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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Sacco and Vanzetti Murdered August 23, 1927

Shortly after midnight on August 23, 1927, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were murdered in the electric chair by the US state of Massachusetts. Italian born anarchists, they were railroaded during a trial for robbery and murder in 1921 that was widely admitted -- even at the time -- as being rigged with a verdict based on their background and political beliefs as opposed to their "guilt".

The electrocutions occurred despite years of appeals both in the courts and in the international court of public opinion. Their killings led to protests and riots worldwide.

In 1979, on the 50th anniversary of their murders, Sacco and Vanzetti were acknowledged to have been victims of an unfair process and exonerated by Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

Following an idea of American folk singer icon Woody Guthrie, another iconic folk singer Pete Seeger adapted Sacco's powerful last letter to his son Dante into song lyrics:

If nothing happens, they will electrocute us right after midnight

Therefore here I am right with you, with love and with open heart, as I was yesterday

Don't cry, Dante, for many, many tears have been wasted

As your mother's tears have been already wasted for seven years

And never did any good

So, son, instead of crying, be strong, be brave

So as to be able to comfort your mother

And when you want to distract her from the discouraging soulness

You take her for a long walk in the quiet countryside

Gathering flowers here and there

And resting under the shade of trees, beside the music of the waters

The peacefulness of nature, she will enjoy it very much

And you will surely, too

But, son, you must remember: Don't use all yourself

But down yourself, just one step

To help the weak ones at your side

The weaker ones that cry for help, the persecuted and the victim

They are your friends, friends of yours and mine

They are the comrades that fight -- yes, and sometimes fall

Just as your father, your father and Bartolo, have fallen

Have fought and fell, yesterday, for the conquest of joy

Of freedom for all

In the struggle of life you'll find, you'll find more love

And in the struggle, you will be loved also

Equally moving is the last letter of Vanzetti to Dante which read in part:

I tell you now that all that I know of your father, he is not a criminal, but one of the bravest men I ever knew. Some day you will understand what I am about to tell you. That your father has sacrificed everything dear and sacred to the human heart and soul for his fate in liberty and justice for all. That day you will be proud of your father, and if you come brave enough, you will take his place in the struggle between tyranny and liberty and you will vindicate his (our) names and our blood.

If we have to die now, you shall know, when you will be able to understand this tragedy in its fullest, how good and brave your father has been with you, your father and I, during these eight years of struggle, sorrow, passion, anguish and agony...

...Remember, Dante, remember always these things; we are not criminals; they convicted us on a frame-up; they denied us a new trial; and if we will be executed after seven years, four months and seventeen days of unspeakable tortures and wrong, it is for what I have already told you; because we were for the poor and against the exploitation and oppression of the man by the man.



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