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New Orleans Finally Issues an Apology for Famous Lynchings

For those readers of the Italian Tribune who were appalled by the incidents related in the March 28th cover story, “The Grisly Tale of Sicilian Lynchings,” there is more news regarding this shocking incident in American history.

The City of New Orleans will be issuing an official Proclamation of Apology on April 12 regarding what was the largest lynching in United States history. Admittedly, at more than 128 years after the fact, it is too little, too late and for the eleven Italians, primarily Sicilians, who were clubbed, shot and hung. It is hoped that relating the story provided readers with a point of reflection as a decade of horror began for Italian immigrants in the South, with repeated lynchings and riots in the Gulf area for the remainder of the 1890s.

Given the local New Orleans governmental leaders’ complicity at the time, the tragedy loomed large, not only over the city, but over the nation. It led to a serious international dispute, as Italy cut off diplomatic ties with the United States, setting back relations between the two countries for several years.

The events in New Orleans were seminal in the spread of anti-immigrant sentiment and terrorism, as well as religious bias. It distorted the American view of Italian immigrants, causing countless lives to be rendered marginalized for decades to come.

There has never been an official apology by any New Orleans government official for the tragedy. This solemn event signifies a milestone in acknowledging the human tragedy and a wound to Italian Americans that is well more than century old.

The long overdue apology was prompted based on the efforts of Robert M. Ferrito, State President of the Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America Grand Lodge of New York (OSDIA), in conjunction with John Fratta, Chairman of the New York State Commission for Social Justice and Michael A. Santo, Esq.

The presentation of the Official Proclamation of Apology for this tragic event will be made by the Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell at 11:00 am on Friday, April 12, at the American Italian Cultural Center, which is located at 537 South Peters Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.