New Orleans Mayor Apologizes for Mass Lynching of Italians in 1891

New Orleans officials and Italian Americans were united as the city paid tribute to the 11 Italian immigrants who were killed over a crime they didn't commit.

A historic event unfolded Friday when New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell presented a proclamation of apology to the Italian American community for the largest lynching in U.S. history.

Following the murder of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy on Oct. 16, 1890, a feverish vendetta took hold and several Italian immigrants were rounded up and arrested without just cause. Nine of the 19 men who were indicted went to trial and the jury found none of them guilty of any crime.

In reaction to this — on March 14, 1891 — a mob formed outside of Parish Prison. The rioters broke inside and dragged 11 of the Italian immigrants out into the street. They were hung, shot, and clubbed to death.

None of the roughly 8,000 to 20,000 vigilantes — who were armed with Winchester rifles, axes and rope — were ever charged.

Related: The New York Times Should Apologize for Sympathizing With a Lynch Mob

“I want to say thank you to our Italian American community, who has made New Orleans what she is today–it’s a fact. For your contributions to the culture and economy, our landscape of our city, and, of course, our country. We cannot deny that. So, on behalf of the citizens of New Orleans, I will present a proclamation,” Cantrell said as she delivered the apology to a packed room at the city’s American Italian Cultural Center.

The proclamation was drafted and set in motion by special counsel Michael Santo, the Commission of Social Justice and Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America. 

Watch the ceremony here:

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