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On September 6, 1901 President William McKinley was shot and killed by a radical anarchist at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. The president was shaking hands with members of the crowd when his assassin stepped forward and shot him twice. McKinley died of his injuries eight days later.T. Dart Walker/Wikimedia Commons
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McKinley's assassin was Leon Czolgosz, a steel worker in Cleveland who turned to anarchism after he lost his job in the economic crash of 1893. He was caught immediately and sentenced to death by the electric chair.Wikimedia Commons
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Mugshot of prominent anarchist Emma Goldman. She was booked in 1901 when she was implicated in inspiring the assassination of President McKinley. Her refusal to condemn the assassination hurt the reputation of anarchism even among radical political circles.Bain News Service/Wikimedia Commons
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Leon Czolgosz in prison awaiting execution. 1901.Wikimedia Commons
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Daniel De Leon was an early leader of the Socialist Party of America and developed the ideology of revolutionary industrial unionism that gained popularity in the U.S. at the time. The ideology held that radical unions would transfer power and ownership of corporations to the workers. 1902.Tim Davenport/Wikimedia Commons
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In the early 1900s, the American labor movement arose to protest the horrible working conditions and pay at the time. This movement worked closely with communist, socialist, and anarchist organizations fighting for the liberation of the working class.
Demonstration for unemployed laborers. 1909.Library of Congress
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Labor parade in New York. Date unspecified.Library of Congress
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Eugene V. Debs was a founding member of the International Workers Union and a prominent member of the Socialist Party of America. He ran as their candidate for president five times, reaching his highest percentage of the vote in 1912 when he won six percent. Wikimedia Commons
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Socialist demonstrators in New York's Union Square. 1912.Wikimedia Commons
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Men killed by a bomb thrown by an anarchist at a Union Square demonstration in 1908. The bomb was intended for the police but accidentally killed two bystanders.Library of Congress
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Casualty of the Union Square bombing being taken away on a stretcher. Library of Congress
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Police searching a suspect immediately after the Union Square bombing.Library of Congress
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May Day parade in New York City. 1910.Library of Congress
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Russian Labor Association marching in a New York City labor parade. 1911.Library of Congress
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Children working at a silk factory in Paterson, NJ are bussed to a New York City labor parade. 1913.Library of Congress
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Picture of Bertha Hale White, a teacher, journalist, and a prominent functionary of the Socialist Party of America. 1913.Library of Congress
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Anarchists marching at a labor parade in New York. 1914.Library of Congress
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Anti-war demonstration in New York City protesting U.S. involvement in World War I. 1914.Library of Congress
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Leading member of the anarchist movement, Alexander Berkman, speaks to a crowd in New York City. 1914. Wikimedia Commons
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Ian Turner, of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) committee, wears a hat with a card labeled "Bread or Revolution" stuck in the brim. 1914.Library of Congress
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Anarchist labour organizer Marie Ganz appears onstage with Berkman. Ganz was a sweatshop worker before becoming an activist. 1914.Library of Congress
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Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman together in 1917. The two were close friends and lovers. That same year, both were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to "induce persons not to register" for the draft. After their release, they were both deported to Russia.Materialscientist/Wikimedia Commons
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Aftermath of a bomb attack on the home of U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer in 1919. The perpetrator was the Galleanist Italian anarchist movement. Palmer was unharmed by the attack.Moyabrit/Wikimedia Commons
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On September 16, 1920, anarchists set off a bomb on Wall Street in New York City. The bomb killed 38 people and seriously injured 143 others. Wikimedia Commons
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Aftermath of the Wall Street bombing.Library of Congress
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A man killed by the Wall Street bomb.Library of Congress
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The body of a man killed in the Wall Street bombing lies on the street.Library of Congress
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Anarchists, communists, socialists, and radicals who were rounded up in New York arrive at Ellis Island to be deported in 1920. At that time, political radicals were often deported from the United States as punishment. Many of them had grown up in the U.S. and knew little of their home country.Bettmann/Getty Images
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Bartolomeo Vanzetti (left) and Nicola Sacco, two Italian-born anarchists convicted of murdering a security guard in an armed robbery, taken in 1921. Their case became a popular cause among leftists who believed that the two were innocent and persecuted because they were immigrants. They were both executed in 1927, but the question of their guilt still remains contested.Wikimedia Commons
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Plainclothes Colorado State Rangers patrol a demonstration of coal miners on strike. The rangers opened fire on the unarmed strikers, killing six and injuring dozens. 1927.University of Washington/Flickr
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IWW member killed by Colorado state police during the strike.University of Washington
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May Day parade in New York City. 1930.National Archives of Estonia/Flickr
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Carlo Tresca, an Italian-born anarchist thinker once known in New York City as the "Town Anarchist," was shot and killed a few feet from his doorstep in downtown Manhattan in 1943. He was likely killed by Italian-Americans who supported fascism.Bettmann/Getty Images
American Anarchy: Intense Photos Of The Early 1900s Reign Of Radicalism In The U.S.
