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New Orleans Mayor to Apologize for Mass Lynching of Italian Americans

Vigilante mob killed 11 in 1891
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2019 3:59 AM CDT
A copy of a March 14, 1891, newspaper advertisement as shown in the Musee Conti Wax Museum exhibit about the lynching of 11 Italian-Americans.   (AWE News via AP)

(Newser) – The mayor of New Orleans wants to heal what the Order of Sons and Daughters of Italy calls a "longstanding wound"—the deadliest recorded mass lynching in American history. On March 14, 1891, a mob of vigilantes stormed a jail in the city and killed 11 Italian Americans. The mob, which was outraged by the acquittal of six suspects a day before in the shooting death of Police Commissioner David Hennessy months earlier, hanged two men and shot another nine. Michael Santo of the Order of Sons and Daughters of Italy tells the AP that Mayor LaToya Cantrell embraced the idea of an apology after the group spoke to her about it earlier this year. The mayor's office says a proclamation will be released April 12.

Eight other Italian Americans being held in the jail managed to hide. Historians say the killings came at a time of rising anti-Italian prejudice. Eight of those killed were American citizens and three were Italian. Italy and the US cut off diplomatic relations with each other after the lynching. "They don't teach this in schools," says John Fratta of the Order, who hopes the apology will raise awareness of the episode. "Nobody thinks of an Italian being lynched, when it was common practice back then," he tells the BBC. "So [the apology] is more of an education, especially for younger Italian Americans." He says it is "also to let these 11 souls rest in peace, knowing that they got the apology they deserved." (Read more New Orleans stories.)

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