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The Case of Sacco & Vanzetti: Leadership during times of Crisis. Essential Questions. What does the Red Scare teach us about our judicial system in time of fear? How do immigrants challenge our commitment to our judicial system? How open are we as a nation to diverse ideas? .

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essential questions
Essential Questions
  • What does the Red Scare teach us about our judicial system in time of fear?
  • How do immigrants challenge our commitment to our judicial system?
  • How open are we as a nation to diverse ideas?
the red scare 1918 1920
The Red Scare: 1918-1920
  • Response to the creation of Soviet Union
  • Fear of Communism and anarchy spreading in US
  • Series of terrorists bombs sent throughout the country
the fears communism anarchy
The Fears: Communism & Anarchy
  • Communism: political ideology promoting a violent revolution in order to redistribute property and create collective ownership of property, leading to the elimination of a society’s social class system in a way that would benefit the working classes.
  • Anarchy: political ideology promoting a society without government. Rather than submission to law, or to any authority, people would enter into free agreements between the various groups in order to achieve true economic and political freedom.
anarchist in the united states
Anarchist in the United States
  • Emma Goldman, Lithuanian born immigrant, 1869-1940
  • Agitated for union membership in US steel mills
  • Worked against World War I conscription
  • Promoted women’s birth control
  • Initially supported Soviet Union, but eventually saw it as another dictatorship
communists in the united states
Communists in the United States
  • John Reed, 1887-1920
  • Popular writer & activist
  • Opposed US entry into World War I, writer for The New Communist
  • Leader of the Communist Labor Party in the US
  • Eyewitness to Russian Revolution, becomes leader in Soviet government
the crime armed robbery murder association with radicals
The Crime: Armed Robbery, Murder & Association with Radicals?
  • At 3:00 P.M. on April 15,1920, a paymaster and his guard were carrying a factory payroll of $15,776 through the main street of South Braintree, Massachusetts.
  • On the evening of May 5, 1920, two Italians, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, fell into a police trap that had been set for a suspect in the Braintree crime. Sacco & Vanzetti were carrying guns at the time of their arrest and when questioned by the authorities they lied. As a result they were held and eventually indicted for the South Braintree crimes.
  • Both associated with anarchists involved in labor strikes, political agitation, and antiwar propaganda.

Why does Massachusetts hesitate? What does international labor protest? About Sacco & Vanzetti...

." Broadside, January 25, 1925 (Boston, 1925), Massachusetts Historical Society.

the trial
The Trial
  • Fred H. Moore, the well-known socialist lawyer politicizes the case using mass media. Effective but Expensive!
  • Found Guilty of Robbery & Murder!
  • Traditional Boston lawyer takes over appeals.
  • Protests throughout America and around the world by Italian government, liberals, radical anarchists, socialists, and communists in protesting the verdict against Sacco and Vanzetti.
in the words of sacco vanzetti
In the words of Sacco & Vanzetti
  • Thanks to you from the bottom of my heart for your confidence in my innocence; I am so. I did not spittel a drop of blood, or steal a cent in all my life. 

Bartolomeo Vanzetti from theCharlestown State Prison, 1921-24 July 22, 1921.  Charlestown Prison

  • August 4, 1927.


From the death cell we are just inform from the defense committee that the governor Fuller he has decided to kill us Aug. the 10th.  We are not surprised for this news because we know the capitalist class hard without any mercy the good soldiers of the rivolution.

Nicola Sacco from the Charlestown State Prison

the funeral
The Funeral
  • Executed on August 10, 1927, after all recourse in the Massachusetts courts had failed.
  • Public agitation around the world and influential behind-the-scenes interventions, finally persuaded the governor of Massachusetts, Alvan T. Fuller, to consider the question of executive clemency for the two men.
  • An advisory committee, the "Lowell Committee," concluded that the trial and judicial process had been just "on the whole" and that clemency was not warranted.
lasting questions from italians
Lasting Questions from Italians
  • “Those poor guys were only guilty of fighting racism and xenophobia.”
  • “What has changed? The death penalty still exists in Americn, even for those who are sometimes innocent, and racism and xenophobia are on the rise…”
  • “It is impossible to compare that period with this one. Nowadays the courts make mistakes, serious ones…back then outright murder was committed, for purely political ends….great progress has been made.”
  • “That was a nasty affair in a difficult time.”

As quoted by Andrea Camilleri, Italian author, New York Times, 8/23/07