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August 21: Emma Goldman “Occupies” Union Square

August 21, 2013

03_EMMA-GOLDMAN-2Emma Goldman, 24, led 1,000 people in a march on Union Square in New York on this date in 1893, shortly after the “Panic of 1893” had led to the closing of 600 banks, bankruptcy for 56 railroads and 15,000 other firms, and a quadrupling of the number of unemployed American to more than three million. “Go into the streets where the rich dwell,” Goldman told the crowd. “Ask for work. If they do not give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.” Ten days later, in Philadelphia, she was arrested (see her mug shot at left) for her incendiary words and sentenced to a year in prison, where she educated herself by reading Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, trained as a nurse, and helped convert many prisoners to her political views. When she was released the following summer, Goldman was met by a crowd of 2,800. She announced that she had been imprisoned for talking, and would soon be talking again. To read some of the testimony in her trial, click here. To see her interviewed in the 1930s, look below.

Imprisonment “has changed none of my old sentiments; on the contrary, it has made them more ardent, more absolute than ever, and henceforward all that remains to me of life can be summed up in one word: liberty.” —Emma Goldman