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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

 
The Haymarket Square Riot Revisited

NRO has an interesting article about Bowling Green professor Timothy Messer-Kruse's recent study into the incident. The traditional story goes like this:

[A] gathering of anarchists near Haymarket Square turned into a fatal bombing and riot. Although police never arrested the bomb-thrower, they went on to tyrannize radical groups throughout the city, in a crackdown that is often called America’s first Red Scare. Eight men were convicted of aiding and abetting murder. Four died at the end of a hangman’s noose. Today, history books portray them as the innocent victims of a sham trial: They are labor-movement martyrs who sought modest reforms in the face of ruthless robber-baron capitalism.

What catches my eye is that prominent historians somehow overlooked one of the most crucial original sources (emphasis added):

[Messer-Kruse's] first step was to consult the conventional scholarship - works published by labor historians Henry David in 1936 and Paul Avrich in 1984. “I thought it would be easy to learn what happened,” he says. Yet neither account satisfied him. Then the Internet came to the rescue: Messer-Kruse discovered that the Library of Congress and the Chicago Historical Society had just digitized a large collection of material on Haymarket, including a transcript of the trial. He slogged through thousands of pages, consulting other primary documents to gain a sharper picture of what lay buried in the historical record. Along the way, he realized that earlier researchers had not consulted this transcript. Instead, they had relied on an abstract of the trial prepared by defense lawyers, drawing their conclusions from a flamboyantly prejudiced account of the bombing and its aftermath. “The best source had been hiding in plain sight,” says Messer-Kruse.

Read the whole thing.

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