Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee

256 Hanover Street, North End

Armband worn at funeral procession for Sacco and Vanzetjti., Boston, August 28, 1927. Source: Boston Public Library, Rare Books Department, via Digital Commonwealth.

On August 23, 2007, about 60 activists—from organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World and Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty—marched from Copley Square to the North End. Carrying huge effigies of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, they stopped at 256 Hanover Street, the former headquarters of the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee.

Pamphlet published by the Defense Committee. Source: Syracuse University Libraries.

The Committee was founded soon after the arrests of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1920. Headed by Aldino Felicano, editor of La Notizia, a socialist newspaper based in the North End, by then a largely Italian neighborhood, the Committee kicked into high gear following the pair’s conviction a little more than a year later. It was on the floor above the newspaper that the Committee eventually rented two rooms as its offices. Through publication and distribution of literature, the writing of articles for a wide variety of publications, fundraising, and the organizing of speaking tours, the Defense Committee played a central role in creating an international movement in support of Sacco and Vanzetti. And through its financing of a series of court appeals, the Committee helped to keep the pair alive for several years before their execution in 1927 at Charlestown State Prison.   

Entrance to 256 Hanover Street, 2014. Photo by Eleni Macrakis.

 The building at 256 Hanover Street still stands. A City of Boston marker commemorates it as the Committee’s former home. The 2007 march resulted in the formation of the Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society which now organizes annual events in honor of the pair and explains their significance in respect to contemporary struggles over immigration, political repression, xenophobia, and the death penalty.

Plaque outside of 256 Hanover Street.

Getting there:

Orange or Green Lines to Haymarket Station. (0.2 mile, about a 5-minute walk.)

To learn more:

Bruce Watson, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgement of Mankind. New York: Viking, 2007.

Stephanie E. Yuhl, “Sculpted Radicals: The Problem of Sacco and Vanzetti in Boston’s Public Memory,” The Public Historian, Vol. 32, No. 2, 2010: 9-30.

The Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society’s website: http://saccoandvanzetti.org

See also the “Sacco and Vanzetti Tour” (which includes the site of the Defense Committee) within A People’s Guide to Greater Boston.

Related, nearby site:

Former site of Langone Funeral Home (where the wakes of Sacco and Vanzetti took place and over 100,000 came to pay their respects), 383 Hanover Street.

Crowd on Hanover Street joins funeral procession, August 28, 1927. Source: Boston Public Library, Rare Books Department, via Digital Commonwealth.

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