Constantine M. Panunzio was an Italian immigrant who became a Methodist minister, social worker, and sociology professor. Born in 1884 in Molfetta, a small town in southern Italy, he came from a well-to-do family. Spurning his parents’ plan for his education, he went to sea at the age of fourteen on the crew of a merchant ship that plied the Mediterranean. Four years later, he sailed to America. After a series of dangerous and abusive experiences on board, he jumped ship in Boston in 1902. In an autobiography written twenty years later, Panunzio describes his first days in the North End as he and a companion struggled to find housing and work. In this passage, he offers a firsthand account of the corrupt padrone (labor contractor) system that exploited many newly arrived immigrants.
From: Constantine M. Panunzio, The Soul of an Immigrant (New York: Macmillan Company, 1922), pp. 75-80.