often think when compared …

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