Italic Institute of America
Untitled Document
Subscribe to our blog
This Month in History
Columbus House Banner
Galleria Italica Galleria Italica Videos
Ara Pacis Site
Holocaust Report
Bella Musica, Italians in Jazz book ORDER NOW!  
Film Study 2015 NEW FILM STUDY!

Organized Crime--Learn More

Although America prides itself on being a fair and democratic nation, it has unfairly labeled only one particular group of its citizens as inherently criminal: the Italians. It is "ethnic profiling" without precedent in the history of our nation, reinforced almost daily through every available media outlet: film, theater, literature, newspapers, magazines, regular and cable television, the music industry, video games and even, as of late, children's entertainment. Images of Italians as gangsters are now seen as "the norm."

It began in turn-of-the-century New Orleans, where successful Italian immigrants were profiled as "mafiosi" by racist nativist bigots and yellow journalists. Such prejudice reached the masses with the advent of sound film in 1927 when filmmakers seized upon the current criminal-in-vogue, Al Capone, giving his image a national cinematic boost.

Not to be outdone, mainstream newspapers stoked anti-Italian sentiment over the next few decades. The culmination of this prejudice, sensationalizing Italian thugs at the expense of American criminals of other ethnicities, led to no less than three government-sponsored public hearings on organized crime: the Kefauver Hearings of 1954, the Valachi Hearings of 1962 and the Johnson Commission of 1967.

The results of all three hearings were inconclusive; however, the perceived notion of an invisible, omnipotent criminal organization known as the "mafia," run by the Italians and controlling all illegal activities in the U.S., firmly took hold of the American imagination.

Mario Puzo's "The Godfather"By the time Mario Puzo published his fictionalized best-seller "The Godfather" in 1969, the American public had long been conditioned to associate organized crime only with Italian Americans criminals. The coup de grace came with Francis Ford Coppola's lush, romantic treatment of Puzo's book three years later. The success of the "Godfather" films legitimized widely-held prejudicial attitudes and transported them into the realm of myth.

Should American journalists eventually decide to "think outside the pizza box" via organized crime, we've compiled a list of solid, well-researched books which firmly challenge the notion that criminality is somehow exclusive to people of Italian heritage. Most, if not all, of these books are available at or at your local library.

Books On . . .

Irish Criminals

"Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster" by T.J. English Whitey Bulger, the F.B.I.'s Most Wanted Criminal (2006)

The Westies "The Westies" by T.J. English

"Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob" by Edward J. Mackenzie

"The Mob: The History of Irish Gangsters in America" by James Durney

Jewish Criminals

Arnold Rothstein 'Tough Jews" by Rob Cohen

"But He Was Good to His Mother" by Robert Rockaway

"The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America" by Delbert Fried

"Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob has Invaded America" by Robert Friedman

"Super Mob" by Gus Russo

Asian Criminals

"The Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld" by David Kaplan and Alee Dubro Yoshinuri Watanabe

"Yakuza Diary" by Christopher Seymour

"Tongs, Gangs and Triads: Chinese Gangsters in North America" by Peter Huston

"Unsubmissive Women: Chinese Prostitutes in 19th Century San Francisco" by Benson Tong

African-American Criminals

"Black Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia's Black Mafia" by Sean Griffin Stephanie St. Clair

"African American Organized Crime" by Rufus Schatzberg and Robert J. Kelly

"Life in the Gang: Family, Friends and Violence" by Scott H. Decker and Barrik Van Wiakle

"Uprising: The Crips and the Bloods" by Yusef Jah and Sister Shah' Keyah

Hispanic Criminals

"A Brief History of Cocaine: From Inca Monarchs to Cali Cartels: 500 Years of Cocaine Deals" by Steven Karch Pablo Escobar

"Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw" by Mark Bowden

"Queen of the South" by Arturo Perez-Reverte

"Mexican Roulette" by Diana Washington Valdez

English Scots/Irish Criminals

"Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America" by Ira Berlin William Simmons

"Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan" by David Mark Chalmers

"Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat" by Morris Dees

"The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron" by Bethany McLeon

German Criminals

"Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William Shirer Ed Gein

"Hitler Youth" by Michael Kater

"Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho" by Harold Schechter

"The Jeffrey Dahmer Story: An American Nightmare" by Donald A. Dans

"Blood In Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood" by John Lee Brook

Arabic/Muslim Criminals

Osama bin Laden "The Washing Machine: How Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Soils Us" by Nick Kochan

"In The Name of Osama Bin Laden: Global Terrorism and the Bin Laden Brotherhood" by Roland Jacquard, Samia Serageldin and George Holoch

"War and Slavery in Sudan" by Jok Madut Jok

the Media Analysis of Organized Crime

"The Mafia Mystique" by Professor Dwight Smith

"Wicked City: Chicago in the 1920s" by Richard Johnson

"Organized Crime" by Michael D. Lyman and Dr. Gary W. Potter

"Beyond the Mafia: The History of Organized Crime in Chicago" by Prof. Robert Lombardo
Copyright © 2007 Italic Institute of America, P.O. Box 818, Floral Park, NY 11001     Last updated February 2017