Room Five

Assimilation

Before World War II, second-generation Italian-Americans began to move out of the Little Italy sections of Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, and Telegraph Hill. This exodus became even larger after the war. This was mainly due to the growth of suburbanization in the San Francisco Bay area in general, as new families sought independent housing of their own. Adding to this flight was a recalibration of identity by the younger generations that sought to emphasize the American, rather than the Italian. Having seen the internment and hearings affect their parents' generation, the Italian-Americans that came of age in the forties and fifties sought to purge questions about their national loyalties. On top of that, the Italian schools that had sprung up in the 1930s were gone, leading to a generation that had never been to Italy, nor did it speak its language.

As a result of this flight, the areas that had become associated with Little Italy became influenced by outsiders. Most notorious was North Beach, which became more known for its strip clubs and adult stores than its Italian restaurants. And even the restaurants only served to remind patrons of the past, as North Beach's population was populated by Americans of many different origins.

Today, the areas associated with Little Italy, especially North Beach, retain reminders of its ethnic roots. At the same time, the neighborhoods have become diversified, as the need to maintain an exclusive community dissipated.


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Richmond [housing tracts].

BANC PIC 1983.019:114--PIC

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