The Enduring Meaning of Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco Within the Italian American Experience


Vanzetti and Sacco
Photo credit:
New York World-Telegram and
the Sun Newspaper
Photograph Collection
Photograph from Herbert Photos, Inc.,
New York.

This body of work has reflected my intention to encourage a colloquy about the meaning and effects among Italian immigrants and Italian Americans of the fight for the lives of Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco. It was not a lonely journey. From the outset, numerous people engaged thoughtfully and, at times, provocatively in such a colloquy. The participation and special leadership of those people is acknowledged fully throughout this work.

The journey also was a timely one. Raw, often dormant, experiences and recollections emerged with a comfort not previously allowed or accepted. Memories among the elderly had been seared by the lives of Vanzetti and Sacco.

The work was written, presented orally, organized, or performed between 1996 and 2002. Some articles have not been available since they were published in 1996, 1997, and 2000. The papers presented orally in 1997 and 1999 have been distributed only in a limited way beyond the audience that heard them. The musical drama, The American Dream: The Story of Sacco and Vanzetti-which I co-adapted from the original Dutch-was performed at the Shubert Theater in April 2002 as part of New Haven’s year-long commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the execution. Both the adaptation and the imaginative effort of those people who gave meaning to the commemoration warrant a more documented recognition.

For the reasons set forth in my Prefatory Comment, this body of work is dedicated to the insight and persistence of Professor Richard Gambino, Brooklyn College (CUNY); to my mother, Celeste Proto (1910-1991), for her courage in crossing the ocean and making a life in America; and to my aunt, Rose Sansone (1916-2004), for her steadfast unwillingness to forget Sacco and Vanzetti.

Neil Thomas Proto
Washington, D.C.
February 2007