Descendants of Slain Police Chief and Lynched Italian Unite in New Orleans

May 27, 2019 499

BY: Marianna Gatto

On April 12, 2019, the city of New Orleans issued an official apology for its role in the 1891 lynching of eleven Italian Americans who had been tried and acquitted in the murder of the city’s police chief, David Hennessy. Gunned down while walking home on a rainy evening in October 1890, Hennessy allegedly stated that “dagoes” had attacked him. In the days following Hennessy’s death, upwards of 250 of the city’s Italian Americans were arrested, and nineteen men—the youngest only 14 years old—were indicted for murder.

A trial for nine of the suspects began in February 1891. Much of the evidence and testimony provided at the month-long trial was weak, contradictory, and overwhelmingly circumstantial. On March 13, 1891, a jury acquitted six of the men and declared a mistrial in the cases against another three.

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