As the political climate in modern America becomes more radicalized, it may seem as though these new movements on the far left and the far right could tear the country apart. Of course, however, these movements and all other radical political ideologies like them are, at least in spirit, hardly new at all.
Most any political ideology has been considered, and likely gained traction, at some point in American history. Nearly a century ago, for example, ideologies like socialism, communism, and even anarchism — ideologies that still draw followers today — were powerful forces in the American political landscape.
At the turn of the century, the American labor movement began to form in response to the horrible working conditions inside factories. Workers had little to no rights and began organizing and striking in order to gain better conditions in terms of pay, benefits, safety, and child labor laws.
The government and employers' violent responses to these protests only drove demonstrators into increasingly radical ideologies.
Prominent figures in the labor movement like Daniel De Leon and Alexander Berkman, for example, began subscribing to and propagating communist and anarchist beliefs. This movement gained traction among many disaffected workers across America, but especially in the industrialized cities of the East Coast.
This, in turn, led to the popularity of the Socialist Party of America, a party that in 1912, at its height, secured six percent of the presidential vote with their candidate Eugene V. Debs.
Meanwhile, anarchists like Emma Goldman, who believed in the destruction of social and economic hierarchies, also rose to prominence within the movement.
And the beliefs of this movement sometimes led to violence. In 1901, President John McKinley was assassinated by anarchist Leon Czolgosz while he was shaking hands with the public. This was followed by an anarchist bombing in 1908 at a labor demonstration in Union Square in New York City.
In the late 1910s, this escalating violence, along with the fear of revolution following the communist uprising in Russia, caused a backlash against these radical groups in America. Police rounded up and deported a vast number of foreign-born people associated with leftist groups, including Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman.
Nationalists and nativists in the U.S. accused immigrants from eastern and southern European countries of being behind this leftist movement, initiating a "red scare" among an American public now terrified of a revolution. This fear spurred discrimination against new immigration and led to the expulsion of the five socialist members of the New York State Assembly.
Then, during the lead-up to May Day 1920, the attorney general claimed that there would be a communist uprising, but when the day passed without incident, it became clear that socialist revolution in the U.S. was not likely to happen.
At this point, the extreme backlash towards the leftists died down, and even the 1920 Wall Street bombing, in which an anarchist bomb killed 38 and wounded 143, was not able to fully revive this fear of the communist and anarchist threat.
As the 1920s came to a close, many of these radical leftist movements died down, and many activists became more involved in moderate political action. The reforms initiated by these activists led to greater freedom of collective bargaining and basic workers' rights, including the prohibition of child labor.
By the early 1930s, most of the more radical leftist groups of recent years past had either come under the umbrella of the New Deal Democrats, led by President Roosevelt, or had lost their influence.
This radical period may be long over with, but many of the radical organizations on both the left and the right today can trace their ideological lineage back to the political organizations of the early 20th century.
And as today's radicalized groups grow in voice and influence, we must reflect on the period in which radicalism truly flourished in the U.S. and hopefully learn from both the triumphs and mistakes of the past.