We are thrilled to share this exciting news from the North End’s own Post-Gazette that is now being displayed as part of our national history at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Congress Shall Make No Law Abridging the Freedom of the Press
It was a proud, and profoundly moving moment for Post-Gazette publisher Pam Donnaruma, to stand in the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and see displayed a recent issue of her newspaper as well as a photo and write-up about her grandfather, James V. Donnaruma, who, in 1896, founded La Gazetta del Massachusetts.
The exhibit “One Nation with News for All,” mounted in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, tells the dramatic story of how immigrants and minorities used the power of the press to fight for their rights and shape the American experience.“I was thoroughly moved and quite emotional,” said Mary N. DiZazzo, who viewed the exhibit earlier this month along with her husband David Trumbull, also Post-Gazette columnists, and their publisher Pam and her friend Louie. Mary said she is proud to have been the beauty culture columnist, All That Zazz, for almost a dozen years. “Being in the exhibit,” she continued, “makes me feel part of history. I embrace my Italian heritage!”
Among all the “Little Italies” in America, the Post-Gazette, was the only newspaper chosen to represent the Italian-American experience. It was on display among newspapers serving scores of immigrant and minority communities — Chinese, German, Japanese, Spanish, and other languages — too many to count.
“The plan from the beginning was to publish in English,” explained Pam, when asked why the Italian-language Gazetta early on transitioned into the English-language Gazette. Pam’s grandfather saw his role as publisher as encouraging and assisting the new arrivals from Italy in bettering themselves, and that meant learning the language of America — English. And better themselves they did! Most of the Italians who came to America in the 1890s through 1920s, arrived with little money, limited job prospects due to lack of English-language skills, and facing prejudice and mistreatment.
Early efforts, such as those of the Gazetta/Gazette, helped Italians in America better themselves and paid tremendous dividends. By the middle of the 20th century the second generation was educated and ready to take their places in commerce, the professions, and politics. Today, with ever increasing appreciation of the varieties of Italian cuisine, fashion, art, music, and literature, and the Italian love of family, it seems everyone wants to be Italian. Post-Gazette columnist David Trumbull (English-Scots-German) who considers himself “Italian by marriage” said of the exhibit, “It was fascinating to see, through their newspapers, how the experiences of immigrant and minority groups in American were so similar, but also unique.”
Italians were quick to learn English. Spanish-speaking Americans — often living in parts of North America that had spoken Spanish for two centuries before the English-speaking United States acquired, through war or purchase, those territories — felt less a need to switch to English. For most of our history — until 1917 when the U.S. entered World War I — German-language papers served a community big enough to sway elections, which is why such office-seekers as Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln owned German-language papers. It was the German press in America that first asserted the rights of the press now enshrined in our First Amendment. So important are newspapers in American life that during World War II, Japanese-Americans relocated to detention camps published camp newspapers and continued to fight for press freedom.
To this day America’s immigrant and minority papers serve their communities well and in so doing, they promote, each in its own way, the policy stated on Page 3 of every issue of the Post-Gazette:
“To help preserve the ideals and sacred traditions of this our adopted country the United States of America: To revere its laws and inspire others to respect and obey them: To strive unceasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty: In all ways to aid in making this country greater and better than we found it.”
The exhibit is at the Newseum, 500 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., through January 4, 2015.