Black Neapolitans constitute the largest minority population in the region. Nevertheless, it’s near impossible to encounter a black barista, waiter, or shop keeper working anywhere in the city – occupations that usually provide on-the-job training.
Some locals say that black Neapolitans are a new group who landed on these shores during the last twenty years only. In fact, African-Italians have been a part of Italy, and particularly Naples, since ancient times. From the great warriors of Hannibal to the imported slaves for Roman patricians, this port town has had a close relationship to the continent of Africa and its people for more than two thousand years. Africans settled here during the Byzantine era, including San Gaudioso and his followers. He brought the remains of Saint Restituta, an African woman, to Naples and she is still revered, having her own niche in the Naples Duomo itself. Furthermore, the artists who created the presepe displayed at the Certosa di San Martino added an abundant number of kings, sheep herders, and musicians who were black.
Today in the Naples area, blacks are relegated to living almost exclusively in the suburb town of Castel Volturno where they have their own churches and shops. One black Neapolitan, wanting to remain anonymous, admitted that blacks aren’t able to live outside this suburb town because…
Black Neapolitans understand well that they are targets of discrimination. They refuse to be photographed and refuse to participate in any interviews, avoiding conversations about their lives. Why so much fear? Their reluctance leads one to believe that they indeed have something to fear and this is truly a shame within a port town that has been a salad bowl of diversity for thousands of years.