When Italians were “Blacks”: The dark-skinned Sicilians

Here are some interesting things:

Southern Italians were considered “black” in the South and were subjected to the Jim Crow laws of segregation. They weren’t allowed to marry “whites.” It was difficult, damn near impossible.

They were designated as “black” on census forms if they lived in the South and that is because the majority of them were dark-skinned Sicilians.

Mass lynchings happened to them often.

One of the biggest mass lynchings happened to Italians in New Orleans when they thought that a Italian immigrant had killed a “white” police officer.

The very few Northern Italians that immigrated here perpetuated the myth that Southern Italians and Greeks were of a different race than them in order to save their own asses. This wasn’t true, and there are actually dark-skinned Italians all over Italy, not just in the South, as well as light-skinned Italians all over Italy.

The reason I say very few is because over 80% of Italian immigrants were from Southern Italy (Sicily, Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Sardinia, Naples, etc.)

It was highly unlikely (damn near impossible) for a Southern Italian to own a slave because they were seen as the same as blacks, and at the time, they were the second (right behind blacks) most discriminated against group.

The mass immigration for Italians didn’t start until 1880 and even then, they were discriminated against. However, this mass immigration leads into Italian-Americans today:

Italian is the fourth largest ethnic group reported among white Americans.

The great majority of Italians are now middle class to upper middle class and wealthy. They also mostly work white collar jobs.

Their intermarriage rate is around 90%. It was at 80% in the 70’s. So most Italian-Americans also have a white parent of some other descent, especially if they were born after 1980. Exactly like my friend who has a Sicilian father (and he is very dark-skinned) and white Southerner for a mother. We spoke to my friend’s Sicilian grandfather, and he said that one of his brothers was dating a white girl from the South back in the day and that her family considered him “black.” They thought that was weird because by that time, they were living in New York.

They are now considered white



I thought it was interesting looking at back then and looking at them now. I knew they weren’t considered white back then, but I had no idea they actually wrote them down as black on census forms. That shocked me, and when I found that my friend’s ancestor was listed as black on that census form, I thought the ancestor was just a biracial who had a Sicilian father, and so did she. We were just as surprised to find that he was just a teenage Sicilian immigrant. My friend has tanned skin, dark hair, blue eyes, and freckles to boot. So you can see both ethnicities in her. My Greek professor is way darker than her, and he also has a white, WASPY mother.

Italians are still discriminated against. I remember hearing a group of white women referring to them as “Ghetto Whites”. Many whites who feel they have a “true bloodline” dont like them. Anglo Saxonism is a bitch. Pretty much anyone not from England, Gemany (not Jews), Netherlands and so on is not “truly white”. From my experience and when I look at history, this is how white supremacists feel. Spaniards are technically considered Euopean/”white”, but many dont accept them as that. Discrimination among the white race is very prevalent.

Courtesy Lipstickvalley

156 thoughts on “When Italians were “Blacks”: The dark-skinned Sicilians”

  1. Dear sir first off many sicilians come from the main land and Spain and. Do not have any black or whatever blood I know for a fact my mothers father side have Norman and my mothers mother are a mix of Spain from Valencia region
    My family came to Sicily after or about when roger the Norman got their sicilians have move of the haplo gene r13b in their DNA the myth that sicilians are black was hatch by African Americans to counter the racist remarks of ignorant southern Italians I happen to be German Lithuanian Czech and Slovak besides being Italian
    Czech. Slovak poles and lithuanians share more of the r13b gene in them Germans or even Russians do
    The r13b gene is a generic trait found in the majority of European speaking people

  2. If a So-called black man (African American) has a child with any woman of any nation, that child is black. It goes by what the father is. I’ll wait for ignorant comments so I can further prove this fact.

  3. My Grand Parents on my fathers side came to America from Avellino Italy in 1883 and in the Census they were checked W…

  4. I am American. I never have woken up with an awareness of my color. My first thoughts are how much I need a cup of coffee, what the weather is and then I start wondering how I’m going to pay my bills. Later, I give thought to how my kids and grandkids are doing. Then I do some housework. The less we think about what race/ethnicity we or others are, the better off we would be.

  5. I’ll be short. It’s rediculous to say that Italians could own slaves because they were considered Black. Native Americans and Black folks owned slaves. We’re the considered white? I am of African descent. My last name is Polite “Italian”. The Italians who brought the name to America, left Italy and went to Great Britan and Wales. In the 1830’s they arrived in Missouri – don’t ask me how, that’s just what the records show. In the Civil War, 30% of the Polites fought for the confederates, 70% fought for the union army. During the war the confederate Polites moved to South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. 95% of every Polite you’ll meet in America, trace their lineage to South Carolina or Georgia. The POLITE FAMILY FARM, passed down to emancipated alaves, still exist today. I guess there goes your theory of that Italians couldn’t ownslaves.

    The Irish, yes the original Irish came to North America by slave ships. Laws developed to outlaw enslaving Christians made their experience short lived. As for the Sicilians being enslaved in America… did you make that crap up? First of all, the mass influx of Italians to America was in the 1880’s 15 years after slavery ended.

  6. I agree with you Gloria Serido, coffee, work, grand kids and keeping my house in order. Because by the end of the day whether people like it or not we all come from Africa.

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