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It is to be regretted that more detailed studies of many of these communities could not be made, for the reports dealing with them do not purport to be complete or intensive. They are extensive, cursory descriptions that may be valuable as points of departure for more detailed investigation. Moreover, in a large way, they are valuable for purposes of comparison and generalization. It is believed that they give true and unprejudiced accounts of the Italian on the land. In practically all colonies visited some schedules were secured from typical families, which in most instances have been incorporated in the reports. Prominent men, both Italians and others, were interviewed; public documents consulted; homes and farms visited; and information concerning schools, churches, and other social institutions secured and checked to assure its reliability. The investigation purposed to determine accurately the position of the immigrant farmer in southern rural economy, his economic and social status, his progress in Americanization, his effect upon the community, and the effect of the environment upon him.
ITALIANS IN THE RURAL SOUTH.
The Twelfth Census report of occupations enumerates 5,951 Italian males of the first and second generations engaged in agriculture in the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, which States were visited by agents of the Commission. Of the above number nearly three-fourths (4,287) are reported in Louisiana. Somewhat more than 72 per cent (4,330) are farm laborers and 1,621 are farmers, planters, overseers, dairymen, lumbermen, and florists. By far the largest number engaged in agriculture are in Louisiana, where 3,651 farm laborers and 636 Italian farmers, planters, and lumbermen are noted. Texas stands second with a total of 806 engaged in agricultural pursuits. It is evident that in 1900 Italians in agriculture were very infrequent in the South outside of Louisiana. The table which follows shows the distribution of Italians in agricultural pursuits in the States previously mentioned.
Only 1,595 are enumerated as farmers, planters, and overseers.
Italian immigration into the States studied is manner recent, the greatest growth having been made during the past pangy In Texas, at Bryan, in Brazos County, is heated the last Italian agricultural colony in the South, numbering at least 1.700 ver sons. Its origin dates back to 1868. The Italian colony at Sunnyside, Ark., in the Yazoo delta region, established in 1895, is the largest colony in the "black belt," from which several smaller colonies throughout the delta can trace their origin.
Italian farming in the South covers a wide range of products, widely diversified soils and climatic conditions, several forms of land tenure, and various systems of culture. The North Italians among the mountains of western North Carolina practice a self-sutficing, diversified agriculture. In southeastern Louisiana and in the coastal plain belt of Alabama the South Italian truckers and small fruit growers are doing exceptionally well on the light sandy soils, when they succeed in marketing their products in a satisfactory manner. In the "delta" both North and South Italian cotton tenants are teaching the cotton growers how valuable careful cultivation, kitchen gardens, and small store accounts may be to the cotton "share hand." In the Ozarks Italians from the Sunnyside group have taken up new land, planted orchards, and become successful apple and peach growers. At Sunnyside all seem content to rent land and remain tenants indefinitely. At Knobview and Tontitown it is the open ambition of every man to become a landowner and an independent farmer. It is plain that the Italian farmer has been profoundly influenced by his environment. His farming has been directed and his agricultural methods taught him by his new neighbors.
SOURCES OF IMMIGRATION.
The great majority of Italian agriculturists in the South came from rural communities in Italy. Most of them were farmers or farmers' sons abroad. Some few had owned land, but many were tenant farm
ers or farm laborers before emigrating. Perhaps one-half of all interviewed came directly from Italy to farms in the Southern States, and were first employed either as farm laborers, as lumbermen, or as tenant farmers. Comparatively few were engaged in industrial pursuits or as day laborers in Mobile, New Orleans, Galveston, or other coast cities before becoming farmers. Immigration to the South is not only recent, but very small. The total Italian immigration destined for Southern States for the year 1908-9 was 3,701 out of a total Italian immigration of 190,398. During the same year 1,651 station emigrant aliens departed from these States, leaving a net gain of approximately 2,050 persons.
The number of Italian immigrants destined to the States under consideration in the fiscal year 1909, and the number of alien Italian residents of such States who left the United States during the same year, are shown in the following table:
TABLE 50.-Number of North and South Italian immigrants destined to States specified, and alien North and South Italian residents of such States leaving the United States, fiscal year 1909.
[Compiled from Annual Report of the United States Commissioner-General of Immigration, 1909.]
The large percentage of Sicilians and other South Italians in the South is notable. Probably more than 80 per cent of the rural Italians in Louisiana are of this class. The same is true of the nearly 2,000 Italians at Bayou, Tex., and of several other settlements of considerable size. This fact may account for the greater percentage of Italian agricultural laborers in the South and for the slower Americanization in certain districts. In the entire United States there are nearly as many North Italians as South Italian farmers, but the number of farm laborers among the North Italians is very small. Italian immigration to the South has been in part stimulated by the cotton and sugar-cane planters, who, dissatisfied with negro labor, alarmed at the increasing scarcity of every sort of farm labor, and desirous of settling acceptable farmers on the immense tracts of unim
a Report of Commissioner-General of Immigration, year ending June, 1909, pp. 34 et seq. b Ibid., pp. 36 et seq.
proved land, have for years been striving to turn the tide of immigration southward. In the following chapters instances are cited of plantation owners who advanced the passage money for the transportation of groups of Italian families and settled them on their cotton plantations. The total immigration induced in this way is not significant, except as it formed nuclei around which gathered subsequent immigrants to the United States. Sunnyside colony, the mother of several rural settlements, originated in the importation of 20 or more families from northern Italy fifteen years ago.
