On 23 August 1927 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, defendants in a controversial murder trial in Massachusetts, were executed, still maintaining their innocence.
They had been sentenced to death by Judge Webster Thayer, who had described the two as “anarchist bastards”. He had condemned each of them to “suffer the punishment of death by the passage of a current of electricity through your body” during the week beginning from 10 July. Then, he had postponed the execution date twice while the governor was considering requests for clemency.
Joan Baez wrote the song “Here’s to you” released in 1971 as part of the soundtrack of the film “Sacco e Vanzetti” (music by Ennio Morricone), based on Vanzetti’s court statement upon being sentenced to death: “The last moment belongs to us — that agony is our triumph!”
Here’s to you, Nicola and Bart
Rest forever here in our hearts
The last and final moment is yours
That agony is your triumph
Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman wrote in an article, published in “New York City” in the mid-late 1920s:
“The names of the “good shoe-maker and poor fish-peddler” have ceased to represent merely two Italian workingmen. Throughout the civilised world Sacco and Vanzetti have become a symbol, the shibboleth of Justice crushed by Might. That is the great historic significance of this twentieth century crucifixion, and truly prophetic, were the words of Vanzetti when he declared, “The last moment belongs to us–that agony is our triumph.”
… Vanzetti was right when he declared that his execution was his greatest triumph, for all through history it has been the martyrs of progress that have ultimately triumphed. Where are the Caesars and Torquemadas of yesterday? Who remembers the names of the judges who condemned Giordano Bruno and John Brown?. The Saccos and Vanzettis live eternal and their spirits still march on.”
(I nomi del “buon calzolaio e del povero pescivendolo” hanno smesso di rappresentare solo due lavoratori italiani. In tutto il mondo civile Sacco e Vanzetti sono diventati un simbolo, il segno di riconoscimento della Giustizia schiacciata dal Potere. Questo è il grande significato storico di questa crocifissione del ventesimo secolo, e le parole di Vanzetti quando dichiarò: “L’ultimo momento appartiene a noi – questa l’agonia è il nostro trionfo” furono veramente profetiche
… Vanzetti aveva ragione quando dichiarò che la sua esecuzione era il suo trionfo più grande, poiché in tutto il corso della storia sono stati i martiri del progresso che alla fine hanno trionfato. Dove sono i Cesare e Torquemada di ieri? Chi ricorda i nomi dei giudici che hanno condannato Giordano Bruno e John Brown? I Sacco e i Vanzetti vivono in eterno e il loro spirito continua a marciare.)