A primary source by Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee

Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, “Justice the Issue! Shall Sacco and Vanzetti On May 31, 1921, Nicola Sacco, a 32-year-old shoemaker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a 29-year-old fish peddler, went on trial for murder in Boston. More than a year earlier, on April 15, 1920, a paymaster and a payroll guard had been killed during a payroll heist in Braintree, Massachusetts, near Boston. Three weeks later, Sacco and Vanzetti were charged with the crime.

Many Americans found the evidence against the men flimsy and believed that they were being prosecuted for their immigrant background and their radical political beliefs. This broadside, published by the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, articulates the reasons for the pair’s persecution: “The two workers were convicted in the midst of the red hysteria of 1921. They hold views opposed by the controlling influences of America.” Sacco and Vanzettti were both Italian immigrants and avowed anarchists who advocated the violent overthrow of capitalism. It was the height of the post–World War I Red Scare, and the atmosphere was seething with anxieties about Bolshevism, aliens, domestic bombings, and labor unrest.

Sacco and Vanzetti trial were convicted of murder on July 14, 1921. In June 1927, responding to public criticism of the trial and verdict, a committee was appointed by the governor of Massachusetts to review the trial’s fairness. The committee, which included Abbott Lawrence Lowell, the president of Harvard University, determined that the trial had been fair, and the men were electrocuted on August 23, 1927.

Broadside against the Sacco-Vanzetti execution, ca. August 1927. (GLC05712.02)Their execution divided the nation and produced an uproar in Europe. Newspaper columnist and Harvard alumnus Heywood Broun criticized the execution and the trial committee’s findings. Broun’s opinion about the Sacco and Vanzetti case is the focus of this broadside, printed just after the executions: “What more can these immigrants from Italy expect? It is not every prisoner who has a President of Harvard University throw on the switch for him.”

Questions for Discussion

You are seeing this page because you are not currently logged into our website. If you would like to access this page and you are not logged in, please login or register for a gilderlehrman.org account, and then visit the link that brought you to this notice. Thanks!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to get free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments