Exactly 50 years ago this week, on Monday, June 28, 1971, one of the more bizarre chapters in Italian American history unfolded in New York City’s Columbus Circle, as tens of thousands of people gathered for the second annual Italian American Unity Day!
On this week’s episode of the Italian American Podcast, we’re joined by Don Capria, author of “Colombo: The Unsolved Murder,” to discuss the life and legacy of the man behind this unprecedented chapter in Italian American history.
The Italian American Civil Rights League was the creation of one of history’s most infamous Italian Americans, reputed Mob Boss Joe Colombo of Brooklyn. Formed to fight discriminatory representations of Italians in American media and news, the league exploded onto the scene in the late 1960s with star-studded and sold-out benefit concerts in Madison Square Garden. On June 29, 1970, they rallied nearly 100,000 Italian Americans in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle for the inaugural “Unity Day.” But, just a year later, the second Unity Day ended in violence and bloodshed as Colombo was felled by an assassin’s bullet as thousands upon thousands of his fellow Italians looked on in horror.
For Italian Americans living throughout the East Coast in the years between 1970-1971, the prominent “#1” logo of the League became the ubiquitous sign of a growing sense of Italian American awareness and action.
In this first part of a two-part episode, Capria will take us through the process of writing his unprecedented book, which he co-authored with Colombo’s son, Anthony. He’ll share how the League was formed, and how it’s early successes included a game-changing impact on Paramount’s production of “The Godfather.”
Join us as we explore the history of the Italian American Civil Rights League, the life and times of Joe Colombo, and his and the League’s surprising and controversial legacy within today’s Italian American community!
This episode was sponsored by