“My name is Salvatore Spinelli. My parents in Italy came from a decent family. I came here eighteen years ago and went to work as a house painter, like my father. I started a family and I have been an American citizen for thirteen years. I had a house at 314 East Eleventh St and another one at 316, which I rented out. At this point the ‘Black Hand’ came into my life and asked me for seven thousand dollars. I told them to go to hell and the bandits tried o blow up my house. Then I asked the police for help and refused more demands, but the “Black Hand’ set off one, two, three, four, five bombs in my houses. Things went to pieces. From thirty two tenants I am down to six. I owe a thousand dollars interest that is due next month and I cannot pay. I am a ruined man. My family lives in fear. There is a policeman on guard in front of my house, but what can he do? My brother Francesco and I do guard duty at the windows with guns night and day. My wife and children have not left the house for weeks. How long can this go on ?”

The name ‘Black Hand’ was taken from a secret Spanish society of anarchists, that later spread to other countries, particularly The Balkans, with the purpose of assassinating monarchs and other chiefs of state.

The fear of economic and social exclusion in such a rich and dynamic country, drove many Italians to attempt their own Black Hand extorsions and they also began threatening fellow Italians, helping to perpetuate the myth of ‘La Mano Nera’. This was an easy task as a strong fear was already instilled in the community, people were incredibly superstitious during this era, and even the mention of ‘La Mano Nera’ would cause people to cross themselves with the hope of protection. Italian folklore spoke of gangsters such as ‘Lupo the Wolf’ being able to cast the evil eye and to possess other magical powers, such stories only helped to compound the effectiveness of the Black Hand fear. The Black Hand thrived on this myth, and they knew the need to carry out their threats was essential to keep the fear alive.

GangRule | Gang | The Black Hand.