Spring Deals Automotive HPC Best Books of the Month New-season heels nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Stream your favorites. Amazon music Unlimited. Learn more. GNO for Samsung S9 Fire TV Stick: $29.99. Offer ends 3/26/18 Grocery Handmade Personalized Jewelry SpringEvent_Lawn_and_Garden Book a house cleaner for 2 or more hours on Amazon TheGrandTour TheGrandTour TheGrandTour  Echo Fire tablets: Designed for entertainment Kindle Paperwhite GNO Shop Now TG18SW_gno

on September 18, 2011
Professor Green's prose is clean and lacks the usual academic verbosity that one often finds in history books.Green goes into good length about the background leading to the tragedy in the Haymarket. The incident itself takes up only a page or two. The struggle between the IWPA and the Knights of labor vs Jay Gould, McCormick, and other industrialists is discussed at length.

What was obvious in reading this book was Dr. Green's sympathy for the anarchists and socialists throughout this struggle. The industrialists, while not quite demonized, are not given the same empathic portrayal that he gives August Spies, Albert and Lucy Parsons, and the rest of the embryonic labor movement.

For example, he cites an article from a labor magazine as evidence that the police "caused" the bombing by aggressively breaking up the meeting.Apparently, Professor Green could not find a more independent source than a magazine that would clearly side with the IWPA. The quote also raises the question of whether throwing a bomb was a gross overreaction to what the police's attempts at breaking up the meeting. Inspector Bondfield had lead brutal beatdowns in the past, which one could possibly use as a cause for the bombmaking. But then one has to ask what was someone was doing there with a bomb in the first place? It seems odd for people to lug around bombs if they were not prepared to use it. And, as Dr. Green notes, Bonfield reacted so because HE was violently assaulted in an earlier protest. The truth is never as simple as partisans wish it to be.

Death in the Haymarket is a solid book and one that I would recommend because it is well written and covers an important topic in our nation's history. The one caveat is the author's obvious bias in favor of the anarchists.
33 comments| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on March 8, 2011
No, I haven't read the book. I would like to buy it and read it on the kindle, but the digital edition is MORE EXPENSIVE than the paperback! I give the book one star because of the publisher's avarice.

The kindle idea is great, but it won't work if the publishers just get greedy and start charging outrageous prices.
44 comments| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on December 5, 2016
James’ Green’s Death in the Haymarket tells the tale of the Haymarket Affair. The introduction gives a peak into the morning of May 5, 1886, the day after the eponymous Haymarket Affair, a bombing that killed seven police officers. The first chapter begins after the death of Lincoln in 1865. We follow the labor movement in Chicago for the next twenty-one years, through massive change and upheaval. Chicago more than quadrupled in size during this time period, burned in 1871, and went through two depressions. Immigrants composed more than 40% of the population during this time, and the industrial revolution led to capitalization and massive changes in labor practices.

Death in the Haymarket contains a lot of startlingly relevant themes: police brutality, terrorism, income inequality, xenophobia, protests that sometimes contain violence, political corruption, and economic turmoil. Interpretations of the Haymarket Affair have swung wildly more than once since they occurred 130 years ago. The Haymarket bombing was the first red scare (at this time, referring to anarchists rather than communists); four men were hung for their connections to the event. Green presents a humanizing thought-provoking narrative that suggests his sympathy to the men of the 1880s labor movement, but gives the reader plenty of tools to come to other conclusions.


I didn’t know anything about the labor movement. I certainly like my 40 hour work week and my safe working conditions, but I didn’t know how they came about. Haymarket doesn’t get into those details, but it certainly demonstrates what a long and bloody fight it was.

Between criticisms of teachers unions, passage of right-to-work legislation, and the increase of anti-employee policies like contractor status and cuts to benefits, we are seeing the erosion of some accomplishments of the labor movement. I knew that people were once passionate about these issues. I wanted to step back into that time. Haymarket fulfilled this goal.


