One Midnight in August

Eighty-five years ago next week, on August 23, 1927, Nick Sacco, age 36—husband, father, shoemaker, anarchist—was strapped down into the Massachusetts electric chair and executed for murder, a crime of which he had been convicted despite questionnable evidence and a trial now universally seen as unfair.

Moments after Nick died, his friend Bartolomeo Vanzetti, age 39, suffered the same fate for the same reasons under the same circumstances.

In each of the libraries where I did research for my book, In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti, magical thinking invariably overcame me when I examined documents from the summer of 1927. Could this library be the one where things turned out differently, where new evidence led directly to a new trial?

Never happened, of course. Magical thinking is no match for reality.

So I strained for professional detachment as I reconstructed the final hours of men about whom I had come to know so much—Sacco and Vanzetti, “dead men walking” just after midnight on August 23, 1927.

Photo collage by Meagan Healy


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