- "The Black Hand, an offshoot of the Mafia which extorted money from families and storekeepers by threat of physical violence."
- ―The Godfather
Originating in Naples, the term gained prominence when referring to Italian or Sicilian immigrant criminals who moved to the United States from the 1880s onwards. Massimo Fanucci was a practicer of Black Hand techniques, which were improved upon by the men who later ran the Five Families in New York City, such as Vito Corleone.
By 1900, Black Hand operations were firmly established in the Italian-American communities of major cities including New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, Scranton, San Francisco, and Detroit. Although more successful immigrants were usually targeted, possibly as many as 90% of Italian immigrants and workmen in New York and other communities were threatened with extortion. On occasion, Black Handers threatened other gangsters and usually faced retaliation.
The Black Hand practice in the United States disappeared in the mid 1920s after a wave of negative public opinion led organized crime figures to seek more subtle methods of extortion.