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Italian Emigrants – New Orleans

Italian Emigrants – New Orleans

New Orleans has a historical Italian-American population. As of 2004 those of Italian descent were the largest ethnic group in the New Orleans Metropolitan Area since they numbered around 250,000.

Italians have had a presence in the area since the explorations of the Europeans. Many Sicilians immigrated to New Orleans in the 19th Century, traveling on the Palermo-New Orleans route by ship. Almost all of the 19th Century immigrants to the city originated from Sicily. Overall most Italian immigration occurred during the late 19th Century, with those immigrating from that century outnumbering Italians who had immigrated prior to the U.S. Civil War.

The March 14, 1891 lynchings occurred after the 1890 assassination of the chief of police, David Hennessy. It was the largest ever mass lynching in American history. Historically many corner stores in New Orleans were owned by Italians. Progresso Foods originated as a New Orleans Italian-American business. The business established by the Vaccaro brothers later became Standard Fruit.

“Little Palermo” was established in the lower French Quarter. As time passed, many Italian Americans moved out of New Orleans and to the suburbs.

After they first arrived, Italian immigrants took low wage jobs. They worked on docks, in Macaroni factories, and in nearby sugar plantations. Some went to the French Market to sell fruit. Italian workers became a significant presence in the French Market.

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