Color photograph of a brown skinned woman in a black dress, smiling widely at the camera

Jessica L. Harris

Rome Prize in Modern Italian Studies
September 1, 2023–July 5, 2024
Assistant Professor, Department of History, St. John’s University
Project title
Black America and Italy: African American Women in Post-Fascist Italian Culture
Project description

Black America and Italy adds a new layer to the understanding of Blackness’s place in post-Fascist Italy by examining the female African American experience in the country in the decades following Fascism’s collapse in 1943. In analyzing the positionality of five Black American female entertainers who worked in Italy, my book shows how these women enjoyed a “privileged” status in Italian cultural products because of their artistic talents and Americanness—a stark contrast to how African women were represented. Despite this status, the women did not escape negative stereotypes deriving from the Fascist period. Thus, my book illustrates two important points on race and Italy: female Blackness was understood in multiple ways in Italian society, with national origin being a factor; and although Italy wanted to distance itself from Fascism, this did not occur as Fascist racist ideology continued to influence republican Italy.