Italy was finally united in 1861 from a collection of independent states and regions controlled by foreign powers. Forging a nation out of the various loyalties was going to be a daunting task.
Ironically, despite its tardy unification, Italy’s history, culture, and language had an ancient rich legacy. Italians could be proud of their heritage which would be the glue that would forge a national consciousness and be Italy’s gift to the rest of the world.
Not long after the unification of Italy, a mass migration of Italians to other countries in Europe, North and South America, and Australia would begin. These millions of emigrants deserved to know and preserve a sense of Italian culture and language for themselves and their children. At the same time, the richness of Italian culture and the beauty of the Italian language enthralled many people who were not of Italian descent.
To reach out to these people in 1889, a group in Rome led by the Italian poet Giosuè Carducci formed the Dante Alighieri Society, whose mission would be to promote the language, literature, and culture of their new country. The society was named for Italy’s most excellent writer, Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy and one of the most admired writers of the great literature of all time. Initially centered in Italy, it soon expanded to cities worldwide where Italians had settled and other admirers of things Italian could gather, learn and appreciate everything Italy had to offer across the spectrum of human endeavors. With 87 chapters in every region of Italy, it has grown to over 450 chapters worldwide.
Dante Alighieri Society of Michigan
In 1924 a chapter of the Dante Alighieri Society was founded among the Italian residents of Detroit, centered on the lower east side of the city where most Italian immigrants lived. As the city of Detroit attracted large numbers of Italian immigrants, it also was home to many non-Italians that were admirers of the language and culture of Italy. Paolo Polidori and a group of other local citizens formed the society’s local chapter. Efforts were made to serve the many Italian immigrants living in the growing city and to showcase Italian culture and progress to their American neighbors. It was hoped that these immigrants and their descendants would value their heritage even as they adapted to their new homeland.
The society flourished through the 1920s and 1930s, offering Detroiters language classes and cultural events until the tragic war when Italian Americans chose between their beloved Italy and their new homeland. Almost all of them proved to be loyal to their new land. With the outbreak of war between Italy and the United States in 1941, the Dante Alighieri Society of Michigan was dissolved for fear that it would be an outpost of enemy infiltration in America.
In the 1940s, with the war over, a renewed interest in Italy led to the rebirth of the Michigan Chapter. Doctor Piero Foà, an Italian Jewish refugee from Fascist Italy who had settled in Detroit during the 1930s, organized leaders of the Italian community in Detroit, and the society once again set out to achieve its goals. Since then, Italian language, literature, art, music, film, history, design, and all other aspects of Italian culture have been promoted and encouraged in the metro Detroit region.
“Since 1924, the Dante Alighieri Society has aimed to be the “face” of Italian culture in southeastern Michigan.
The Dante Alighieri Society – Michigan Chapter promotes the Italian language and culture through Italian Language Courses for Adults and Children and cultural events, the Il Mosaico newsletter, and other cultural resources. In addition to Italian courses, the Dante Alighieri Society maintains La Biblioteca Italiana, a substantial Italian-language collection held at Oakland Community College in Royal Oak for members and the community, and a DVD lending library for members. For younger student members, there is the Gruppo Giovanile, which organizes activities with the interests of the youth in mind.
History of the Dante Alighieri Society
The Società Dante Alighieri inaugural meeting in Michigan was held on December 21, 1924, at the Detroit Public Library Main Branch. The guiding purpose was “to promote Italian cultural programs.”
The Dante Alighieri Society hosts cultural and networking events to bring Italian culture to the broader community, often in partnership with other Michigan Italian cultural or educational institutions. Visit the Events page for a calendar of upcoming events and a summary of past events.
The Dante Alighieri Society publishes its newsletter, Il Mosaico, twice yearly. Each issue of Il Mosaico brings the latest Society news to our members and articles about Italy by our members. To submit an article for Il Mosaico, please contact: Mosaico
Visit the Il Mosaico page to view past issues.
The Dante Alighieri Society was established in Rome, Italy, by Royal Decree in 1893 by King Umberto I di Savoia. La Società is named in honor of II Sommo Poeta Fiorentino, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), who created the pillars of Italian literature and language and profoundly affected Western civilization with the universality of his wisdom.
The DAS, an international organization, presents the art, science, literature, and contemporary Italy’s global political, social, and economic life. The membership of La Società reflects all nationalities, vocations, and ages of persons interested in Italian culture.
Offices (Detroit Area): 4050 West Maple Road, Ste # 250 – Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301
Intenti a compiere l’unità politica della nazione, noi italiani paremmo finora dimentichi che la patria non è tutta dentro i confini materiali dello Stato. Di tale dimenticanza ci fecero accorti gli stranieri, additandoci con l’esempio la necessità e il modo di ripararvi.
Tedeschi, Slavi e Francesi adoperandosi a tutelare e diffondere nei paesi di confine o disgiunti dalla madrepatria, la lingua, la cultura e il sentimento di essa, ci insegnano che dovunque suona un accento della lingua nostra, dovunque la civiltà nostra lasciò tradizioni, dovunque sono fratelli nostri che vogliono e debbono rimanere tali, ivi è un pezzo della patria ché noi non possiamo dimenticare. Non solo: ma quanto quei fratelli nostri, per le condizioni particolari dei luoghi nei quali dimorano, corrono maggior rischio di perdere, con la cognizione e l’uso della lingua italiana, la coscienza della patria, tanto noi abbiamo maggiore obbligo di accorrere in loro aiuto.
Istituzione di scuole, incitamenti a frequentarle, diffusione di libri, aiuti ed incoraggiamenti ad ogni altra qualsiasi opera animata dagli stessi propositi, sono i mezzi che quelle nazioni straniere usarono e usano per conseguire il loro intento; e quei mezzi vogliamo usar, noi.
Invitando a ciò gl’Italiani, ci è sembrato che nessun nome. potesse consacrare più degnamente l’impresa nostra che il nome di DANTE ALIGHIERI.
Quella che noi promoviamo è un’opera altamente ed essenzialmente civile e pacifica, a cui ogni italiano, qualunque sia la sua fede religiosa, qualunque siano le sue opinioni politiche, deve sentire il bisogno e il dovere di prender parte.
Se dubitassimo che i nostri concittadini potessero rispondere freddamente all’appello – nostro, dovremmo dubitare che il sentimento nazionale fosse men vivo fra noi che fra gli stranieri.
Roma, Luglio 1889. – SOCIETÀ DANTE ALIGHIERI