Today in Texas History – May 4

From the Annals of the Radicals –  In 1886, Albert Richard Parsons was implicated in the infamous Chicago Haymarket Massacre. Parsons had moved to Texas as a boy and lived in Tyler, the Hill Country and Galveston where he was a printer’s apprentice.  He was the brother of Confederate colonel William Henry Parsons and as a teenager served first in an irregular unit known as the Lone Star Greys and later in Parsons’s  Mounted Brigade during the Civil War.  After the war, he acquired 40 acres of corn and harvested it with the help of freed slaves.  He became a “Radical Republican”and was active in registering freed slaves to vote which no doubt earned him many enemies.  Parson also married a woman of mixed racial heritage – Lucy Parsons who had her own career fighting for social change.   When the Democrats returned to power after the end of Reconstruction, Parsons was persecuted as a miscegenationist and a scalawag.  He moved to Chicago worked as newspaper reporter for the Chicago Tribune and ultimately joined the Workingmen’s Party of the United States – standing as a candidate for Chicago alderman.  He was also active in the formation of the Knights of Labor.   On the evening of May 4, 1886, Parsons spoke at a meeting in Haymarket Square to protest police brutality.  He was with his family in nearby Zepf’s Hall when over 200 policemen marched into the square.  The infamous Haymarket Riot was imminent.  Someone threw a “bomb” and the police began firing indiscriminately.  Most of the seven police officers and seven members of the crowd who were killed died from shots fired from police revolvers. Parsons and seven others were tried for conspiracy to murder and he was hanged. 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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