The Fate of a Statue and Books About American History

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On September 23rd, the City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission voted unanimously to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus in Schenley Park. This decision followed months of public feedback and heated debate, including a petition against the statue with over 14,000 signatures and public forums held by the Art Commission to hear arguments for and against the statue’s removal.  

Those who wanted to keep the statue in Schenley Park cited it as a figure of Italian American pride and representative of the Italian American immigrant experience. Those in favor of removing the statue spoke about Columbus’ legacy of racism and violence towards Indigenous peoples. Some city residents felt that the statue contradicted Pittsburgh’s positioning of itself as a welcoming city for immigrants and refugees. 

There are still questions about the Art Commission’s final authority in removing the statue, and also about what might replace the statue if it is removed. Participants at the September public hearing hoped that whatever replaced the statue would pay tribute to Pittsburgh’s Italian American population while respecting the history of Indigenous peoples and the trauma they faced from colonization. If you have an opinion on what should happen to the statue or what could replace it, written statements can be sent to the Art Commission, c/o The Department of City Planning, 200 Ross Street, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, or emailed to pacd@pittsburghpa.gov. 

Either way, it’s important to accurately educate ourselves on American historywhich includes the Italian American immigration experience and the history of Indigenous peoplesHere are some sources to get you started.

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A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

A dramatic new retelling of our nation’s past. Beginning with the colonization of the New World, it recounts the history of America in the voice of the non-Anglo peoples of the United States–Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, Irish Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and others–groups who helped create this country’s rich mosaic culture. Now, Ronald Takaki has revised his landmark work and made it even more relevant and important. Among the new additions to the book are: the role of black soldiers in preserving the Union; the history of Chinese Americans from 1900-1941; an investigation into the hot-button issue of “illegal” immigrants from Mexico; and a look at the sudden visibility of Muslim refugees from Afghanistan. This new edition grapples with the raw truth of American history and examines the ultimate question of what it means to be an American. You can also check out this title as eBook on Hoopla or as eAudio on Hoopla.

The Family Tree Italian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Family Tree in Italy

Say “ciao” to your Italian ancestors! This in-depth guide will walk you through the exciting journey of researching your Italian famiglia both here and in Italy. Inside, you’ll find tips for every phase of Italian genealogy research, from identifying your immigrant ancestor and pinpointing their hometown to uncovering records of them in Italian archives.

First Pennsylvanians: The Archaeology of Native Americans in Pennsylvania

In “First Pennsylvanians,” Kurt Carr and Roger Moeller provide a broad, accessible and wide-ranging overview of the archaeological record of Native Americans in Pennsylvania from early prehistory through the Paleoindian, Archaic, Transitional, Woodland and Contact periods, stretching from 16,500 years ago to 1750 C.E. The authors present and analyze specific traits of each archaeological time period covered and use the archaeological record to provide a glimpse of Native Americans’ daily life in Pennsylvania.

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby, as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on Hoopla.

The Italian American Family Album

Against all odds — a new language, new customs and prejudice — Italian Americans built a new life in America, the land of success. “The Italian American Family Album” brings us to the heart of the immigrant experience through diaries, letters, interviews, newspaper articles and fascinating period photographs.

An Italian American Odyssey

A moving blend of words and images, “An Italian American Odyssey” tells the story of the journey to America across seven generations of one Italian American family.

Italian Americans: The Immigrant Experience

The story of Italians in America is one of struggle and hope, prejudice and pride, passion and perseverance. Through the years, the Italian people have assimilated the ways of their adopted country and been transformed by its culture. The character and sensibility of Italians have left an indelible mark on America, from well-loved musicians such as Frank Sinatra to creative businessmen such as Lee Iacocca. Through lively text and 200 color and black-and-white photographs, this book honors the Italians who came to America and their descendants who keep the traditions and spirit alive.

Native American Almanac

A primer on the Native American experience, presenting the rich history and continuing legacy of the indigenous and tribal nations. Fascinating biographies, insightful quotes, detailed data and absorbing narratives bring the stories of indigenous people to life, bringing unique insight into the American nation.

Standing Up to Colonial Power: The Lives of Henry Roe and Elizabeth Bender Cloud

Standing Up to Colonial Power focuses on the lives, activism and intellectual contributions of Henry Cloud (1884-1950), a Ho-Chunk, and Elizabeth Bender Cloud (1887-1965), an Ojibwe, both of whom grew up amid settler colonialism that attempted to break their connection to Native land, treaty rights and tribal identities. Mastering ways of behaving and speaking in different social settings and to divergent audiences, including other Natives, white missionaries and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, Elizabeth and Henry relied on flexible and fluid notions of gender, identity, culture, community and belonging as they traveled Indian Country and within white environments to fight for Native rights.