Afro-Italian(Afro-Italiani/e) are residence, citizen of African descent or of mix African Italian roots. They come from a variety of backgrounds. Afro-Arabs make up the bulk of the African population at 69.6%, with the
Alessandro de' Medici(WikiPaintings.org)
Afro-Italians also have roots in Burkina Faso, Somalia, Ethiopia, Guinea, Cape Verde, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic. 2/3rds (66.3%) tend to live in three regions: Lombardy (29%), Emilia Romagna (14.8%), Piedmont (10.2%) and Veneto (12.3%).
Africans started arriving in Italy in significant numbers with the destruction of Carthage. The Roman victors brought 50,000 captives to Italy, mainly residing in central and southern Italy.
Trade with Africa increased. Rome traded with all parts of Africa, North Africa to sub-Saharan Africa. Typically, African goods came via Egypt--wood, ivory, wild animals, spices, and slaves.
Blacks were referred to as Aethiopes in Roman society. They were generals. St. Maurice was an African general who refused to kill christians and was executed by the Roman Emperor. They were entertainers in the circus and theaters. Aethiopes were wrestlers, animal trainers, boxers. Black flutist were in great demand. They were traders, merchants, and diplomats.
North Africa was absorbed into the Roman Empire. North Africans were part of all aspect of Roman life. Two emperors of Rome were of North African origins--Septimius Severus and Marcus Opellius Macrinus. North Africa produced prominent Chrisitian phillosophers: Saint Augustine, Saint Cyprian, Tertulian, Saint Maurice. By 300 A.D., a significant African population lived in Rome. A decree was announce to return home all Africans found in the theaters.
With the decline of Rome, records of Africans living in Italy became scarce. It was the Norman kingdom of Sicily that provided documents of Africans on the peninsula.
The Norman King Frederick II in conquering muslim Sicily used saraccens and aethiopes from Lucera in Apulia to capture Sicily. Frederick II used aethiopes and saraccens as his bodyguards, and they were typically part of his entourage.
Blacks were used as servants in wealthy homes in Venice, Florence, and Rome. Having numerous black servants became a sign of wealth in Italy and the rest of Europe. This outlook began to show up in paintings. The paintings of Paolo Veronese and Gian Battista Tiepolo used black servants as props in the background of wealthy nobility.
Blacks also began to appear in the literature of Italy. Novellino ( 1475) by Masuccio Salernitano featured black characters. Hecatommiti (1566), on which Shakespeare's Othello is based on, by Giraldi Cinthio, featured a black protagonist.
With the openning of the Atlantic slave trade by the Portuguese, we see the beginning of importation of slaves in Italy. Genoa and Naples were major importation centers.
The church played a major role in the lives of slaves. The Congrega dei Catechmeni was organised to baptise slaves and protect them from ill treatment. In 1605, the Jesuit established congregation for free African slaves. Slaves were exchanged for Christian slaves in North Africa. Slaves were used as language teachers for missionaries. Benedetto il Moro became the first black person cannonized by the Catholic Church.
Italy also began to interact more with African Kingdoms, especially Ethiopia and other African Christian sovereignties. At the beginnning of the Renaissance, Ethiopians began to arrive in Italy. In 1395, Ethiopians were at the coronation of Giovanni Galeazzo. By 1402, Ethiopians began to appear in many Vatican records. The Church of Santo Stefano Maggiore was changed to Santo Stefano degli Abissini. African kingdoms which had converted to Christianity corresponded with Rome, like King Alfonse of Kongo.
In the latter part of the 1800s, after the Berlin Conference, Italy sets its sights on Africa. It declared Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia protectorates. In 1896 at the Battle of Adwa, Ethiopia defeated the Italian invasion and retained its independence.
During the 1960s, Somalis and Ethiopians began arriving as students. North Africans especially Moroccans started arriving, seeking employment. Between 1980-1990, It is estimated 1 million to 2 million Africans immigrated to Italy. This was consistent with broader immigration trend from eastern Europe, Latin America, and China. This altered the landscape of Italian cities, making Italy a more multi-ethnic society. The latter change saw the rise of anti-immigration sentiments and racism in the society. Italy ceased being the welcoming immigration destination it once was. 7.1% or 4.3 million of the Italian population is foreign, with 45% of the young Italians oppose to immigration.
Due to strong anti-immigration sentiments, draconian and restrictive immigration laws were enacted. Right-wing political organization like the Northern League Party made political gains from an anti-immigration platform. The party was succesful in passing the Bossi-Fini immigration law, which required all foreign workers to have a job in 6 months after losing another. Workers working in Italy for 20 years could easily become an illegal immigrant. Law 91 of 1992 did not bestow automatic citizenship to children of immigrants born in Italy. Children of immigrants have to wait till their 18th birthday to apply for citizenship in a long tedious beuracratic process. The government of Silvio Berlusconi took a populist anti-immigration stance.
A wave of attacks on African immigrants has been occuring in Italy. The most infamous of these attack was in Rosarno, where two African immigrants were killed with a pellet gun. African migrant workers reacted by burning cars and vandalizing shops. In addition, Ghanian student Emmanuel Bonsu Foster was arrested and brutalized by Parma police. A craze gunman shot three Senegalese vendors and killed two and seriously wounded one in Florence.
Children of mixed black and Italian are typically not accepted in the society and are treated as other black children.
Alessandro de' Medici
Cécile Kyenge Kashetu
Khalid Fouad Allam
Koura Kaba Fantoni
Jean Leonard Touadi
Jorge Canifa Alves
Maria de Lourdes Jesus
Sumbu "Patrizio" Kalambay
Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro Esposito
Stefano Okaka Chuka
Appiah, Kwame Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.(1999). Africana: the Encyclopedia of African and African American Experience. Basic Civitas Books, pp. 1011-1014. ISBN 0-465-00071-1.
Caritas/Migrantes, Africa-Italia. Scenari migratori, Edizioni Idos, Roma giugno 2010 (pdf)
Faris, Stephan. Denial and Anger in Italy. 18-Feb-2010. retrieved 06-Jan-2012
Hine, Darlene Clark et al. Black Europea and the African Diaspora.
Ferri, Elisabetta. Emmanuel - beaten up and insulted in Parma by the municipal police. Progetto Melting Pot Europa. retrieved 08-Jan-2012
Italy's 'little Senegal'. BBC News. 19-April-2004 retrieved 07-Jan-2012
Italy - The Town of Florence in Mourning After Racist Killing Spree. AllAfrica.com 14-Dec-2011
The Africa News. Adopt open immigration policies, EU advised. 02-Sept-2011. retrieved 06-Jan-2012.
Majomi, Efena. EXCLUSIVE: Saba Anglana's Italian story euromight.com(Your Guide to Afro Europe) retrieved 6-Jan-2011.
Afro-Europe International Blog. Meet Black Italian Writer Igiaba
Ogongo, Stephen. There are Italians with black skin. Africa News 2010-05-28 retrieved 12-22-2011
Randall, Frederika. Italy's New Racism.16 January 2009 retrieved 22-Dec-2011