The White House Recognizes Columbus Day was a Result of the 1891 Massacre of Italians in New Orleans

Oct 18, 2023 1337

BY: Charles Marsala

On Columbus Day, Dr. Jill Biden invited approximately 250 Italian-American and Italian Leaders to the White House for a reception to honor contributions of Italian-Americans to America and Italy’s NATO and G-7 Partnerships to America.

Attending from New Orleans were Charles Geno Marsala, President of the American-Italian Federation of the Southeast, and Frank Maselli, President of the American-Italian Cultural Center. Marsala presented the First Lady, whose grandparents are Sicilian, with a model of the Monument to the Sicilian Sugarcane Harvester that the Federation is erecting at Houmas House and Garden. 

From 1870-1920, over 60,000 Sicilians were recruited to cut sugarcane on Louisiana Plantations.

Two days later, Dr. Biden would again speak at the NIAF Gala to over 1,000 attendees. President Biden  also spoke of his connections to the Italian Community. Attending the NIAF Gala from New Orleans were Courtney Tanner and Mallory Barraco, two members of the St. Expedite ISDA Lodge, Alumni of the NIAF Voyage of Discovery Trip, and members of the Future Italian Leaders of America.

In both of Dr. Biden’s speeches and in the Presidential Proclamations of 2022 and 2023, The White House recognizes that Columbus Day was started by President Bejamin Harrison in 1892 after a massacre of eleven Italians funded by a grant of $10,000.00 by the New Orleans City Council in 1891 to a specially formed and appointed “Committee of Fifty.”

In 2019, Mayor LaToya Cantrell acknowledges this fact. However, since then the New Orleans City Council has taken actions against the Italian community in New Orleans. In 2022, the City Council voted to stop recognizing Columbus Day and has refused to recognize October as Italian Heritage Month.

In the last four years, the State of Louisiana has approved twelve Heritage Markers of Italian Contributions to New Orleans, however the City Council and New Orleans Park and Parkways will not authorize erection of the markers at the sites the events happened.

This includes a marker to Mother Cabrini’s orphanage that was opened during Yellow Fever pandemics, the site of the 1891 massacre and lynching, the 1923 landing of the first foreign plane in America, Mayor Victor Schiro’s efforts to obtain the NFL Saints Franchise and build the Superdome,  and the Italian Army Specialized Army Unit, Tivoli Circle, and the Bersaglieri that served as New Orleans Police and protected the city from fire and looting during the 1862 transfer of power to the Union Army.

In 2020, the City Council created a special Street Renaming Commission to rename streets to “remedy New Orleans violent mistreatment of immigrant groups.” The Italian community was excluded from the appointments to the commission and not even allowed to testify. Instead of renaming any streets to honor Italian contributions, in 2022 the City Council voted to rename Place du Tivoli Park.

The in 2021, the American-Italian Federation filed a lawsuit asking the city, requesting the city  acknowledge the legal name of Place du Tivoli for the park and Tivoli Circle for the street around the park. The city responded to court by agreeing with the claims of the Federation. 

The Federation then obtained permits to host an event honoring aviator Francesco de Pinedo, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean three months before Charles Lindbergh, with New Orleans as his first stop.

At the next council meeting, two council members motioned to rename the park from Tivoli to Harmony. The motion passed unanimously. No reason was given for changing the name. In 1810, the Tivoli Gardens outside Rome had inspired the creation of New Orleans Garden District. 

Periodically since 2020, Federation President Marsala has appeared before the Council and its Government Affairs committees and used other agenda items as means to remind the council of these harmful policies. At the October 2023 City Council meeting he added that the State of Louisiana is spending $200,000.00 to market Louisiana as a destination for Italian Tourists. There was no response.

Link to video:

Charles Marsala asked New Orleans City Council to recognize Italian Heritage Month & Tivoli Circle - YouTube

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