Why Lynch Italians?

This weekend local residents will celebrate their Italian, as well as Irish, ancestry at parades and block parties with the joy and abandonment for which New Orleans is famous.  On the Feast Day of St. Joseph, March 19th, St. Joseph Day altars will be featured at churches with Italian roots throughout the metro area. 

Tomorrow, March 14th, is also a unique day in the history of Italian immigration to New Orleans, but not for reasons we celebrate.  It was on March 14, 1891, that eleven Italians were lynched at the hands of a mob at Orleans Parish Prison.  The brutal murders were precipitated by the assassination of a popular Chief of Police, David Hennessy, who was shot in front of his home on Girod Street on the foggy evening of October 15, 1890.  When a friend rushed to his aid, Hennessy allegedly whispered to him, “The Dagoes did it.” The chief was taken to Charity Hospital but died the following morning without ever having identified his assassins.[1] MORE>>


[1] John V. Baiamonte, Jr., “Who Killa de Chief” Revisited: The Hennessy Assassination and Its Aftermath, 1890 -1991,” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 33, No. 2, (Spring, 1992), p. 122 and Clive Webb, “The lynching of Sicilian immigrants in the American South, 1886-1910,” American Nineteenth Century History, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 2002, p. 45.