Letter to UIC Trustees

 
 

Vincent Romano

3

VRomano@TaylorStreetArchives.com

312-218-4044 (cell)

 

If we do not act now, the following will be our epitaph:

“…and it came to pass that, for those who follow us, it will be as if we never were.”

 

Upon viewing the Italian peddler’s knife sharpener in the lobby of the Hull House Museum: “We are more than objects and artifacts.  We must not allow the Museum and others to tell our story to their liking.  Our legacy is the sum of our stories.”

…TaylorStreetArchives.com

 

Beginning with the mass migration from the shores of southern Europe, over a century ago, a unique phenomenon in American culture began to unfold…the psychological genocide of a people.  Media induced; this holocaust vilified Italian Americans in a manner unprecedented.  Today, another medium, the Hull House Museum, mandated by the U of I Trustees, for the benefit of scholars, historians and the public alike, has chosen to manipulate history by disengaging Chicago’s Italian American immigrants from their rightful place in the legacy of Jane Addams and the Hull House phenomenon.

 

December 20, 2010

 

TO:  Secretary, University of Illinois Board of Trustees

352 HenryArmstrongBuilding

UrbanaIL, 61801

506 S. Wright Street

UIBOT@uillinois.edu

 

Re:  I am requesting to appear before the University of Illinois’ Board of Trustees at their January 20, 2011 meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

 

FROM:  Vincent Romano, Editor

Taylor Street Archives

 

My affiliations include:

Gregorian Association of Italian American Educators, past President

Joint Civic Council of Italian Americans, member

Italian American Police Association, honorary member

ItalianAmericanVeteransMuseum and Library, member

UniversityVillage (Little Italy), member

Near-West Community Association, member

Old Neighborhood Club, member

For credibility purposes I have found it helpful to attach my biography. (See attached.)  My earlier professional experiences included employment as a ChicagoPublic School teacher, counselor, coach, director and administrator, a 2 year stint as a social worker at the Jane Addams Hull House and counselor at the Hull House summer camp (the Bowen Country Club).  I currently serve as Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

I have taken on, as an avocation, the role of editor of the Taylor Street Archives website (TSA). The primary mission of the TSA is to challenge and to correct the misconceived and sometimes flawed history unknowingly being dispensed by the UIC’s HullHouseMuseum to the public.

The www.TaylorStreetArchives.com (TSA) is a chronology of the Italian American experience, as told by those who had lived the experience growing up in the inner core of what Jane Addams had labeled “The Hull House Neighborhood,” the Legendary Taylor Street’s Little Italy. Hull House was founded in 1889.  The very first invitation (1890) sent to the residents of the Hull House Neighborhood was written in Italian. It begins with, “Mio Carissimo Amico” and is signed, “Le signore Jane Addams and Ellen Starr.”  (Chicago Tribune, May 19, 1890) The TSA, currently, is the only existing document containing the stories and essays of those who had lived the Italian American experience in the near-west side slums that became the social laboratory upon which Jane Addams tested her theories and upon which the Hull House elitists formulated their protests to the establishment.  The TSA contains the names and origins of those who had emigrated from the shores of southern Italy to the legendary Taylor Street…the port-of-call for Chicago’s Italian American immigrants.  (The Italian American community will likely opt to have the contents of the website published as a book at some future point in time, once the initial drafts that comprise the website have been updated,)

The request to include the Taylor Street Archives website in the massive bibliographies and companion websites of the Hull House Museum has been resisted (more appropriately ignored) by the UIC’s Hull House Museum.  The purpose of my request to the U of I Trustees is two-fold:

 

