Here's To You, Sacco & Vanzetti
May Your Idea Triumph Through Your Agony
On August 23, 1927, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were put to death at the hands of the State of Massachusetts, by an disgustingly biased trial.
The two Italian-American immigrants had a history in the anarchist movement in the United States, leaving them with federal profiles from historical police raids and suspects. Two weeks after an armed robbery outside a shoe factory in Braintree, Massachussetts, the two men were arrested late at night aboard a streetcar. The police found the men armed with pistols, ammunition, and anarchist literature. Barely able to speak English and scared out of their minds by what police had done to anarchist Andrea Salsedo (allegedly thrown out of a fourteenth story window during questioning), the Sacco and Vanzetti fumbled to offer honest and coherent answers about their identity.
Vanzetti best described Sacco before their executions (April 9, 1927):
Sacco is a worker from his boyhood, a skilled worker lover of work, with a good job and pay, a bank account, a good and lovely wife, two beautiful children and a neat little home at the verge of a wood, near a brook. Sacco is a heart, a faith, a character, a man; a man lover of nature and of mankind. A man who gave all, who sacrifice all to the cause of Liberty and to his love for mankind; money, rest, mundane ambitions, his own wife, his children, himself and his own life. Sacco has never dreamt to steal, never to assassinate. He and I have never brought a morsel of bread to our mouths, from our childhood to today--which has not been gained by the sweat of our brows. Never. His people also are in good position and of good reputation.
Oh, yes, I may be more witfull, as some have put it, I am a better babbler than he is, but many, many times in hearing his heartful voice ringing a faith sublime, in considering his supreme sacrifice, remembering his heroism I felt small small at the presence of his greatness and found myself compelled to fight back from my eyes the tears, and quench my heart troubling to my throat to not weep before him - this man called thief and assassin and doomed. But Sacco's name will live in the hearts of the people and in their gratitude when Katzmann's [prosecuting attorney] and yours bones will be dispersed by time, when your name, his name, your laws, institutions, and your false god are but a deem remembering of a cursed past in which man was wolf to the man."
Vanzetti, a fish peddler, was a poor but popular fellow in the Italian-American immigrant community. A friend to neighborhood children and their parents, Vanzetti barely spoke English at the time of his arrest; however, he later learned to translate his powerful poetic skills to English. Both Sacco and Vanzetti sought a better world - one without classes, sexism, racism, oppressive laws, dominating religions, and borders. They were full of optimism for the world and sought to pursue their idea of a beautiful humanity. The world lost two good men on August 27, 1927, at the hands of state injustice, fear of immigrants, and refusing to understand new ideas. They will not be forgotten, and more importantly, to them, neither shall their ideals.
"I know the sentence will be between two classes, the oppressed class and the rich class, and there will be always collision between one and the other. We fraternize the people with the books, with the literature. You persecute the people, tyrannize them and kill them. We try the education of people always. You try to put a path between us and some other nationality that hates each other. That is why I am here today on this bench, for having been of the oppressed class. Well, you are the oppressor." —Nicola Sacco, Statement to Court after being sentenced to death, April 9, 1927
"I never committed a crime in my life - I have never stolen and I have never killed and I have never spilt blood, and I have fought against crime, and I have fought and I have sacrificed myself even to eliminate the crimes that the law and the church legitimate and sanctify. This is what I say: I would not wish to a dog or to a snake, to the most low and misfortunate creature of the earth - I would not wish to any of them what I have had to suffer for things that I am not guilty of. I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was an Italian, and indeed I am an Italian; I have suffered more for my family and for my beloved than for myself; but I am so convinced to be right that you can only kill me once but if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times, I would live again to do what I have done already." —Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Statement to Court after being sentenced to death, April 9, 1927
"How many good souls are working in our behalf and suffering for our pains and sorrows who we do not know... Human nature is good. I would assert it even [if] I burned a hundred times." Bartolomeo Vanzetti to Alice Stone Blackwell (suffragette organizer), Charlestown State Prison, Charlestown, Massachusetts
"If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, justice, for man's understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing! The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler - all! That last moment belong to us - that agony is our triumph." —Bartolomeo Vanzetti, to a reporter before his execution
“Friends and Comrades, now that the tragedy of this trial is at an end, be all as of one heart. Only two of us will die. Our ideal, you our comrades, will live by millions; we have won, but not vanquished. Just treasure our suffering, our sorrow, our mistakes, our defeats, our passion for future battles and for the great emancipation.” —Sacco and Vanzetti, the Death House of the Massachusetts State Prison, August 21, 1927, 5:30 P.M.