Bartolomeo Vanzetti, left, and Nicola Sacco were convicted and executed for an anarchist-affiliated armed robbery that resulted in two deaths.
Photograph courtesy Boston Public Library

Download this file

  • On August 23, 1927, Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in Charlestown State Prison, Boston, Massachusetts. Sacco and Vanzetti had been convicted and sentenced to death for murdering two people during an armed robbery at a shoe factory seven years earlier.

    Thousands of people around the world claimed Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly targeted for their anarchist politics and status as working-class immigrants. Celebrities from Albert Einstein to Dorothy Parker supported a petition to allow Sacco and Vanzetti a new trial. On the day of their execution by electrocution, violent demonstrations blocked city streets from London, England; to Tokyo, Japan; to Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Sacco and Vanzetti quickly became symbols for prejudice and the denial of civil liberties. In 1977, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis declared August 23 “Sacco and Vanzetti Memorial Day.” The declaration did not assess guilt or innocence, but stated that the men had been unfairly tried and convicted.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    assess Verb

    to evaluate or determine the amount of.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    petition Verb

    to request, often by a form signed by the requestors.

    politics Noun

    art and science of public policy.

    prejudice Noun

    unfair feeling for or against someone or something without basis in reason.

    robbery Noun

    illegal taking of another person's or organization's property.