Courtesy of the Boston Public Library
1927
Italian American martyrs Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti executed.


The Sacco and Vanzetti case was a true cause celebre that has had worldwide reverberations, one that continues to engender passion and vituperation. Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco, a shoemaker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a fish peddler, who emigrated in 1908, were philosophical anarchists who lived within the Italian colony of Boston, and who were apprehended in 1920 for a payroll robbery and a murder in South Braintree, Massachusetts. In 1921 a jury found the two guilty, however, appeals and motions were filed asserting that material evidence that was crucial to the trial was not permitted by the presiding judge who passed a death sentence. Although the judge continued to deny the motions, an impressive array of esteemed jurists asserted that their review of the trial records indicated that the men were innocent. Although poorly educated, the demeanor of Sacco and Vanzetti was impressive. They asserted " I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was Italian, and indeed I am an Italian." The case galvanized well-known liberals who wrote articles, books, plays, and painted works in support of Sacco and Vanzetti. It also affected the Italian American community where, in some instances, funds were raised to aid in the cost of their legal defense. Although the protests caused the governor of Massachusetts to appoint a three-man commission of distinguished leaders to review the proceedings, the original decision remained and in August 1927, notwithstanding worldwide demonstrations, the two men were executed. In 1977 Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis exonerated them and issued a statement in which he declared "that any stigma and disgrace should be forever removed from the names of Nicola Sacco and Bartoleomeo Vanzetti." It might be added that the case refuses to die with new publications that continue to debate their guilt or innocence. Proponents of their innocence cite a highly charged nationalistic atmosphere totally unreceptive to radical ideologies and a prevailing anti-immigrant sentiment that precluded a fair trial.



Courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Popular Sacco and Vanzetti poster

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library





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