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Texas Radical Republican involved in Haymarket Massacre

May 4th, 1886

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On this day in 1886, Albert Richard Parsons, a labor organizer from Texas, was implicated in the infamous Chicago Haymarket Massacre. The brother of Confederate colonel William Henry Parsons, Albert served in Parsons's Brigade, a unit of Texas cavalry commanded by his brother, during the Civil War. After the war he became a Radical Republican and traveled throughout Central Texas registering freed slaves to vote. When Reconstruction came to an end in Texas, Parsons was hated and persecuted as a miscegenationist and a scalawag. He moved to Chicago with his wife, Lucy E. Parsons, a woman of mixed racial heritage, and became a leading agitator for social change there. On the evening of May 4, 1886, Parsons spoke at a meeting in Haymarket Square to protest police brutality. He and his family were in nearby Zepf's Hall when nearly 200 policemen marched into the square; an unknown person threw a bomb, and police began shooting wildly. Most of the seven police officers and seven members of the crowd who died apparently sustained wounds from police revolvers. Albert Parsons and seven others were tried for conspiracy to murder; he was among the four men who were eventually hanged for the crime. Six years later, Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned the three defendants who remained in prison and condemned the convictions as a miscarriage of justice.

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