Black Shirts, colloquial term originally used to refer to the members of the Fasci di combattimento, units of the Fascist organization founded in Italy in Mar., 1919, by Benito Mussolini. A black shirt was the most distinctive part of their uniform. The Black Shirts were mainly discontented ex-soldiers. Ultranationalist, they posed as champions of law and order and violently attacked Communists, socialists, and other radical and progressive groups. They broke up strikes, destroyed trade union headquarters, and drove socialist and Communist officials from office. In Oct., 1922, their activities culminated in the famous march on Rome, which brought Mussolini to power. Afterward, while the term "Black Shirts" continued to be used to refer to party militants in general, the name Fasci di combattimento designated the local party units.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.