On May 4, 1886, a peaceful labor rally in Haymarket Square in Chicago erupted in violence when someone threw a bomb at police. Before the chaos subsided, seven police officers and four civilians were dead, and scores more wounded.
For more than a century the trial of eight anarchists and the subsequent hanging of four of them have been widely viewed as a miscarriage of justice. But after carefully studying the record, historian Timothy Messer-Kruse has discovered a different story, one he will explain in a discussion of his new book The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists: Terrorism and Justice in the Gilded Age on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
For his book Messer-Kruse has studied thousands of pages of previously unexamined materials. He has found that, contrary to longstanding historical opinion, the trial was not a "travesty of justice." Prosecutors presented daunting evidence revealing the inner workings of an anarchist conspiracy to spark insurrection by attacking police, and connected their plans to the Haymarket bombing through a solid chain of evidence.
Rather than being an example of "judicial murder," Messer-Kruse argues, the Haymarket trial was a tragic case of judicial suicide, as the defense chose to use the trial as a grandstand for anarchism rather than deploy a sound legal defense. Though bumblers in the courtroom, the anarchists' lawyers proved adept in the court of public opinion and succeeded in influencing the way historians and activists would remember this event for the next 125 years.
Messer-Kruse was a member of the University of Toledo's history department from 1995 to 2006, serving as chair from 2003 to 2005; in 2003 he received the university's outstanding teaching award. In 2006 he was appointed chair of the ethnic studies department at Ohio's Bowling Green State University where he currently serves as interim vice provost for academics and dean of the Graduate College. Among his books are The Yankee International: Marxism and the American Reform Tradition and The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Networks.
Major funding for programs at the Kansas City Public Library is provided by a generous grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP at kclibrary.org  or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.