Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair

The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair
    Book Description:

    What began as the obscure local case of two Italian immigrant anarchists accused of robbery and murder flared into an unprecedented political and legal scandal as the perception grew that their conviction was a judicial travesty and their execution a political murder. This book is the first to reveal the full national and international scope of the Sacco-Vanzetti affair, uncovering how and why the two men became the center of a global cause célèbre that shook public opinion and transformed America's relationship with the world.

    Drawing on extensive research on two continents, and written with verve, this book connects the Sacco-Vanzetti affair to the most polarizing political and social concerns of its era. Moshik Temkin contends that the worldwide attention to the case was generated not only by the conviction that innocent men had been condemned for their radical politics and ethnic origins but also as part of a reaction to U.S. global supremacy and isolationism after World War I. The author further argues that the international protest, which helped make Sacco and Vanzetti famous men, ultimately provoked their executions. The book concludes by investigating the affair's enduring repercussions and what they reveal about global political action, terrorism, jingoism, xenophobia, and the politics of our own time.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15617-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Sacco, Vanzetti, and the Historian
    (pp. 1-8)

    In 1920, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two young Italian immigrants and revolutionary anarchists living and working in Massachusetts, the former as a heel trimmer and the latter as a fish peddler, were arrested for the robbery and murder of a factory paymaster and security guard in South Braintree, an industrial suburb of Boston. They were convicted in 1921, and later sentenced to death. They were not executed, however, until 1927, by which time their previously obscure criminal case, one of many to occur in the United States in the immediate aftermath of World War I, had become the premier...

  5. CHAPTER 1 “The Two Most Famous Prisoners in the World”: From Case to Affair
    (pp. 9-57)

    Before the Sacco-Vanzetti affair, there was the Sacco-Vanzetti case. Initially, there seemed to be little remarkable about it. It began when Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian resident aliens who had been living and working in the United States since 1908, were arrested on May 5, 1920, for taking part in the robbery and murder of a shoe factory paymaster, Frederick Parmenter, and his security guard, Alessandro Berardelli, in South Braintree, Massachusetts, on April 15. Although every aspect of the case would later become the subject of endless heated debate, the details of the crime, at least, were clear...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Americans Divided: “Foreign Interference” and the Execution of Sacco and Vanzetti
    (pp. 58-100)

    In the wake of Sacco and Vanzetti’s executions and the powerful worldwide reaction to them, it was easy to forget that only a few months earlier the case had appeared likely to go either way. The first week of April 1927, in particular, had been a palpably tense time for the entire Sacco-Vanzetti camp. The defense committee in Boston was now working nights as well as days. Sacco and Vanzetti were still alive, but time was running out. The case was nearing its conclusion: that month, the Massachusetts supreme court rejected Sacco and Vanzetti’s appeal, and their lawyers, led by...

  7. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  8. CHAPTER 3 “This Frightful America Whose Heart Is Made of Stone”: The Transatlantic Affair
    (pp. 101-140)

    Sacco and Vanzetti’s most bitter American opponents, men as disparate as Frank Goodwin and John Henry Wigmore, were right in one sense: from beginning to end, this was an international story. The Sacco-Vanzetti case may have taken place mostly in Massachusetts, but the Sacco-Vanzetti affair was born abroad, most specifically in Europe. Even the termaffairitself was first used by French commentators. As in the United States, Sacco and Vanzetti attracted relatively little public attention in Europe between 1922 and 1926, when the legal process lagged and the death sentence had still not been pronounced. By late 1926 and...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The “Mob of Broadcloth-Coated, Heavy-Jowled Gentlemen”: The Lowell Commission and the Aftermath of the Affair
    (pp. 141-180)

    For many in the Sacco-Vanzetti camp, Americans and non-Americans alike, the formation of the Lowell advisory commission in June 1927, one month before the original scheduled date of Sacco and Vanzetti’s executions, was proof that the system worked after all: the unfortunate affair, it appeared, would have a happy ending. When on June 29 Fuller announced a thirty-day delay of the executions the optimists seemed to be vindicated; the next step, many believed, would be clemency. Even a conservative politician like Fuller, the former bicycle-repairman-turned-salesman and millionaire representative of the business class, could not resist, they believed, the flood of...

  10. CHAPTER 5 “A Kind of Madness”: The Return of Sacco and Vanzetti
    (pp. 181-218)

    Three decades after the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, the issue of the two Italian anarchists had settled for many into a largely unchallenged narrative that depicted the case as a product of the post–World War I Red Scare and the preference given by American legal and political authorities to “law and order” and the status quo over the principles of justice. It is not true, as some have suggested, that Sacco and Vanzetti were forgotten, or even obliterated from public memory, over the course of the 1940s and early 1950s. But neither can it be said that their...

  11. Postscript: The Place of Sacco and Vanzetti
    (pp. 219-224)

    In the eighty years since their deaths, Sacco and Vanzetti have occupied an array of roles in the public imagination. At the time of writing, however, they seem to have come full circle, even if they are no longer near the center of any political discussion. For many today Sacco and Vanzetti were the innocent victims of America’s first ill-conceived “war on terror,” their execution an act of barbarism that was rooted in the fear of immigrants, persecution of radicals, and oppression of the working class, at a time when being proletarian, Italian, and an anarchist was perhaps the equivalent...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 225-304)
  13. Index
    (pp. 305-316)