  1. To comment/inform the U of I Board of the misconceived history (by omission and commission) that is being dispensed by the Hull House Museum despite the overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary.  The Museum’s contention that Hull House served 24 other ethnic neighborhoods in addition to the Taylor-Halsted neighborhood is inconsistent with the Hull House archives.  The attached photograph from the 1952 Hull House Yearbook–“…and the community it served.”— http://www.taylorstreetarchives.com/HH_gallery.shtml  denoting the single neighborhood that comprised the majority of the constituents served by the pre-1963 Hull House seriously challenges the distortions being dispensed by the Museum.  The community that Hull House served, at the time of the publication of the 1952 yearbook, by the then Hull House director, was virtually wall-to-wall Italians. The Mexican immigrants and Afro-Americans were the only other ethnic groups of any significance that resided in what came to be known as Taylor Street’s Little Italy.  They comprised approximately 5-10% of the neighborhood.   Beginning with the waning years of the depression, the Mexican immigrants came to live among the residents of the near-west side community while the Negroes began occupying and then dominated the Jane Addams housing project built along Taylor Street, west of Racine Ave.  Some have described the projects as a ghetto within a ghetto.  Those were ethnic times and we were an ethnic community.   http://www.taylorstreetarchives.com/myidols.shtml

 

A. The “Hull House Kids,” http://www.taylorstreetarchives.com/HH_gallery.shtml

a historic photograph taken by Wallace K. Kirkland Sr., Hull House Director, on a summer day in 1924, circulated the globe as a poster child, of sorts, for the Jane Addams’ Hull House. The 20 boys were described as being of Irish ancestry. The Sun-Times, in 1987, exposed that all twenty boys posing in the Dante school yard on Forquer Street (now Arthington Street), were first generation Italian Americans…all with vowels at the ends of their names. “They grew up to be lawyers and mechanics, sewer workers and dump truck drivers, a candy shop owner, a boxer and a mob boss.”  (Michael Cordts, Chicago Sun-Times, 1987)  Despite the 1987 investigative work by the Sun-Times, the Museum, during its reign has failed (or refused) to acknowledge the true ethnicity of the Hull House Kids in the photograph.  Apparently, as a result of the decision to reconfigure the museum:–physically, historically and philosophically, the famous photograph is no longer on display.

The TSA is the only remaining resource that preserves the authenticity documented in the 1987 Sun-Times expose.  The TSA is the only remaining resource that documents and preserves the ethnic composition of the 257 Bowen Country Club (the Hull House summer camp) alumni who served in WW II.  Virtually all were of Italian heritage. Only a dozen or so had non-Italian names. http://www.taylorstreetarchives.com/BowenCountryClub.shtml

 B. The Museum’s director has publicly stated, “It’s important that we don’t have a narrow vision of ownership over history or who gets to tell the story, but realize it is a collective story to be told. History should include the story of those who lived it.”  Lisa Lee, Director, Hull House Museum UIC College of Architecture, (Spring 2007 issue).  It is our contention that the Museum Director’s philosophy should also apply to the Italian Americans who comprised the only immigrant group that persisted from Hull House’s origins in 1889, through WW I, prohibition, the great depression, WW II, and on though the physical demise of the Hull House complex, which included its summer camp, the Bowen Country Club. Our community’s honest response was, “You talk the talk, but you don’t walk the walk.” http://www.taylorstreetarchives.com/Florence_scala.shtml

The Museum Director’s public explanation, for the benefit of historians, scholars and the public alike, for her decision to ignore the request for the TSA to be included in the massive bibliographies and companion websites of the Museum, was, “After all, Hull House also served 24 other ethnic neighborhoods.”  Medill School of Journalism, Dec. 3, 2008.  The Museum’s director appears to be unmindful of the fact that it was only with the dismantling of the neighborhood, which culminated with the demise of the physical Hull House structure in 1963, that the Hull House Association came to the forefront in dispensing social services to the other 24 ethnic neighborhoods dispersed throughout Chicago.

