Hate Crimes Immigrants Lynching Media New Orleans


From Basil Russo’s email:

The Italian-American community had great success with respect to the New Orleans proclamation.

However, since several of the Italian-American organizations forwarded emails to The New York Times requesting an apology for its editorial supporting the New Orleans lynchings, The Times editorial department has arrogantly refused to discuss the issue with us.

 As a result, we are moving up the ladder and forwarding letters from all of our major organizations to The Times’ executive editor, publisher and its legal counsel.

We are also redoubling our efforts on our websites to encourage our members to forward emails demanding an apology.  All Italian-American organizations should be forwarding their letters to Mike Santo, who will serve as our point person with The Times.  Mike successfully initiated the effort to obtain the proclamation of apology from the city of New Orleans.

Below is a copy of the letter submitted by the ISDA. If you haven’t individually sent an short email to The New Times demanding an apology, please do so.

We need to win this battle.

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Hate Crimes History Immigrants Lynching

The Advocate: Cantrell to apologize for lynching of New Orleans Italians; but list of atrocities is much longer

Read the James Gill’s article

General Immigrants Lynching

Rope and Soap: how the Italians were lynched in the USA

Corda e sapone by Patrizia Salvetti

Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century there were dozens and dozens of our emigrants lynched in the United States by citizens, by “good citizens”, who instead of trial used a brisk justice, immediately putting hand to the rope and soap to hang them, relying on complicity of public authorities.

The history of this violence gives us the measure of how the Italians, considered a middle ground between whites and blacks, were discriminated against.

American justice always sent the guilty of such nefarious intolerance unpunished, going so far as to argue in one case that the lynching had taken place “by the will of God”.

As for Italy, the government was often incapable of a reaction to the height of so much brutality.

The “price of blood”: this is how the humiliating reparations paid by the American federal government to the families of the lynched Italians were called, in exchange for a justice that they had not wanted to do.

Thus the Italian newspaper in the United States did not exaggerate, commenting bitterly: “These Italians are so cheap that it is worth lynching them all.”

A dramatic and too often forgotten chapter in the history of Italian emigration is here reconstructed on the basis of a largely unpublished documentation.

The author analyzes the diplomatic controversies that the lynching cases had generated between the United States and Italy, an Italy destined to collect a series of failures without ever succeeding in obtaining that the “lynchers” were actually prosecuted and punished.

Patrizia Salvetti, is a professor at “La Sapienza” University in Rome. She is the author of various publications on political history and social history in the contemporary age, in particular the history of Italian emigration in the Americas: in the United States, Nicaragua, Chile and Argentina.

Read this archived Italo/Americano article
Immigrants Lynching Riots


This is the email that Basil M. Russo, President of the Order of Italian Sons and Daughters of America, wrote on April 7 to the Editorial Board at The New York Times.

On March 14, 1891 a mob estimated to range from eight thousand to twenty thousand people hung, shot, and clubbed to death eleven Italian immigrants outside the parish prison in New Orleans.   This was the largest recorded mass lynching in American history.    Nine of the immigrants had been charged with the murder of the city’s police chief.  A lawful trial had been held and the jury found none of them guilty.    

These lynchings were then orchestrated by the city”s political and business leaders, who chose to show their disdain for our country’s legal system of justice by committing eleven murders of their own.     As repulsive and shocking as the mob’s actions were, the response  of several newspapers, as well as some of our country’s political leaders including future president Theodore Roosevelt, were even more offensive.    Not only did they fail to condemn the lynchings and demand that those who participated be prosecuted, but rather they sought to justify and even applaud the lynchings.      

The most tragic example was that of the New York Times Editorial Board which wrote in response to the lynchings:            

“These sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins, who have transported to this country the lawless passions, the cut-throat practices, and the oath-bound societies of their native country, are to us a pest without mitigations…   These men of the Mafia killed chief Hennessy in circumstances of peculiar atrocity…  Lynch law was the only course open to the people of New Orleans to stay the issue of a new license to the Mafia to continue its bloody practices.”        

It is unimaginable that such words would appear on the editorial page of the world’s most influential and respected journalistic institution.  

In keeping with its longstanding reputation of exposing and condemning prejudice in America, The Times should set an example by publishing an apology.   

On April 12th, the Mayor of New Orleans will offer a proclamation of apology to the Italian American community for the city’s sordid role in the lynchings.  

It would be a fitting day for The Times to publish an apology to the Italian American community as well, for the ugly stereotypes and the unconscionable anti Italian immigrant rhetoric it expressed in its editorial.