Kathi Borden, chair of AUNE’s Department of Clinical Psychology, co-led a discussion on how to minimize barriers to research on social justice issues, at the winter meeting of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology (NCSPP), held January 20-25 in New Orleans. The discussion included a focus on the special care needed to gain true informed consent for research participation from people who have traditionally not had much power.
It was a tragedy that few people today are familiar with: the lynching and murders of eleven Italian men in New Orleans in 1891. Lorraine Mangione, professor of clinical psychology, parsed the details of the story in a poster presented at NCSPP.
“Sicilian American Lynchings in New Orleans: What Can We Learn and Teach about Prejudice, Violence, and the Path to Social Justice?” sets the political and social background of post-Civil War Reconstruction. Sicilians, considered “undesirables,” had been recruited to the South as cheap labor. The 1890 murder of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy—who, as he was dying, purportedly accused “dagoes” of the crime—led to the trial of eleven Sicilian men. Eight were acquitted; mistrials were called for the other three. The next day, a mob of 6,000 people broke into the jail where Sicilians were being held and lynched nine of the men.
Although the Italian government pushed hard for justice for the Sicilians, many in the United States applauded the vigilante action (“the Italians over-reacted,” said U.S. Senator John Sherman of Ohio). No one was ever held to account for the crime.
Mangione’s poster asks what lessons can be learned from this sorry event, and about immigration, acculturation, and our present-day “lynching.” See the poster.