As noted in 1952 annual report and elsewhere, the Taylor Street neighborhood was the primary beneficiary of the Jane Addams 13 building Hull House complex at Halsted and Polk Streets. The primary outlet for the dissemination of information about the history of Hull House and the community it served is dispensing, unknowingly, flawed history.  http://www.taylorstreetarchives.com/newsletterfall2007.shtml

 

  1. To petition the Board to review the empirical evidence regarding what constituted Jane Addams’ Hull House Neighborhood.  If they, the U of I Board, determine that the residents of Taylor Street’s Little Italy were the dominant constituents and beneficiaries of the Hull House phenomenon, we ask that the Board improve upon that original Museum’s mandate by including the following:

A.   Mandate that the Museum’s Director make public the meeting dates of the Museum’s Board…and the Museum’s Board keep the Museum’s Director informed of their meeting dates.  The need for the U of I Trustees to mandate open meetings is apparent from the following encounter with the Museum’s director. Despite her statement in 2006 that “The Taylor Street Archives website is an amazing source that should be part of any story we need to tell about this place.”  Ms. Lisa Lee, in response to why the 2 year delay in hearing from her about the implicit promise to include the Taylor Street Archives website in the Museum’s massive bibliographies and companion websites, stated:

 

Lisa Lee:      You have to get the Board’s approval to include the TSA in our bibliography.

V. Romano:  Why did you not inform me of that two years ago?  I would have…

Lisa lee:        I’m not obligated to inform you of anything.

V. Romano:   Fine.  When is your Board’s next meeting?

Lisa lee:        I don’t know.

 B. Mandate that at least one representative of the community, an individual who lived and therefore knowledgeably represents the experiences of those growing up in Taylor Street’s Little Italy, the inner core of the Hull House Neighborhood, to serve on the Museum’s Board.

I have made note of those documents upon which the U of C Board can determine the validity of the request for the Taylor Street Archives website to be considered for inclusion into the massive bibliographies of the Hull House Museum and its companion websites.  The TSA is the only current source that contains the stories of those who lived the Italian American experience of growing up in the inner core of the Hull House Neighborhood. Wikipedia has acknowledged as much by including the TSA in their bibliographies and companion websites for their articles on Hull House, Jane Addams, Taylor Street, Chicago’s Little Italy, and the Near-West Side.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Addams#cite_note-27

 Of the 1,930,000 websites Google lists for “Taylor Street Chicago” the Taylor Street Archives is rated at the very top.

 

“It is not the words of our enemies that will be remembered…

 it is the silence of our friends.”

 

Michael Hughes, Chicago’s Commissioner of Police, in a letter to Mayor Wm. E. Dever, in 1923, in response to a suggestion that his department employ a greater percentage of minority citizens, to wit: Italians and Italian Americans, wrote “Nothing I can presently think of would do more to ruin the Chicago police Department than to implement the use of three wheel motorcycles and to start hiring Dagos in large numbers.”  If there is a subconscious prejudice that exists by the Museum, the U of I Board, by definition, has its obligation to the community.

I leave you with one final quote from HBO’s recent Vince Lombardi documentary.  Upon applying for a head coaching job at Fordham University, Mr. Lombardi was informed; “The Board of Trustees will never give the head coaching job to anyone with a vowel at the end of his name.”

And this excerpt from Alistair Cooke: “When he arrived at the file listing the Italian immigrants, the card he pulled out, as being representative of the contributions made by Italian Americans, was none other than Alfonse Capone. Not one voice cried, Shame! It is not the words of our enemies that will be remembered…it is the silence of our friends.”

..\..\TSA archives3\Alistaire Cooke…a date which will live in infamy.doc

 

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.

Vincent Romano

 

CC:

    • Governor Pat Quinn
    • Frances G. Carroll
    • Karen Hasara
    • Carlos Tortolero
    • Timothy N. Loritz
    • James D. Montgomery
    • Lawrence Oliver II
    • Christopher G. Kennedy
    • Edward L. McMillan
    • Pamel B. Strobel
    • Daniel A. Soso
    • Roshina K. Kahn
    • Charles L. Olivier III
  • UIC School of Architecture arch@uic.edu

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