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History Project

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BC: Property of AmbroseLepore

FC: Personal Journal of Ambrose Lepore

1: Hello, my name is Ambrose Lepore and I am a 20 year old Italian man preparing to make the journey from my hometown to The United States of America. The year is 1873 and the excitement is starting to build for my trip as it begins in 2 weeks. I bought this journal so I can actively write about my experiences as I travel across the Atlantic Ocean. One day, when I am a successful, hard-working citizen of the United States, I will look back in this journal and realize how important and wise my decision was to immigrate to the “land of opportunity.” Over the past 2 years my life has been very difficult in my hometown of Giffoni Sei Casali, a small farming town located in Southern Italy. My aunt and uncle, Guisseppe and Adele Lepore, have been taking care of me for this time.

2: Both my parents, Benedetto and Camilla Lepore traveled over to the United States 2 years ago to find work and provide a better life for myself. My father works as a fisherman, catching scallops and making about $11 a week. My mother works outside a market, selling fruit and making about $6 a week. They live in a tenant house, sharing space with many other Italian immigrants and paying about $10 a month. The tenant is very crowded and I am told very unsanitary and dirty. My parents have told me that it is so crowded for some families, that the children have to sleep on the fire escape. Once, I make it over to the US, I hope to possibly share a small apartment in Little Italy with other immigrants I meet on the boat. As I mentioned earlier, my life for the past two years has been very difficult in Giffoni Sei Casali. The town has experienced a severe drought, not something you want for a farming town. The crops have suffered and many people, especially young children, are dying from being malnourished. Thankfully, my aunt and uncle stocked up in crops before the drought. We have manage to save our non-perishable food pretty well and have been eating relatively comfortably compared to the other members of the town. During this time, I have been working on the farm and trying to gain a bit of an education in farming. I do not make any money as I am paid by my aunt and uncle in shelter, food, and water. I have a multitude of jobs that I do on the farm such as planting seeds, picking crops (if they come up), and getting water from the well (which is almost dry) among other jobs. The days are very long with the rooster waking us up at 5, and not heading to bed until about 10:30. Although we are in a drought, and nothing is really growing on the farm, my uncle wants everything to be prepared when the rain does come. He is a strong believer in God and says God sent him a message the other day in a dream. The message stated that “rain will come to those who wait, prepare, and pray.” I sure hope my uncle’s prophecy is right because I don’t know how much longer they will survive after I am gone.

3: These next few weeks before the boat leaves will be filled with hope, sadness, stress, and wonder. I am hopeful because of everything the United States has to offer. The “Land of Opportunity” and streets “paved with gold” is something I have looked forward to my entire life. As a child, one always hears about America, especially New York City and I cannot believe I am actually going to live there for the rest of my life. I am also hopeful about the whole experience because I will finally be reunited with my parents, two people I have not seen since they left 2 years ago. I will be expressing sadness because I am leaving the life I have known since I was born. My aunt and uncle and many friends live in this town, and I know no other way of life. Unless my aunt and uncle decide to come over to the United States, which I doubt, I will never see them again in my life. You get very close to people when you work, live, eat, cry, and sleep with them for 2 years of your life. I will miss them very much and not a day will go by where I don’t think about them. Stress will definitely be present over these next couple of weeks as I need to get everything ready for the trip, while continuing to help out my aunt and uncle on a daily basis. There will be many late nights making sure I am fully prepared to make a journey of this magnitude. The last feeling that I will experience in the next couple of weeks and certainly on the boat is wonder. Wonder is something that has fascinated me my entire life; especially about America. Will everything be as promised? Will my parents remember me and be willing to help me? Am I making the right decision, or am I being selfish leaving my aunt and uncle? Will I survive the trip over the Atlantic? Will I pass through all of Ellis Island’s tests without being turned away? These are all questions I ask myself multiple times a day. Today’s date is September 4, 1873 and the boat is leaving September 20. The port is in Genoa, Italy and I will be taking a cart from my hometown to Genoa. I will be sailing on the “Prinzess Irene” and am expecting the trip to take a little under 6 weeks. Rumor has it that the boat is dirty, with rats and mice living in the walls. These animals could carry disease and could potentially very dangerous. Hopefully I won’t catch anything and will be in good health for the duration of the trip. This is getting long and I have a lot of work to do on the farm today. I’m going to try to fall asleep now without thinking about all the hardships I could potentially face. Hopefully, I will be able to write in a little bit over 2 weeks after I am settled on the “Prinzess Irene”. To good health and a safe journey, Ambrose Lepore

