No matter what evidence one might use, the injustice of the legislation of 1920 towards the ethnic minorities in the United States will be obvious. Both the filmmakers of Sacco and Vanzetti and Scottsboro, as well as the authors of the book American Anticommunism, depicting the notorious suppressions of the people of different race and political beliefs, have managed to show fully the depth of the social crime towards people. However, the ways which the authors of the artworks have chosen are a little bit different.
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The basic thing which all tree works have in common is the demand of the social justice. Showing the most striking and impressive elements of the lifelong struggle, these people have managed to grasp the essence of what was happening and show it to the public, bare and undisguised.
What all of the works have in common is the emotional strain and the brewing danger of the social revolt. The authors of the movies and the book have shown that the tragic events were preceded by the last warning and the demand to restore the just system and abandon the legal system suggested in 1920. The politicians were deaf and blind, which resulted in the tragic events.
One of the strongest means of persuasion which all three works use is telling the public bare facts, without any additional details. The authors were as if saying, “Just look at what you have done.” More convincing than preaching, this issue is present in every work under the discussion.
Thus, Heale says, “Deprived of the tenuous glue of Progressivism and the self-sacrificing ethics of wartime patriotism, American society fragmented into its querulous parts.”1 Next to him, in Sacco and Vanzetti, the simple words show the depth of the social tragedy with these simple words: “But Sacco and Vanzetti belong to a different class. They are Communists”2. In Scottsboro: An American Tragedy Anker has managed to show the very depth of the challenge which ethnical minorities had to face in the distant 1920.
Willie Robinson suffered from syphilis so severe he could barely walk; Olen Montgomery had been looking for a job to pay for a pair of glasses…3
However, the three pieces have also a lot of specific features which made them unique and ever more effective in fighting for justice. Thus, in American Communism, only the political moves are described to achieve the necessary effect; the book does not take the human factor into account, making only the summary of the historical events; this has its own effect on the reader, with the impressive figures which speak for themselves:
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Between 1920 and 1926 the Klan enrolled over two million members and became a political force in several Midwestern and southern states.4
Mainly because of the cinematographic specifics, Scottsboro: An American Tragedy as a documentary looks much like a story told on a cold winter night. Taking the notorious law case, the authors of the movie went the way different from Heale and Miller.
The last, but not the least, Sacco and Vanzetti also gives a retrospective on the case which was no less scandalous than the Scottsboro case. Discussing the issues of patriotism, immigration and war, the characters in the movie make the audience feel that the justice will triumph whatever the sentence will be.
In spite of the fact that all three pieces in question use different means to speak to the hearts of the people, they are equally filled with meaning. The worthy movies and the book are designed to remind people of the tragic mistakes and help to avoid such misunderstandings in future. Perhaps, with such pieces of art, the mankind has a chance to get wiser.
Heale, Michael J. American Anticommunism: Combating the Enemy Within. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press, 1990. Print.
Sacco and Vanzetti. Dir. Peter Miller. Perf. Henry Fonda, Arlo Guthrie and David Keiser. Willow Pond Films, 2006. Film.
Scottsboro: An American Tragedy. Dir. Daniel Anker and Barak Goodman. Perf. Frances McDonald, Stanley Tucci and Andre Brauder. Cowboy Pictures, 2001. Film.
- Michael J. Heale, American Anticommunism: Combating the Enemy Within (Baltimore, MD: JHU Press, 1990), p. 79.
- Peter Miller, Sacco and Vanzetti (2006).
- Daniel Anker and Barak Goodman, Scottsboro (2001).
- Michael J. Heale, American Anticommunism: Combating the Enemy Within (Baltimore, MD: JHU Press, 1990), p. 84.