This Day in History

March 14, 1891: 11 Italians Lynched in New Orleans

Time Periods: 1877
Themes: Immigration
Italian Lynching 1891

The citizens breaking down the door of the parish prison with the beam. Source: Public domain.

On March 14, 1891, a mob lynched 11 Italians in New Orleans for the killing of the New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessey.

Many of the men lynched had been found not guilty in court.

According to Jessica Williams of the Advocate, the victims included: “fruit peddlers Antonio Bagnetto, Antonio Marchesi and Antonio Scaffidi; stevedores James Caruso and Rocco Geraci; cobbler Pietro Monasterio; tinsmith Loreto Comitis; street vendor Emmanuele Polizzi; fruit importer Joseph P. Macheca; ward politician Frank Romero; and rice plantation laborer Charles Traina.” Some of them had not yet been tried in court, others had already been acquitted.

In the late 19th century, there was much white southerner animosity toward Italians, who were immigrants and often refused to abide by Jim Crow laws.

To learn about their story, read “New Orleans Apologizes for 1891 Lynching of Italian-Americans” by Brigit Katz in the Smithsonian Magazine (April 15, 2019). There is also a young adult book of historical fiction about the event, Alligator Bayou.