Sacco and Vanzetti and Fortini

A quick side note to my family immigration post from this morning. . . . My family is also connected in a small way to a notorious case in the early 20th Century that involved anti-immigration prejudice mixed with fear of anarchists on our soil (sound familiar?).

The case: Sacco and Vanzetti.

The Fortini House on Cherry Street in North Plymouth, MA (1950s)

Fish peddler and Italian immigrant Bartolomeo Vanzetti was a boarder in my great-grandparent’s (Francesco and Maria Fortini) house on Cherry Street in North Plymouth, MA in the late 1910s and early 1920s.

Vanzetti was living there when he and Nicola Sacco were accused and convicted of armed robbery and a double murder. Some believed the case was rigged and they paid a price for being Italian immigrants.

My great-grandmother testified that she saw Vanzetti in the neighborhood on the morning of the murder of a security guard and paymaster during a robbery at a shoe company in Braintree, about 30 miles away. Many neighbors on Cherry Street and the surrounding Italian-rich North Plymouth neighborhood testified likewise.

Following years of appeals, hearings, protests by politicians and celebrities — as well as bombings here and abroad — Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair.

The case caused international furor and has been largely judged by history as a miscarriage of justice.

Gov. Michael Dukakis in the ’70s declared Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and declared “any disgrace should be forever removed from their names.”

The second-floor room in which Vanzetti slept would a little over a decade later become my mother’s bedroom. And later we, as children, often slept in the same room when we visited our grandparents.

Here are my older siblings and I on the front stoop of the house in the early ’60s. It has since burned down and been demolished.

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