Albert Parsons, a leader of the fight for the eight hour day, was arrested for the murders of seven policemen on May 4th 1886 and executed on November 11, 1887. Six years later the Illinois governor publicly acknowledged that Parsons and the seven other convicted workers were entirely innocent of these charges.
Albert Parsons was born in 1848 to a poor white family of Texas ranchers. After the Civil War he published a newspaper advocating civil rights for black people while helping to register former slaves to organize politically.
Parsons and his wife Lucy, a woman of mixed race, were eventually forced to leave Texas and settle in Chicago. He worked as a typesetter, became active in workers’ struggles, and joined the Socialist Party. During the Railroad strike of 1877, he organized mass demonstrations of support, and was blacklisted and denounced as a “dangerous Red agitator” by the upper class “Citizens Committee.”
Parsons became an influential leader in the workers’ movement in Chicago, joining the Knights of Labor. In 1884 he became editor of The Alarm, a revolutionary workers’ newspaper. He and other revolutionaries called themselves anarchists because they stood for revolutionary struggle.
In 1886 he was active in organizing for the eight hour day. With Lucy Parsons, they led a mass march of 80,000 on May 1st. Three days later, a provocateur threw a bomb into a mass of police at a rally in Haymarket Square where Parsons had spoken. The elite of Chicago wanted to crush the workers’ movement. False evidence was accepted, and a big factory owner offered a bonus to jurors for a guilty verdict, which they delivered. And the court sentenced seven men to die. Albert Parsons was hanged for his convictions.
Albert Parsons devoted his life to the struggles of the working class. He was a talented and capable leader who believed we can get rid of capitalism. That is why the system murdered him and that is why we should remember and honor his history.