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2018 Movie "The Black Hand" Star Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Lieutenant Joseph P

Star Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Joe Petrosino, a distant relative of mine and a cousin of my dad's granfather. It feels good to be related to such a great hero -:) HAPPY 2018 TO YOU ALL!

Beniamino Petrosino Link:

VACANZE IN ITALIA! Come with Padula, to visit the birthplace of Joe Petrosino…/6f41b6_31892421f9054eb39bd1368…

Star: Leonardo DiCaprio Police officer, Joe Petrosino, seeks justice against a ruthless Italian-American gang in New York. A feature adaptation of Stephan Talty's book 'The Black Hand'. Writer: Stephan Talty (based on the book by) Star: Leonardo DiCaprio

The self-made cop who took on a notorious criminal syndicate

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Joseph (Giuseppe) PetrosinoCourtesy Everett Collection

The terror might come in the mail, or in an envelope slipped under the door. Or a note tacked to the wall. Pay up, it would say. Give us the money. Or your child dies. Go to the police, your child dies.

The letter would be unsigned. But everyone would know who had sent it: the dreaded Society of the Black Hand, a shadowy criminal organization that targeted Italian immigrants to the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The recipients of such a note had few options. If they did nothing, the Society might make good on its promises. Its threats weren’t empty — the Society was responsible for bombings, arson, kidnappings and murders. The Society’s targets could meet the extortioners’ exorbitant demands, and pay the hard-earned ransom — though inevitably, that would lead to demands for more money.

Because they were immigrants and because they were Italian, Black Hand victims typically could count on little help from officials. In New York, the bulwark against Black Hand was extraordinarily thin, but also very tough. It consisted chiefly of one man: a dark-suited, opera-loving bruiser of a cop with a photographic memory, a sixth grade education and fists like iron, named Joseph (Giuseppe) Petrosino.

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For more than 20 years, Petrosino waged an almost single-handed war against the Society of the Black Hand. It was as much a war for the place of Italian immigrants in American society, for their rights to exist and to be seen as Americans worthy of legal protection.

It’s a story recounted in Stephen Talty’s engrossing new book, “The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). And if this pitched battle sounds like the stuff of a Hollywood screenplay, it is; Leonardo DiCaprio will be playing Petrosino in an film adaptation of the book that will most likely be released sometime in 2018.

Petrosino was the very definition of a self-made man. Born in the Campania region of what is now Italy in 1860, he came to New York with his widowed father at the age of 13. The young immigrant worked his way up from bootblack to street sweeper to manning a garbage scow, where he was noticed by a Tammany-connected police inspector named Aleck “Clubber” Williams.

Recognizing the young man’s talent and drive, and seeking ways to bring Italian voters into the Tammany fold, Williams made Petrosino a member of the NYPD in 1883. At 23 years old, Petrosino became one of the very first Italian-American police officers in New York City.

This distinction came at a price, as Petrosino also became the object of intense criticism from his neighbors in Little Italy. Many viewed him as a traitor to his people, someone who had turned his back on Italians in favor of an untrustworthy, oppressive American government. It wasn’t long before he started receiving death threats. Petrosino was forced to move to an Irish neighborhood to escape the barrage.

If the anti-police sentiment bothered the young recruit, it didn’t keep Petrosino from quickly proving himself to be an exceptionally gifted law officer. His native command of Italian dialects allowed him to patrol the city’s Italian communities, and to develop informants, with a facility that his Irish peers lacked. Though he stood only 5-foot-3, he carried himself with a cocksure confidence. He had an internal catalog of faces and names for most everybody he met. He also had a closet full of disguises that he would employ to go undercover.

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