There’s a lot of great stuff to say about Haymarket. It tackles a boatload of complicated topics in a modest 320 pages. It introduces compelling and exciting characters, heros and villains and a lot of in between. It practically follows a novelistic arc; we begin with the optimism of the post Civil War labor movement, followed by political engagement, the suppression of that engagement by monied interests, the radicalization of the movement, the tragedy of police brutalities and slaughters at protests, the retaliation through terrorism, closing with further suppression following the bombing, and regrouping.

Haymarket tells a story of humans through individuals; my favorites were Lucy and Albert Parsons. Albert was orphaned a young age, raised by an enslaved woman, and fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War at the age of 15. After the war, he went to Texas as a Republican enacting Reconstruction. There, he married Lucy, who appears and was believed to be African American; she always maintained that she was Native American. Albert worked for a printing press in Texas. Albert lost his job and faced violence numerous times fighting for the rights of freed slaves in Texas. Eventually, he moved to Chicago and fought for the rights of workers. He and Lucy became famed speakers. Lucy continued for over 50 years.


Haymarket introduces a dizzying array of characters. I couldn’t keep track of them all. We meet politicians, police officers, German anarchists, American anarchists, various socialists, wives, rich men, judges, writers and more. Green creates such good characters, and I was annoyed to keep forgetting. A reference would have be really helpful.

Secondly, I found the early chapters spent in the 1860s and 1870s less interesting. They mostly didn’t contain the characters that occupied the later chapters. Although they were really helpful for context later on, they were slow for me.

Finally and most substantially, Green carefully tells how perception of the Haymarket Affair morphed with time, swinging back and forth a couple of times. But although Green is clear about his own contemporary feelings of the events, he does not give voice to other contemporaries. Is Green’s opinion the widely held one? If not, what faults does Green suggest in the evaluations of his contemporaries? We learn that the event is still fraught enough with symbolism that commemoration of the Haymarket Affair remains thorny today. But we also learn that the “Chicago Martyrs,” the men hung for the Haymarket Affair, are still remembered by laborers around the world. Part of understanding an argument is the refutation of counter-arguments; this is absent in Haymarket.


