Sacco and Vanzetti

Unit: Roaring 1920’s
Lesson: Sacco and Vanzetti

  • Overhead of Sacco and Vanzetti mosaic from Syracuse University (Ben Shahn’s website)
  • Worksheet on closing arguments of trial
  • Catharine Huntington’s letter from the Porter Phelps Huntington Papers at Amherst College, Amherst MA. Box 97, Folder 3.


  • Discern from the picture what court case is going to be presented in class.
  • Explain major points of the Sacco and Vanzetti case.
  • Create and write a new closing argument from the view of the prosecution or the defense.
  • Rationalize why people protest.


  • Put the image of Sacco and Vanzetti mosaic on the overhead.
  • Ask students what court case from last night’s reading is being presented here.  Have the students give a brief introduction to the case.


Explain (notes on the board): 

On April 15, 1920, a paymaster and a guard were shot and killed.  The robbers took with them $15, 776 in cash.  They were supposedly held up by two men.  Several days later, two Italian immigrants by the name of Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and charged with robbery and murder.  At the time of their arrest, they were both carrying guns that matched the type of guns used in the murder.  They were put on trial and found guilty of murder and robbery on July 14, 1921 and sentenced to death. After many failed attempts to have another trial, both Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on April 9, 1927.

Closing arguments:

A group of students (approx 3) will receive a worksheet and assigned a role of either the prosecution (Frederick Katzmann) or the attorney for the defense (Fred Moore).  Each group will be responsible for discussing the points which are in dispute and then writing a closing argument that tries to sway the jury to their direction.  Each group will be provided with a handout that mentions these points.  After they are finished, they will present their arguments to class.

Looking at people who disputed the trial’s outcome:

Catherine Huntington was a well to do actress from Massachusetts and New York.  She gave a statement in protest of the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti.  In her protest, she was accompanied by many famous writers/ activists such as Edna St. Vincent Millay and Felix Frankfurter.  After reading this letter, answer the questions in the related worksheet.

Closure: The class is responsible for giving me five points that they learned in class.
Homework: Read the next section in the chapter.

New York State Standards:

United States History Standard
Resource Guide – Sacco and Vanzetti Trial; Red Scare; Anti-immigrant Feelings