Joseph J. Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti
1914
Arturo Giovannitti foremost poet of protest.


Arturo Giovannitti (1884-1959) was born to an upper class family near Campobasso, Italy. He migrated first to Canada, where for a time he studied for the Protestant ministry and worked on a railroad gang, before settling in the United States. He abandoned his evangelical inclination, became a Marxist, leader in the Italian Socialist Federation, and editor of its journal Il Proletario. He attended Columbia and, though he never graduated, he was regarded a brilliant linguist fluent in several languages. He then went to Pennsylvania, worked in coal mines and various manual jobs that left him with a conviction to fight against the upper classes, the clergy and the capitalist exploitation of workers. Possessing a romantic streak, Giovannitti saw himself a Byronic man, an individualist and poet with deep sympathy for the oppressed. A dashing figure with patrician looks, he fancied extravagant scarves and spoke in a rich, captivating voice. His role in helping Joseph Ettor to organize the historic 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike, that was so injurious to Italian American workers, led to their subsequent arrest on charges of inciting violence. This inspired Giovannitti to write one of his famous early poems, "The Walker", which described in telling language the inhumanity of jail experience and, was regarded as a classic condemnation of the prison system. Meanwhile Giovannitti's eloquence and personal magnetism helped to acquit him and Ettor in the ensuing trial. Giovannitti became editor of Il Fuoco, a journal that critiqued society from a left wing perspective. Throughout his life he associated with Italian Americans who may not have agreed with him politically but with whom he shared a common vision of aiding the workingman. Although credited with a sole collection of published poetry, Arrows in the Gale, (1914) that decries the treatment meted out to Italian immigrants and injustices committed against the working class, he was considered the greatest Italian American poet of the early 20th century.

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