4: Hello! This is diary entry number 2 and the date is October 5, 2011. I am very happy to report that I made it to Genoa and on the boat with no problems; life on the boat though is very rough. Rumors that I heard before the trip are all true, and then some. Living conditions are really not favorable. As soon as I stepped onto the boat I was hoarded to the lower deck, forced into a very tiny room that has two bunk beds. I share the room with 3 other Italian men who are also traveling solo. Each night, we have a rotation where each pair of bunk mates switch from the top bunk to the bottom bunk. This is only fair because the top bunk is far superior to the bottom. Sea sickness is a harsh reality on a boat like this, especially throughout the night. Any bodily fluids that happened to come off the top bunk traveled through the boards in the bottom bunk, creating a very uncomfortable situation for the individual on the bottom bunk. | The room, as you can imagine is very cramped with two bunk beds. There is only about 3 feet of space in between each bunk and no other walking space in the room. Our bags are to be kept under the bunks to maximize this small space we have in between the bunks. Our room is directly next to other rooms, with only a thin wall separating us. Through the night, I can hear rats that are crawling through the walls, searching for scraps of food and anything else they can find in there. Just to give you an idea of how thin these walls are, I can hear our “next door neighbor” snore throughout the night. I am a light sleeper and this often keeps me up at night. Right now, our room is a bit more spread out as one man, Giovanni, is sick. He has chicken pox and is required to stay in quarantine anywhere from 8-16 days. The quarantine room is filled with the sick, and often people come out with much worse diseases than they originally came in. Just walking past the quarantine room, although sealed off still smells and sickness fills the air. Our personal room, however, does not escape the disgusting smell. Every night you can smell people’s bodily fluids, specifically from sea sickness. The smell of this often sets off other people to vomit and before you know it, a good portion of the 300 immigrants on the boat are vomiting themselves.

5: Throughout the day, each person is allotted 30 minutes above deck. This is done in shifts and only 30 people are allowed on deck at one time. For the remainder of the day, we are required to be in our living headquarters. In terms of food, each passenger is given 3 quarts of water each day and 7 pounds of bread, oats, or rice per week. Although this is a reasonable amount to survive on, I always feel hungry. These types of food are not very filling, but are necessary in order to survive. Two weeks in, I am sick of tired of having the same type of food every day. There is no variation but I am exploring all options. Rumor has it that the crew has some cheese, eggs, and steak that they have sparingly. If I can find a way to make friend with a crew member, I will try and bribe him into giving me a bit of his. Two weeks into the journey, I am already looking forward to the United States and becoming a valuable citizen. Life on a boat is not something I want to experience again and I will do everything in my power to “make it” in the United States. Next time I write, I will hopefully be sitting on Ellis Island, overlooking the Hudson River. Regards, Ambrose Lepore

6: Phase one of my journey has finally ended as I have gotten off the “Prinzess Irene”. I am now sitting on Ellis Island, waiting for the whole process to start. My entire journey took 38 days and I got through it without really much trouble. I got sea sick two times about 3 weeks into the journey but that’s not too bad compared to some other people. Of the 300 passengers aboard the ship, 9 passed away due to sickness and a multitude of other reasons. As I am waiting to be processed I will try and get into some more detail about Ellis Island and my first experience in America.

7: Today, as our boat pulled into the Hudson River, all passengers were allowed on deck to take in the first sign of the United States. I promised myself I would not become emotional but that of course failed. As the statue of liberty came into view, I, as well as many others broke own crying. Not out of sadness, but rather out of relief. After this long, difficult journey I had finally made it to the place that I had longed to live in for my entire life. Emotion that I had never felt before completely overwhelmed me. I was now in “The Land of Opportunity.” I will continue writing this in a little bit, my name is about to be called for inspection and whatnot. Wish me luck!

8: Yes!!! I am now officially a United States Citizen. The whole process took a grueling 5 hours but boy was it worth it. They are very thorough here and seem to leave no stone uncovered. As soon as I walked in I was handed a paper, it was a essentially a questionnaire, asking me questions about my past and future life. Next, I was brought into a room where I was medically examined. I was very nervous as I walked into the room with the nurse because I know many people were turned away this point, unable to pass the inspection. I passed through all the tests until I got to favus test. The nurse, a pretty female in her mid 20’s, combed through my hair and saw remnants of the favus disease that I had acquired while on the boat.

9: Although she probably cold have sent me back home right then, she could see the look of worry in my eyes and promised that this could be our little secret and let me go through anyway. Boy was I thankful. This woman, who i did not know, basically just saved my life. My life in New York was already getting off to a great start. As I walked out of the medical office, I passed through “the stairs of separation” , a place where many families were split up. This was a time that I was very thankful my parents were already in New York and I didn’t have to go through this. This whole process took about 5 hours and here I am talking about it now. I will get back to you once I am settled in the city. Sincerely, Ambrose Lepore

11: I am starting to get settled with my parents in our Italian Harlem apartment. It’s an apartment in an old building that we have to share with another family. The apartment has a vile smell to it and is incredibly dirty. I think I can deal with the grime for some time, at least until we have enough money saved up to get a new home. So far America is not how I expected it, no streets of gold and conditions aren't good at all. Dad tried to get me a job with him at the fishery but that didn’t work out, so for now I am working on some construction jobs for a little money. It’s hard work for little money but its something. I've met a few buddies that are also from southern Italy. So far life here in America doesn’t seem as good as we had it back in Italy. I have to admit sometimes I think about whether it was a smart idea to come to America. In the end it will all work out, I hope. Well this will be my last entry, America shall definitely continue to be an adventure. Sincerely, Ambrose Lepore

12: Works Cited (Info) "Italian Harlem." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.. Colella, Nicola. "Southern Italian Immigration." ITALIAMERICA - ITALIAN AMERICAN - Italian American Culture. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. . "Immigration...Italian: Tenements and Toil - For Teachers (Library of Congress)." Library of Congress Home. Web. 25 Oct. 2011..

13: WorksCited (Pics) " REMEMBER: Italian Harlem." H A R L E M B E S P O K E. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.. "Immigration and the Role of Ellis Island." BLUBABALU. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. .

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