When Russo Street was Mussolini Street: Revisiting an Apocryphal Chapter in the Italian American Cultural Narrative

By Kenneth DiMaggio and Carl Antonucci.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

After having established themselves in the United States for more than a hundred years, the Italian American cultural community and its cultural and literary narrative are well documented. Yet, despite the accomplishments of famous sports icons like Joe DiMaggio, or the perennial portrayal of the Mafia in popular culture, one chapter of this narrative continues to be noticeably absent; that is the decade-long appreciation that many in this community had for Italian fascism in the 1930s. The end result was that many poor immigrants gave up their wedding bands and other golden jewelry to support Mussolini’s war in Ethiopia. In Providence, there was even a street named after Mussolini, which was quickly renamed after Italy declared war on the United States. Once hostilities began, this chapter of the Italian American narrative was either disowned or dropped altogether. Notwithstanding, the reasons for subduing this part of the Italian American story (along with how the community initially became attracted to fascism) are not considered “just a simple matter.” This paper will examine the many complex, often contradictory reasons which led to its inception and demise.

Keywords: Italian American, Cultural and Literary Narrative, Fascism, Cultural Apocrypha

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp.13-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 210.945KB).

Kenneth DiMaggio

Professor of Humanities, Humanities, Capital Community College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Kenneth DiMaggio is a Professor of Humanities at Capital Community College in Hartford, Connecticut. CCC is an urban community college where students are often reading at a level that is below traditional college coursework, thus making literacy a prime issue that constantly needs to be addressed. As a teacher of Literature and Writing, he is constantly looking for texts to help address the above issue, and recently (with the help of a colleague co-writing this present paper), he has begun looking at “lost cultural narratives” and how they engage students and the community they live and study in.

Dr. Carl Antonucci

Director of Libraries, Central Connecticut State University, Adjunct Assistant Professor in History, Capital Community College, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA

Carl Antonucci is presently the Director of the Central Connecticut State University Library, and has completed a Ph.D. in History at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. His dissertation is on late 20th century “machine” politics in Providence and how various ethnic groups forged for political power in the city in the 1950s and 1960s.

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