American Anarchy: The Epic Struggle Between Immigrant Radicals and the US Government at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century

Basic: Perseus. Oct. 2023. 480p. ISBN 9781541697379. $32. HIST
The violent 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago and the assassination of President William McKinley provoked the U.S. government to launch a “war on anarchy.” The federal and state governments spied on, harassed, and prosecuted anarchists, whom they believed were bent on the destruction of American civilization. In this deeply researched and brilliantly written history, legal scholar and historian Willrich (Brandeis Univ.; Pox: An American History) shows how lawyers advanced new and untested legal theories that later became enshrined in civil rights law. Anarchists, such as Emma Goldman (1869–1940), along with her longtime lawyer, Harry Weinberger (1886–1944), turned to the courts to defend against charges stemming from distributing birth-control pamphlets and her deportation hearings. Based on a vast array of primary archival sources, including court and military intelligence records, this book expertly details the lengths that lawyers would go to defend clients and protect their rights from repression and censorship.
VERDICT This is an important, crucial purchase. Readers interested in the U.S. legal system, civil rights, and the history of American radical movements should definitely check out this title.
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