This is a solid, well-written book about a topic you probably don’t know well. As our country debates over the relationship between employer and employee, this glimpse into the past offers insight into today’s arguments. Haymarket is an exciting nonfiction read with a great set of characters and a strong sense of place.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on November 7, 2014
The tragic events of May 4, 1886 and in the Haymarket in Chicago and the aftermath of those events have left more questions than answers for historians. Who threw the bomb that killed six policemen? Was there a conspiracy to commit violent acts that night or was the protest truly peaceful? Were the right men arrested for the crime or were they scapegoated because of their affiliations with radical organizations? Did they receive a fair trial or were they doomed by a biased press, judge, and jury? Were the men that went to the gallows "the foulest of murderers" as described by Teddy Roosevelt years later or were they martyrs, heroes to working class people everywhere? These are the questions that historians still debate today. These are the questions that UMass-Boston professor James Green attempts to answer in this book.
Green starts with a look at the growing labor movement at the end of the Civil War and details the major events and leaders of that movement up through the Haymarket bombing. In covering over twenty years of labor history (a topic I have never found to be very interesting), Green writes fluidly and in a manner that makes the history come alive for the reader. He does an excellent job of detailing the growth and divisions within the labor movement locally, nationally, and internationally. Chicago becomes a flashpoint for the labor struggle not just because of its rapid emergence as the commercial heart of the United States but also because of its diverse immigrant population. In describing Chicago's different ethnic neighborhoods and their populations like the Bohemians in Pilsen, the Irish in Bridgeport, and the Germans on the North Side, Green brings the reader into the melting pot aspect of the labor movement while at the same time explaining one of the reasons why the labor movement had such difficulty unifying against big business.
Interspersed within struggles between labor and capital that emerge in the Gilded Age, Green includes brief biographies of all the major labor leaders in Haymarket. Organizing the book in this manner effectively draws the reader into the story and makes them feel as though they know men like August Spies and Albert Parsons. Green is at his strongest when detailing the lives of the labor leaders involved directly and indirectly with Haymarket and the workers themselves. The story of Albert and Lucy Parsons is especially fascinating. Albert, a Confederate veteran turned Southern Republican who moves to Chicago to escape violence in Texas, and Lucy, a Mexican/African/Native American?? beauty who joins Albert rallying for workers rights in Chicago even while pregnant, both come across as heroes in the struggle between labor and business. The story of the Parsons' radicalization, particularly Albert, mirrors that of the labor movement. At first, he was optimistic about the prospects of organizing laborers and accomplish change via political channels. However, as he became increasingly more aware of the political power of the big business owners he recognized this path was futile. The key event of this radicalization occurred when he lost his job as a printer and was summoned into the Rookery by the Chicago Board of Trade. The scene is brilliantly described by Green as Albert is led into this dark room with suits all around threatening to kill him if he does not stop organizing laborers. Green then describes Albert being tossed out of the room into a dark, dingy hallway, alone, not knowing how to get out. The whole episode plays out like a movie scene.
It is noteworthy, however, to point out the fact that villains in Green's interpretation of Haymarket do not get the same detailed biographical treatment. Instead, men like Inspector John Bonfield emerge as evil, power-hungry xenophobes who target the working class in an effort to elevate their own status. Aside from the fact that he was a "failed businessman" and "humiliated" by an earlier run-in with workers, the reader knows nothing of Bonfield's background. By contrast, Parsons' radicalization and inflammatory rhetoric advocating the use of violence is tempered by Green's portrait of him as a man who fought his entire life for people's rights even when it was unpopular to do so. Thus, Parsons emerges as a complex individual who ultimately only wanted to make things right while Bonfield is a simple minded bully who cared nothing for anyone but himself.
Green's research is extensively cited and an examination of the sources in the notes section at the back of the book reveals a heavy reliance on sources sympathetic to the plight of the Haymarket defendants. One source heavily cited throughout the book is John Peter Altgeld's Reasons for Pardoning the Haymarket Anarchists. Altgeld was the Democratic governor of Illinois who pardoned three of the Haymarket defendants. The motivations for Altgeld's pardon have come under scrutiny in recent years due to the efforts of historian Timothy Messer-Kruse who points out that Altgeld published Reasons during an election year and had a personal grudge against the judge who presided over the Haymarket Trial. It is Green's depiction of that trial as a sham and the subsequent appeals that mark the weakest part of the book. Here, the Haymarket defendants receive reverent treatment from Green who buys into their own beliefs that they followed in the footsteps of men like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine. A more critical assessment of their role, even indirectly, in inciting violent action would have given the book a more balanced feel at the end.
Despite its shortcomings, Green's Death in the Haymarket is a fast-paced book that makes labor history interesting. It brings to life the violent struggle between labor and capital at a time when the United States was growing at a pace that few seemed to be able to handle. The book reads like a movie script with fascinating characters and heart pounding action scenes. This movie-like feel is at once the strength and weakness of Death in the Haymarket. All great movies have heroes and villains, good guys and bad guys and Green's book certainly has that. However, in real life controversial events rarely play out in black and white. It is the shades of grey that Green fails to convey when dealing with the trial and its aftermath that is the books biggest shortfall.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on December 14, 2007
This is the best work of non-fiction I've read in a long time.

Green describes the Great Railway strike of 1877 as it affected Chicago. Over a hundred strikers lost their lives across the country in this incident. This experience began the process of radicalization of Albert Parsons. Parsons had been a confederate soldier from Texas but after the Civil War, he became a Radical Republican and in the midst of murderous pogroms' launched by the KKK and other white vigilantes, tried to organize African Americans. He later moved to Chicago. After the strikes of 1877, Parsons was taken by plainclothes police to a meeting of the Chicago Board of Trade whose members shouted abuse at him and argued that he should lynched.

