51 pages 1 hour read

Bill Bryson

One Summer: America, 1927

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2013

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Part 4Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 4: “August: The Anarchists”

Chapters 20-21 Summary

This section opens with an account of a brutal murder that took place in April 1920 in Braintree, Massachusetts. A group of armed men robbed and killed two men transporting money. One of the culprits died on the scene, but others escaped in a getaway car. There was another similar crime in nearby Bridgewater. Though there was a lack of evidence about the identities of the escapees, “Chief Michael E. Stewart of the Bridgewater Police Department decided, for reasons unattached to evidence, that the culprits in both cases were Italian anarchists” (274). Bryson explains that this thinking fit into the larger context of the Great Red Scare that followed World War I. Fears of espionage and anti-American activities fueled the mass arrest and imprisonment of many immigrants in the United States under the guise of stamping out terrorist anarchy. Bryson notes there was genuine violence—like bombings—as well as clandestine distribution of anarchist leaflets and literature, but raids and arrests targeted people for their class and ethnic status instead of demonstrable threats to national security.

Police arrested Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti for these reasons, “even though neither had a criminal record or links to any criminal gangs” (283).