The Largest Mass Lynching in US History

In the United States, Italian immigrants were subject to extreme prejudice, racism, and, in many cases, violence. During the 1800s and early 20th century, Italian Americans, seen as non-Anglo and non-white, were the second most likely ethnic group to be lynched.

In 1891, eleven Italian immigrants in New Orleans were lynched due to their supposed Mafia role in murdering the police chief David Hennessy. This was the largest mass lynching in US history.

The Italians, who were thought to have assassinated police chief David Hennessy, were arrested and placed in a jail cell before being brutally murdered by a lynch mob that stormed the jailhouse, with witnesses claiming that the cheers "were nearly deafening". The prison doors were forced open and 11 of 19 Italian men who had been indicted for Hennessy's murder were lynched. Cries of "hang the dagos" were heard throughout the riot. Reporting on the incident, one newspaper reported "The little jail was crowded with Sicilians, whose low, receding foreheads, dark skin, repulsive countenances and slovenly attire proclaimed their brutal nature".  The leaders of the mob justified the lynching by claiming the jury had been bribed, but only six of those lynched had been put on trial. In addition to the 11 lynch victims, five prisoners were severely wounded in the attack and died soon afterwards. Charles Mantranga, believed to be a ringleader, survived. A grand jury investigated and cleared those involved in the lynching. Afterwards, hundreds of Italian immigrants, most of whom were not criminals, were arrested by law enforcement.

After the American federal government refuses to intervene on grounds that crime is a state matter, Italy recalls its ambassador to U. S. and U. S. recalls its ambassador from Italy.

1882: Matter settled when U. S. pays Italy $25,000 indemnity.

The lynchings were the subject of the 1999 made-for-TV movie Vendetta, starring Christopher Walken.