Sacco & Vanzetti: A national and international sensation

Learn about the national and international sensation created by the Sacco & Vanzetti trial.

Table of Contents

Overview

By the summer of 1927, prominent writers, artists, and many others had joined anarchists, communists, socialists, unionists, and Italians in supporting Sacco and Vanzetti and decrying their death sentences. Poet Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and authors John Dos Passos and Katherine Anne Porter were among those who protested and were arrested by Boston police.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

We Expect Justice!

Europe on Edge; Expected Reprieve

Sacco Juror's Home Bombed in Milton

Comite D'Action

The day before Sacco and Vanzetti were electrocuted, The New York Times published Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem entitled, Justice Denied in Massachusetts

In October, 1927, Dos Passos published his poem, They are Dead Now:

This isn't a poem
This is two men in grey prison clothes.
One man sits looking at the sick flesh of his hands--hands that haven't worked for seven years.
Do you know how long a year is?
Do you know how many hours there are in a day
when a day is twenty-three hours on a cot in a cell,
in a cell in a row of cells in a tier of rows of cells
all empty with the choked emptiness of dreams?
Do you know the dreams of men in jail?
They are dead now
The black automatons have won.
They are burned up utterly
their flesh has passed into the air of
Massachusetts their dreams have
passed into the wind.
"They are dead now," the
Governor's secretary nudges the
Governor,
"They are dead now," the Superior
Court Judge nudges
the Supreme Court Judge,
"They are dead now" the College
President nudges
the College President
A dry chuckling comes up from all
the dead:
The white collar dead; the silkhatted dead;
the frockcoated dead
They hop in and out of automobiles
breathe deep in relief
as they walk up and down the Boston streets.
they are free of dreams now
free of greasy prison denim
their voices blow back in a thousand lingoes
singing one song
to burst the eardrums of Massachusetts
Make a poem of that if you dare!

Source: John Dos Passos, "They Are Dead Now--" New Masses,
October 1927, 228-229.

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