A number of colonies, notably in Texas and Louisiana, seem to have originated in the purchase of a few acres of land by some Italian farm laborer, who, arriving practically without money at a southern port of entry, sought employment on some neighboring plantation. A number of the strawberry growers of Tangipahoa Parish, La., were originally berry pickers who came out from New Orleans. Italian truckers in Texas were urban day laborers who bought a few acres near the city and let their families raise vegetables, first for home use and later for the retail trade.
Some few colonies have been promoted either by some Italian philanthropist or by land companies, honest or dishonest. Some of the exploited colonies failed utterly, and none except those established at Valdese and St. Helena, N. C., seem to have prospered. The St. Helena colony is apparently one of the most successful colonizing ventures recently undertaken in the South, one large element in this success being the thrifty character of the colonists and the fact that nearly all came direct from farms in northern Italy.
Not many Italians who were skilled workers in the trades or industries, here or abroad, have moved to farms, and comparatively few who found permanent unskilled work in industries after landing later engaged in agricultural pursuits. But, notably in Texas, the building of railroads has brought in a number of South Italians, chiefly Sicilians, some few of whom have become either tenants or independent proprietors of small market gardens or truck farms. It may be asserted confidently that there has been no marked shift of Italians from industrial pursuits or from city employments to farms in the Southern States. In Missouri and Arkansas, indeed, many Italian farmers supplement their incomes by labor in the coal mines during the winter, otherwise the colonies are purely agricultural.
There is, however, a somewhat definite movement from the cane districts, where some planters employ large numbers of Italians as farm laborers, to the cotton fields and truck farms farther north.
THE ITALIANS AS FARMERS.
It is to be noted that nearly all the Italians are small farmers; that while they have engaged in diverse forms of agriculture few have undertaken any agricultural enterprise that requires a large outlay of capital, either for permanent improvements or for tools, machinery, or live stock. There are no extensive rice growers, for example, and no sugar-cane planters were found. Truck crops, cotton, and small fruits require little capital equipment and a great deal of hand labor. The necessary investment in land is small; one may become a cotton 'cropper" with practically no capital. The Italians have found it easy to become farmers and still easier to learn all that the natives
know about cotton raising or vegetable growing. Where the climate is congenial they have prospered; in fact, they have been able to surpass their neighbors because they exercise the simple virtues of thrift and indefatigable industry. They have been imitators, rather than originators, of agricultural methods. Very few innovations, either in crops, methods of culture, or improved machinery can be credited to the Italians. They have developed a highly specialized agriculture at Independence, La., where they are engaged in strawberry culture, but almost entirely along lines originated by the earlier American growers.
This specialization by communities is a noticeable economic feature. Every family in the community raises the same commercial crop. Instead of competition, this results in cooperation. Cooperatively the Italians have an advantage over the natives: if class consciousness has not been developed, there is at least a race consciousness which forms a basis for community consciousness and commercial cooperative endeavor. In Independence, where there was need, the Italian growers united with commendable facility to market their berries and to buy fertilizers and berry boxes. In certain Northern colonies it was found that the Italians cooperated readily and worked together very successfully both in marketing produce and in buying supplies and equipment. In establishing local cooperative business enterprises they have been much more successful than their native white neighbors.
In careful tillage, clean cultivation, and attention to details the Italian almost invariably excels the negro and the old-time southern farmer. He is not wasteful and he makes his farm supply his table as far as possible. By living cheaply he soon accumulates some money, and except in the cotton districts probably invests in land. He ordinarily makes a permanent addition to the agricultural population.
INFLUENCE OF LEADERSHIP.
More than those in the North, the Southern colonies reflect the influence of leaders or the want of them in their growth, economic characteristics, social progress, and institutions. The economic progress of the new colony at St. Helena, N. C., is due to the oversight of a colonization company that not only looks after the social welfare of the Italians, but oversees and gives expert advice with regard to planting, cultivating, and marketing produce. The leaders, though not Italian, have been alert to meet the difficulties and to remove the obstacles that meet. the newcomer, ignorant both of language, farm practice, and methods of marketing produce. They have urged citizenship and provided a church and a school. Under this kindly tutelage the Italians have progressed rapidly. As a rather striking example, it is interesting to compare the independent spirit, the desire for ownership, and the political and social progress of the Italians at Tontitown, Ark., with the progress along similar lines made by the Italians at Sunnyside, both originally from the same locality in Italy. The reports clearly show that progress is much more rapid where there is some one, as at St. Helena and Tontitown, to lend a friendly hand from the beginning.