Freaky Flint History with Joe Schipani - The Black Hand January 5th, 1918

Flint is well known for its modern violent crimes but Flint's history is filled with little known stories that read stranger than fiction. Gruesome murders, weird accidents, and violent deaths. Join us every Thursday as Joe Schipani details some of the odd but true deaths he found in Flint's archives.

The Black Hand January 5th, 1918

The Black Hand was a reference to Italian gangs in America around the turn of the twentieth century.

The Black Hand was best known for extortion. They would charge business owners a fee to operate in their area and if they didn’t pay they would be threatened with kidnapping, arson, or murder.

Just after the first of the year in 1918, the Black Hand sent out late notices to the business owners in Flint letting them know their fate if they didn’t pay by the end of business day on January 5th.

John Drudi of St. John Street received a death threat and took the letter to the police.

The police set up a stake out at John’s house. When the Black Hand showed up and started shooting the police were there to make arrests.

John Surace, an Italian grocer and meat dealer, located at 933 Trafalet Street was not so lucky.

He received the same death threat and blew it off thinking that they would not follow through. Plus he felt he was ready for them if they did come after him.

That evening John was enjoying a nice supper when gunshots blazed through the wall hitting him in the head.

John was rushed to the hospital.

He died a few hours later.

The only clue the police had was the note from the Black Hand. 

~ Joe Schipani is the Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project and the FFAR Project Assistant at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.  Find him on Facebook at 

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