Celebrate! October is Italian-American Heritage Month!

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According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of illegal lynchings between 1882 and 1962 was 4,736. This data was compiled by the Department of Records and Research, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama; and published in: Ploski, Harry, and Williams, James; The Negro Almanac: A Reference Work on Afro-American, 4th ed. New York: Wiley, 1983. As you might suspect most of these lynchings (roughly 73%) were perpetrated upon blacks. It might astonish you, however, to learn the largest lynching event in U.S. history contained no black victims. Here’s how I discovered this fact.

A couple of weeks ago, Tim and Deb Smith’s “Mendon’s Historic Hamlets – Rochester Junction, Part 2” told the story of the death of Spencer Howe. The suspect, Nicolo DeNardo, fled the scene, but was later captured by police. The headline in the Democrat and Chronicle shouts “Struck Down by a Dago.” The casual use of that ethnic slur got me curious. Did other newspapers of that era also use it?

I quickly found out there’s an island called Dago in the Baltic Sea near the Gulf of Finland. Apparently, it was quite the popular place to wreck your ship in the eighteenth century.

I landed closer to my mark when I saw the following page two of the Friday, January 2nd, 1835 edition of The New York Evening Post. Here’s what it said: “Five Dollars Reward, for Continue Reading “Celebrate! October is Italian-American Heritage Month!”

A Christmas Carol

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King_of_Diamonds_stock_xchng_royalty_free-1Sett’ e mezz’!” roared my grandfather as he rose from his seat. He towered over my meek ten-year old body like a grizzly bear rearing above its prey.

I saw hunger in his ferocious eyes. But I wasn’t afraid. I knew the next lesson was about to begin.

“Sam!” yelled my grandmother, instinctively and in that terse disapproving way it seemed she could summon up from nowhere. Immediately the aggressiveness vanished from my grandfather’s countenance and he obediently shrank back into his chair.

“What do you want me to do, Flo? Those are the rules,” he said, timidly trying to justify his actions. Sensing his own reticence, he tried to counter it by continuing with a voice rising in intensity and ending with a tone of self-assured purpose. “He dealt me the King of Diamonds. The rule is you have to let the dealer know as soon as you get it. You’re supposed to shout ‘Sette e la mezza,’ too. Do you expect me to treat him any different than anyone else? Sooner or later he’s gonna go out in the real world. You think they’re gonna treat him nice? No. Look at him. If he doesn’t toughen up, they’re gonna eat him alive.”

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A Personal Reflection of A. Bartlett Giamatti

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the September 7, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259I sat in Woolsey Hall with 1,300 other Freshmen nearly 11 years ago to the day. At the podium stood the newly ordained University President, who’s very pompous pontification my Gates-Chili classmates had earlier warned me to be wary of. “Remember, Chris,” they advised me prior to my departure in early September, “don’t let their fancy words and snobby accents intimidate you. After all, they’re only Continue Reading “A Personal Reflection of A. Bartlett Giamatti”