In 1885-86 in the run-up to the Haymarket incident there were several major violent incidents. Two quarry workers were shot dead outside of Chicago, and the Chicago street car strike featured another police riot which resulted in severe injuries. Seven strikers in East St. Louis Illinois were shot dead

But in 1886 the stakes escalated. That year nationwide, at least 610,000 workers went on strike for an eight hour day, about three times as many as the previous year. A general strike swept Chicago on May 1st 1886. On May 3rd, four strikers at the McCormick works were gunned down when strikers attacked strikebreakers. This lead to a fateful meeting that night where it was resolved that a meeting would be held the next day in Haymarket square and where sentiments were voiced about the need for armed self-defense and the inevitableness of armed conflict with the powers that be. However Green points out that none of the credible witnesses alleged that any action other than a peaceful protest meeting was planned for the night of May 4th.

As police tried to break up the Haymarket meeting shortly before it was scheduled to end, a bomb was thrown into the ranks of the assembled police squadrons.. One policeman died and about six or seven more cops died when the police response to the bomb was to start shooting their pistols indiscriminately. It appears that most of the cops died by the friendly fire of their own brethren and at least three of the workers at the meeting were shot from behind running while away from the gunfire.

Of course the police could never actually finger the person who threw the bomb. Some speculated that it might have been a police provocateur. It seems that the Louis Lingg, one of the eight defendants in the Haymarket trial and a German immigrant like most of the defendants, might have made the bomb for he was known to have made many bombs in expectation of warfare with the powers that be. Another German anarchist was alleged to have thrown the bomb but he was released by police when witnesses vouched for him and he left the country. Two witnesses claimed that they saw August Spies, editor of the anarchist newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung light the bomb and give it to this other German anarchist , but one of these witnesses was obviously a drug addict and other witnesses apparently not tampered with by police vouched that Spies was not lighting any bombs.

. Public opinion had been stirred up by the media against the anarchists for many years; they were portrayed as immoral, filthy, socialistic beasts from the bowels of Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere who desired to destroy all the values and institutions which right thinking WASPS held dear. Met with credible witnesses from the defense contradicting the claims of prosecution witnesses, the Judge and prosecution were left to explain to the jury that even if none of the eight defendants had thrown the bomb, they were still all guilty. The judge and prosecution explained that because of the words the anarchists used in their newspapers and speeches, threatening violence in self-defense against employer and state repression, they clearly were involved in a conspiracy because they inspired whoever threw the bomb. Four of the anarchists, including Albert Parsons and August Spies were hanged while the other four were imprisoned but then pardoned in 1892 by Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld.

American workers continued to fight against exploitation as during the Pullman strike of 1894 when 34 strikers were killed and hundreds wounded in a strike which began in the Pullman Company's "model" town outside Chicago where a federal commission later stated workers were ruthlessly exploited. Indeed, the United States has an extraordinarily violent labor history. Citing 1969 statistics, Green notes that the United States had 700 instances of strikes during its history where at least one fatality occurred.

Captain Michael Schaak soon became a sought after specialist in the forming of police anti-radical squads which would multiply across the country over the decades. However John Bonfield, Schaak and two other police commanders on the scene that night at Haymarket were exposed by the Chicago Times in 1889 of running a protection racket against illegal and legal businesses and selling prisoner's items for their own profit. Characteristically, Bonfield had the editors arrested and the paper shut down but he and his buddies ended up getting fired.

Green's portrayal of the trial itself is full of really good writing. He introduces the reader to many fascinating personalities. There is Parsons and his part Native American/part Mexican (and probably part black) wife Lucy--Lucy would keep the spirit of the Haymarket martyrs alive into the late 30's; There was Carter Harrison the patrician paternalist populist mayor. There was the lead defense attorney William Perkins Black, a corporation lawyer whom with his wife endured complete ostracism from upper class society for defending the anarchists. There was Nina Van Zandt the upper class heiress who visited August Spies in prison and fell in love with his manly beauty and charm and married him before he died. Green tells the story of Haymarket in lively prose; the book almost reads like a novel.
11 comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on November 11, 2010
This is another bit of Chicago history I needed to have filled in. It fits somewhere between Sinclair's The Jungle and the various books about the Weather Underground, which blew up the statue commemorating the police version of the Haymarket tragedy a couple of times during the late '60s and early '70s. It is also an important book for recounting the facts of a disturbing time in this country's history.

