White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945

By Thomas A. Guglielmo | Go to book overview

5
MAYORAL RACES,
MAYORAL COLORS

On April 2, 1927, only days before Chicago's mayoral election between William Hale Thompson and William Dever, La Tribuna Italiana Transatlantica weighed in on the contest. Openly expounding on the “Negro Question and Thompson, ” it noted bitterly that Thompson, by courting African-American support, was making Chicago “the Paradise Land of the negroes” and a living hell for “bianchi” (whites)—especially the Italians among them. According to the paper, African Americans were invading Italian neighborhoods, depreciating property values, stealing jobs, and giving rise to a “promiscuity of races” and a new generation of “cioccolattini” (little chocolate-colored people), who were “neither whites nor blacks but ‘fifty and fifty. ’” 1 While not necessarily typical of Italian views on politics or color at the time, La Tribuna's article does accurately reflect the central role color had come to play in Chicago's mayoral campaigns of the late 1920s and early 1930s. And while race—or at least Italian race—was not mentioned in this article, it too was a part of these campaigns.

This chapter focuses on three campaigns involving Republican “Big Bill” Thompson—the Thompson versus Dever mayoral contest of 1927, the Thompson versus Judge John H. Lyle Republican primary of 1931, and the Thompson versus Anton Cermak mayoral race of the same year. All are particularly important because they occurred just as large numbers of Italians were becoming citizens and voters and because race and color issues were central components of these campaigns, probably more so than at any other time in Chicago history.

Mayoral politics offers another perspective on Chicago Italians' anomalous social position as racial outsiders and color insiders. In certain campaigns, candidates and political parties used crime wave anxieties to mobilize voters; and Italians—often implicitly, but sometimes explicitly too— were the racialized embodiment of these anxieties. At the same time, these

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White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents *
  • White on Arrival *
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Early Italian Chicago 14
  • 2 - Riot and Relations 39
  • 3 - The White Peril of Europe 59
  • 4 - Race, Color, and Crime 76
  • 5 - Mayoral Races, Mayoral Colors 93
  • 6 - Fascism, Empire, and War 113
  • 7 - Radicalism, Unionism, and the Depression 129
  • 8 - The Color of Housing 146
  • Conclusion 172
  • Notes 177
  • Bibliography 241
  • Index 273
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