Book Review: Rope and Soap

Rope and Soap: Lynchings of Italians in the United States

by Patrizia Salvetti

“Eleven Italians, some of whom were awaiting trial while others had been already acquitted, were forcibly removed from jail by a mob and lynched in public with the in-your-face acquiescence of the authorities.”

The Sacco and Vanzetti trial and executions made headlines across America during the 1920s. But there’s another part of Italian immigrant history in America that might be overlooked by students of history—death by lynching. Patrizia Salvetti’s book, “Rope and Soap,” does a superb job of researching and presenting this tragic period for people of Italian descent, from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The 1891 New Orleans’ hanging of 11 Italians is the largest mass lynching in U.S. history.

Harper’s Weekly, March 28, 1891

Salvetti, a professor of history at the University of Rome, Sapienza, employs a scholar’s approach in her book. Filled with copious facts from the first page to the last, you’ll get a history lesson that will enlighten you about the Italian experience in America. Why were Italians targeted for hanging? Why were they looked upon by non-Italians as a “lower rung” on the ladder toward prosperity, acceptance and justice? Salvetti provides answers with deep and insightful examination about the ethnic, political, and economic factors weighing upon people of Italian ancestry.

From the Vicksburg, Miss., lynching of an Italian citizen in 1886, to the  Tampa, Fla., lynching of two Italians in 1910, Salvetti delivers a powerful historical discourse. You might think this book is heavy reading, but it’s actually a thought-provoking look into a weighty subject—intolerance of Italians.

– Review by Robert Fanelli Bartus Jr. 

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This review appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of NIAF’s Ambassador Magazine.

Bordighera Press: 212 pages. $18 paperback. Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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One Response to Book Review: Rope and Soap

  1. More needs to be done to raise awareness of what our people went through.

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