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Who Really Dunit?

Talk on Sacco and Vanzetti plumbs the debate that won’t die

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Moshik Temkin, an assistant professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, speaks at the BPL tonight about the OJ trial of the Roaring Twenties.

Planted firmly in the courtroom lexicon, the Sacco and Vanzetti case was the OJ trial of the Roaring Twenties. Its significance resonates to this day, says Moshik Temkin, an assistant professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Before they were executed in Boston in 1927, world opinion rallied behind the convicted killers, and not only out of belief in their innocence. There was another dynamic, familiar to anyone following the news today: the case let foreigners vent at America and its superpower status. Boston’s Gift to the World, Temkin calls the affair in the title of a talk he’s giving tonight at the Boston Public Library.

Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian immigrants and members of an anarchist cell that had mailed bombs to American leaders. The record of their trial is the gift that keeps on giving, detonating debate about a possible miscarriage of justice, capital punishment, and terrorism-inspired xenophobia more than 80 years later. Temkin’s talk grows out of his 2009 book, The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial, in which he contends that foreign bashing of the United States and its handling of the case helped grease the pair’s skids to the electric chair.

Boston’s Gift to the World: The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair starts at 6:30 p.m. today, March 10, in the Orientation Room of the Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St. Admission is free. A book sale and signing follow the talk.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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