It is unfortunate that the events of this book are not more widely known: the "police riot" at the 1968 convention is better remembered, but there were 6 or 8 such riots in the years detailed in this book. The event in question, which ended with police officers shooting people (including their own in their tight formation) at random, leads to the tragic hanging for murder of four men who were leaders in the labor-rights movement but who had nothing to do with a bomb that was thrown (by a person never determined and therefore never charged) and were, as stated by later Illinois Governor Altgeld when he pardoned the remaining defendants following the hanging, railroaded by a partial judge who acted more like a prosecutor, a lying prosecution, a police department which violated the rights of thousands of labor agitators with false arrests and beatings, a jury containing none of their peers and controlled by powerful capitalists and a press -- local and national -- that predetermined guilt and advocated for premature sentences of death. Their deaths were on charges of murder, yet they were judged purely as conspirators for the radical ideas they preached in response to violent suppression of strikes and other workplace actions.

This judgment, as Green tells it, came from a democratic country that had just pardoned the leaders of the breakaway South following the Civil War: in this case, the men in question had verbally challenged the capitalists, and that was somehow less acceptable than Jeff Davis' statements AND actions that led to the deaths of >600,000 people. At the time, and during the years following the state-sponsored murder of these four men, the point was made that abolitionists all over the country should have been strung up for murder charges based on the legal reasoning used to convict in this case. Where was free speech, what happened to freedom of the press and what of the free thinking we supposedly value so much?

It's amazing how many times various parts of this country and various contingencies in commerce and government have dragged us so close to the brink of being a true police state, and yet we let it happen again and again whenever overly cautious and unthinking citizens get the stuffing scared out of them by a group of businesses, a CPD Inspector Bonfield, Senator McCarthy or Dick Cheney. What's a little repression, as long as it makes us feel secure?
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on March 10, 2007
It is nice to see this book will soon be out in paperback making it available to a broader audience, because it is a much needed account of the early days of the labor movement in America. James Green has done a remarkable job of building the events that surrounded the notorious Haymarket bombing of 1886 by exploring the lives of the eight men who stood accused for inspiring the incident. He starts with the explosive incident, and then digs back into the archive of union organization in Chicago and the attempts to form a national labor union. While most of the figures were foreign born, one figure, Albert Parsons, hailed from Texas and became the most charismatic figure of the Chicago Eight.

Green shows how the media, police and state militia were predominantly held under the influence of the industrialists, who felt it their god-given right to set the rules for the market economy at the time. While economic giants like McCormick and Pullman attempted to create more ameniable workplaces, even they refused to negotiate with unions, preferring instead to hire scabs and use the Pinkerton Agency to break strikes. The early socialist movement preferred to negotiate with the industrialists, knowing it was a long term process to get better pay and working conditions, but the anarchists felt that stronger resistance was necessary and labor leaders like Parsons and Spies became the spokesmen for the growing anarchist movement in America.

The book chronicles the events that led up to the Haymarket bombing, illustrating the many attempts of the industrialists and indeed the city to quash the labor movements. While the mayor of Chicago, Carter Harrison, was sympathetic to the socialists, and relied heavily on their political organization, he was also cognizant of the stronghold the industrialists had on the city. One particular figure, Marshall Field, did more than anyone to harness the forces the city to defeat the unions, but nevertheless the unions flourished thanks in large part to the steady flow of European immigrants.

Green connects the labor movement in America to that in Europe and how the two fed off each other, noting the strong influence of Marx and Bakunin on American labor leaders. It was this fear of foreign influence that the media used to help sway public opinion in favor of the industrialists, despite their well noted abuses of power.

