VENDETTA: A True Story of the Worst Lynching in America. . . . by Richard Gambino

VENDETTA: A True Story of the Worst Lynching in America. . . .

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Italians lynched in America? The news will surprise many. Yet few nativist uprisings can equal the virulence of the anti-Italian hysteria which broke out in New Orleans in 1891. Gambino, who elsewhere has written more fully about the Italians in America (Blood of My Blood, 1974), dates the damaging popular identification of ""Italian"" with ""Mafia"" to the frenzied mob that stormed New Orleans' Parish Prison, killing eleven ""dagoes"" suspected of shooting David Hennessy, the city's popular police chief. The fact that a jury had just acquitted the Italians despite a kangaroo trial only heightened the mob's bloodlust. Though this little-known outrage was recently covered in William Burrow's Vigilante!(p. 501), Gambino expands on the gory particulars to argue that the murder of Hennessy was seized upon ""to destroy the rising economic power and social threat of the Italian community,"" which was gaining a foothold on the docks and in the produce, oyster, and fish trades. Further, it spurred the movement for exclusionist immigration policies. Scanning nationwide press accounts, Gambino concludes that fully 50 percent condoned the lynchers' justice; one New Orleans paper called it ""a movement conceived by gentlemen and carried out by gentlemen."" A chilling, carefully documented case history of American ""racial"" prejudice run amok and its lasting imprint on one ethnic stereotype.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1976
Publisher: Doubleday