Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind

Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind

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by Bruce Watson
     
 

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In this groundbreaking narrative of one of America's most divisive trials and executions, award-winning journalist Bruce Watson mines deep archives and newly available sources to paint the most complete portrait available of the 'good shoemaker' and the 'poor fish peddler.' Opening with an explosion that rocks a quiet Washington, D.C., neighborhood and concluding

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Overview

In this groundbreaking narrative of one of America's most divisive trials and executions, award-winning journalist Bruce Watson mines deep archives and newly available sources to paint the most complete portrait available of the 'good shoemaker' and the 'poor fish peddler.' Opening with an explosion that rocks a quiet Washington, D.C., neighborhood and concluding with worldwide outrage as two men are executed despite widespread doubts about their guilt, Sacco & Vanzetti is the definitive history of an infamous case that still haunts the American imagination.

Editorial Reviews

William Grimes
Sacco and Vanzetti, Bruce Watson's spirited history of the affair, does a great service in rescuing fact from the haze of legend and disentangling Sacco and Vanzetti from the symbols they all too quickly became. It restores immediacy to a wretched series of events that first need to be understood on their own terms.
—The New York Times
Jonathan Yardley
Because many Americans under the age of 50 probably know little if anything about this important case, with its broad and lasting implications, it is good to have Watson's account. The literature of the case is vast, but surprisingly little of it provides as balanced and unemotional a survey as this volume does…Watson…does solid, extensive research. He clearly sympathizes with Sacco and Vanzetti, and believes they were innocent victims of what amounted to a witch hunt, but he acknowledges that in some respects their behavior was suspect and their explanations inconsistent. Removed by eight decades from the furor, he does not succumb to the heated passions of the day, but he does convey the full extent of popular feeling. For people who need an introduction to the case, his Sacco & Vanzetti will serve very well.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are among the most famous political martyrs of 20th-century America, convicted of murder by a Massachusetts jury and executed in 1929. Watson (Bread and Roses) expertly runs through the facts of the case and the basic legal injustices perpetrated against the two men, beginning with their arrest on suspicion of a payroll robbery up to their electrocution, without agitating for either end of the political spectrum. He carefully establishes the context of anarchist terrorism that stirred public sentiment against the two admittedly radical defendants-including the judge at their trial, who made numerous prejudicial remarks outside the courtroom. Fellow radicals (and many moderate liberals) were outraged by the proceedings, but Watson observes that most Americans were too caught up in the "amusement park" mentality of the 1920s to care about them-a conclusion slightly at odds with the passionate debate to this day over their guilt. Watson quotes extensively from Sacco and Vanzetti's letters, with their imperfect English, to flesh out their personalities (he has also written an introduction to a new Penguin Classics edition of the correspondence). 16 pages of b&w photos. (Aug. 20)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Why revisit the story of Sacco and Vanzetti 80 years after their execution for murder? Because issues raised by their case still resonate in today's world. After seven years of appeals, hunger strikes, and worldwide attention, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were put to death following their controversial trial for the murder of two security guards during a daring daytime armed robbery in Massachusetts. Were they guilty? We may never know, but Watson clearly makes the case that they deserved nothing less than a second day in court. As immigrants and avowed anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti were met with much prejudice from police and prosecutors. We are still grappling with how we treat-and mistreat-immigrants, and we are still debating the death penalty and reopening cases to analyze DNA evidence to exonerate innocent defendants today. Journalist and author Watson (Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream) has written a well-researched page-turner. Highly recommended.
—Karen Sandlin Silverman

Kirkus Reviews
Vivid recreation of the furor surrounding America's own Dreyfus Affair. By any reasonable measure, the 1920 robbery that left two dead in South Braintree, Mass., ought not to have drawn headlines any farther than Boston. But from the time of their arrest, the alleged crime of shoemaker Nicola Sacco and fish peddler Bartolomeo Vanzetti, both Italian and both committed anarchists, morphed into something much larger: a test of the American justice system that reverberated worldwide. Highly credentialed in the politics and social history of the early 20th century, Watson (Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream, 2005, etc.) colorfully charts the trial, riddled with conflicting testimony, hopelessly compromised ballistics evidence, shady witnesses, sharp-elbowed lawyers and prejudicial rulings. He provides especially memorable portraits of the accused and of flinty prosecutor Frederick Katzmann, narrow-minded Judge Webster Thayer and flamboyantly ineffective defense attorney Fred Moore. He contextualizes the case in the frivolous, deeply corrupt '20s, when memories of the sacrifices of World War I were still vivid and the fears that prompted the 1919 Red Scare (memorably recounted in Kenneth Ackerman's Young J. Edgar, 2007) remained strong. The question pursued through appeals, new investigations and stays of execution was whether two immigrants with deeply unpopular politics received a fair trial in the conservative Bay State. "No," cried a glittering list of authors (John Dos Passos, Anatole France, Dorothy Parker, Upton Sinclair, Walter Lippmann), legal experts (Felix Frankfurter, Benjamin Cardozo), intellectuals (Albert Einstein), politicians (FiorelloLaGuardia), labor unions, socialists, communists and a gaggle of Boston socialites, who took up what became an international cause. Widespread demonstrations, strikes and bombings didn't help Sacco and Vanzetti, who were finally electrocuted on August 23, 1927. Likely to become for a new generation of readers the definitive account of a case that still arouses controversy. Agent: Jeff Kleinman/Graybill & English Literary Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670063536
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/16/2007
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.28(h) x 1.45(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Bruce Watson is an award-winning journalist whose articles have been published in Smithsonian, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Examiner, Yankee Magazine, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003.

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