Study Guide

Alligator Bayou Chapter 16

By Donna Jo Napoli

Chapter 16

  • Carlo cleans Calo's nasty chin and curses the white kids under his breath. The uncles come in, and Calo lies to them, leaving out most of the important things. He just mentions that the white boys said Sicilians are stupid and ruining business.
  • The uncles argue over what to do about this. One of them says that this will be New Orleans all over again. Calo doesn't understand, so the uncles decide to tell him everything they've been keeping a secret.
  • Rosario doesn't want to talk about it, because Cirone was only five when it happened, and he had nightmares afterward, but Cirone says he still wants to know.
  • Stepping in, Giuseppe says he'll tell the boys the story.
  • Soon after Giuseppe and the others arrived in New Orleans, a police commissioner was killed and someone said that dagoes did it, so policemen crashed the Sicilian homes and arrested two hundred and fifty men, keeping nineteen of them to put to trial. That's an awful lot of people for one murder.
  • During the first trial, six people were declared innocent, and mistrials were declared for three more people. That day, however, a meeting was called in a newspaper, and 20,000 white people gathered to break into the prison where the Sicilians were being held. They lynched eleven men.
  • Giuseppe cries, and Calo asks if anyone did anything to the people behind the lynching. Although Italy was apparently angry, the government decided it couldn't do anything about it. America's leadership had called Italians filthy and had said Italians should be wiped out.
  • Giuseppe feels guilty for hiding from the mob rather than defending the prison, but Rosario says there was no choice—they would have been killed.
  • Immediately afterward, everyone hated Italians. Italians were fired from every job except picking cotton on plantations, which is exactly what the white people wanted to have happen in response to the lynchings. White plantation owners had lost all of their slaves and couldn't force anyone to work cheaply enough anymore, so they created a sort of slave labor by denying Italians any other kind of job.
  • Francesco tells the boys that the reason Italians are not allowed to socialize with black people is that the white plantation owners can't afford for black people to quit their low-paying picking jobs; they think that because Sicilians quit and began their own businesses, they will influence black people to do the same.
  • The uncles decide that they can't cause trouble over Calo's beating, because they need to let it pass and make as much money as they can this season.
  • Taking out a pile of newspapers written about Italians, Calo reads them to Cirone. They are all about the injustice and hate white people have for Italians.
  • Cirone has nightmares about the murders to this day.

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