VICKSBURG FACTS: The city’s early Italian history

Published 9:00 am Friday, October 21, 2022

By Vera Ann Fedell | The Vicksburg Post

Did you know about some of Vicksburg’s early Italian history? 

During the beginning of the 19th century, many Italian immigrants would travel up the Mississippi River starting at the New Orleans port and ending in rural areas like Vicksburg and Natchez, according to the Mississippi Encyclopedia. At the start of the Civil War, it was recorded that around 100 Italian Immigrants lived in Mississippi. Those who lived in Vicksburg during the Siege experienced the many effects of the war, like other Vicksburg residents, and also had to live in man-made caves as a source of protection. 

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The Italian population began to expand at the end of the 19th Century due to Italian immigrants wanting to improve their economic and social status. According to the Mississippi Encyclopedia, the Italian immigrants from the 1880s were interested in living in the Mississippi Delta area due to working as laborers on cotton plantations, repairing levees and working on farms. As mentioned in Charles Reagan Wilson’s article from Mississippi History Now, river towns like Vicksburg were more welcoming to the Italian newcomers and were socially accepting of the immigrants during the early stages of moving into their new homes. 

There were also many Italian immigrants that owned small stores or rolling stores, which was typically a wagon with merchandise, in the rural communities. For example, Dominick Antonio was an Italian immigrant who came to Vicksburg in 1881 according to “Where did Vicksburg celebrate the Italian Queen’s anniversary?” by Nancy Bell.

Originally, Antonio and his brother-in-law started a grocery store called Bove and Berg until 1893 when the partnership dissolved and the store became Dominick Antonio Bove Grocery. As described in the article, the store faced some obstacles; however, Antonio was able to run his store until his death in 1934 which was then run by his son. 

Vicksburg is also the home to the popular Italian American Joseph Bernard Brunini. Brunini was a Roman Catholic Bishop from Vicksburg. He was the son of a local attorney, John Brunini, and Blanche Brunini.

Brunini served as the bishop of the Natchez-Jackson Diocese from 1966 to 1984 according to Wilson’s Mississippi History Now article. He was also an avid supporter of the civil rights movement in Mississippi. During the civil rights movement, he supported the civil rights workers in Greenwood, chaired the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference and advocated for Catholic parochial schools to integrate in Mississippi, as stated by Wilson.

Toward the late 19th century, more Italian Americans became involved in local and state politics. This includes Mississippi-born Frank J. Arrighi, who served as Vicksburg’s city assessor at the beginning of the 20th century.