The Black Hand Mafia

What is the Black Hand Mafia?

The Black Hand Mafia was a powerful Italian crime syndicate that operated in the United States from the early 1900s to the early 1970s responsible for a wave of violent crimes, including extortion, kidnapping, and murder. 

Origins of the Black Hand Mafia

The Black Hand Mafia organisation started in Sicily, where it was known as La Mano Nera (The Black Hand).

The Black Hand Mafia’s name was derived from the Black Hand Mafia’s practice of using a black handprint to mark their victims for death.

The Black Hand Mafia came to America in the 1880s, when Sicilian immigrants began arriving in New York City, and the Black Hand Mafia quickly gained a foothold in Manhattan’s Little Italy neighbourhood.

From there, the Black Hand Mafia spread to other cities with large Italian populations, such as Chicago and Philadelphia extorting money from local businesses.

As the Black Hand Mafia’s operations expanded, so did its reach; by the early 1900s, the Black Hand Mafia had members in nearly every major city on the East Coast of the United States.

While the majority of the Black Hand Mafia’s members were Italian-Americans, the Black Hand Mafia also included individuals of other ethnicities who shared their criminal goals.

One notable example is Jewish-American gangster Meyer Lansky, who became a close associate of Lucky Luciano—one of the most powerful figures in the Black Hand Mafia.

Despite its name, the Black Hand Mafia was not a centralized organization with a hierarchical structure.

Instead, the Black Hand Mafia was made up of loosely affiliated gangs that operated independently from one another.

This lack of structure made it difficult for law enforcement to effectively combat the Black Hand Mafia.

The Black Hand Mafia Extortion Racket

The Black Hand Mafia’s signature crime was extortion. Business owners and others who had money were targeted with letters that demanded payment or else they would be killed or have their families harmed. 

The letters were usually signed with a drawing of a black hand. Many people paid the blackmail demands, but those who didn’t often found themselves on the receiving end of violence.

The Black Hand Mafia also carried out kidnappings for ransom.

The Black Hand Mafia’s extortion racket came to an end after several high-profile arrests and convictions in the 1910s.

End Of The Black Hand Mafia

In the late 1970s, the Black Hand Mafia began to disintegrate due to infighting and law enforcement pressure.

The Black Hand Mafia’s demise was also hastened by the death of its leader, Angelo “Big Al” Capone, in 1975.

By the early 1980s, the Black Hand Mafia had ceased to exist.


The Black Hand Mafia was a powerful organized crime syndicate in the United States from the early 1900s until the 1970s.

The reign of the Black Hand Mafia ended in the 1970s which stopped the Black Hand Mafia’s involvement in a wide variety of criminal activities, including murder, extortion, and racketeering.