Whether you agree with the tactics of the anarchists or not, you will be enlightened by the depth of understanding that James Green demonstrates in this book. Most important is how Green links the events of 1886 with the ongoing labor struggle in the new age of globalization as industrialists take advantage of cheap labor much in the way they did 120 years ago, using every hook and crook to break labor organizations. He shows how the Chicago Eight became iconic figures in the international labor movement as a result of a bogus trial. Four were executed and one died in jail, who also faced execution. It is a very sobering account of the labor battles in early industrial America.
0Comment| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on September 28, 2014
This book was excellent at bringing to life an incident I knew little about: the Haymarket bombing in 1886. My love of history has centered on wars, diplomacy and technology. This book is about economic growth and social history so it added to my knowledge.

The Growth of Chicago

As the book points out in its early chapters, the setting for the Haymarket incident was the astounding growth of the city of Chicago. Several newly emerging technologies resonated with creating a big city at the south end of Lake Michigan: steel, railroads, lumber and meat packing were the most spectacular.

These industries created a lot of new companies, jobs and wealth. The new companies entered all the above listed areas, and the new jobs they created were available to all comers. The new wealth that all this industrializing created was used to create even more new companies, hire more new workers and create one of the first large-scale wealthy classes of Americans. Sadly, many of the workers coming to this booming Chicago felt they weren't getting their fair share of this prosperity, so there was lots of labor unrest mixed in with all the other excitement of this rapidly growing Chicago social scene.

The Great Chicago Fire

Chapter Three talks about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The fire was the result of freaky weather conditions mixing with of a lot of hasty building in the city using lots of lumber. Much of the city burned to a crisp.

But the foundations for why the city had been growing were not shaken, so the city rebuilt quickly. One surprising fallout of this natural disaster was to bring together various immigrant worker groups into a larger sense of cooperation. As the city rebuilt these groups unified in their efforts to get better working conditions for the workers and in November 1871 the Reform Ticket won the mayoral election. For years thereafter these cooperating workers remained a potent force in Chicago politics and protesting.

Things Keep Changing

But this was a time of change, and the change didn't stop with the Great Fire. The city kept booming and business groups and the new wealthy got back in charge a few years later. The next cycle of worker-inspired uproar was the one in 1886 of which Haymarket was a part.

Haymarket: The 9-11 Of Its Day

The final chapters of the book talk about the bombing itself and its aftermath. Haymarket bombing was an act of violence at a public rally. This part was nothing new for the period. What made it distinctive from other acts of that time was it strongly resonated with the emotional social worries of its day. Policemen were killed, foreigners were involved, and new technology was used. (this was the first use of a home-made bomb filled with dynamite, something which had been invented only twenty years previously.) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamite) As a result of the deep fearful resonance much that happened in the aftermath was driven by fearful emotions, not facts.

o People were arrested, tried and convicted because they fit what people of Chicago feared, not what the facts supported.

o The Anarchist and the 8-hour day movements got tarred with an image of being supported by dangerous, sneaky and violent people. The Anarchist movement never recovered, the 8-hour day movement was delayed for decades.

The Style of the Book

James Green has a nice narrative style in this book. In the first half he does a nice job of describing the big trends, such as Chicago's growth. In the second half he does a nice job of describing the day-to-day details of how those who would be accused spent their time. I also found his newspaper quotes interesting, mostly because they reveal that freedom of speech in that era seemed to allow a lot more... enthusiasm... in expressing emotions about the current events of the day.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on January 30, 2009
Comprehensive and carefully constructed discussion of labor relations in post civil-war US, leading up the Haymarket incident, and its aftermath. Surprisingly balanced, with discussions of how even the police officers involved did not benefit. Good for anyone interested in 19th century US history, Chicago history, and required reading on the US labor movement.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on September 26, 2013
This book is a good account, written in a competent style, of the Haymarket case and the labor wars in Chicago in the 19th century. I can only describe it as good because while it is excellent in parts, it is surprisingly shaky in others. For instance, the author describes how the State of Illinois passed an 8 hour workday law in 1867 but it was rendered void when Chicago employers simply refused to obey it. I'm not quite sure how the law could be ignored without any sort of repercussions or legal challenge, but the author doesn't tell us. Overall, it's a good introduction to this very important subject, which seems more relevant than ever in our New World Order economy.
11 comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse