Chapter 6: Marching On

This was the second day in Albert’s life in which he had been both threatened with lynching and thrown down a flight of stairs. The first time was by Klansmen in the South, for the sin of encouraging freed slaves to register to vote; now it was happening in the North for encouraging wage slaves to unionize.

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A Christmas Miracle

WWI German soldiers decorate a Christmas Tree inside their trench

The willingness of those soldiers to put aside their weapons in the spirit of goodwill towards each other shows the power we all have when faced with the evils of the world. We have the ability to stop the bloodshed, reflect, and spread grace and kindness, even in the midst of unspeakable horror.

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Chapter 5: The Years Go By

 In 1860 the Republican National Convention came to Chicago’s newly constructed Wigwam Convention Center and nominated Abraham Lincoln to be their candidate for president. My brother and I were in attendance, excited about the potential of an abolitionist in the office of president.  His victory that November would plunge the country into civil war and inspire my brother and I to enlist.

The war was hell, as wars tend to be. We joined the 53rd Illinois infantry in ’62 and were quickly sent to join up with the Army of the Tennessee heading down to Corinth and later  Vicksburg where I was wounded trying to cross the ravine under Sherman. My brother was slain 3 days later, falling victim to the wrong end of a confederate bayonet.

Upon returning home, I found work within the Chicago police force beginning in ’66, being drawn to the idea of protecting and serving the citizens of my beloved hometown. In ’71 a fire burned 2000 acres of the city, including my precinct leaving myself and about 90,000 people homeless. The mayor immediately called in the military and declared martial law for the next few weeks. This allowed for my continued employment but I wasn’t exactly thrilled and neither were my neighbors. Little did we know the troubles the next decade would bring.

Now back in ’67 the federal government passed a law limiting a days labor to 8 hours but enforcement of this law was lacking. As a result, businesses forced their employees to sign waivers negating the law and causing civil unrest.  In 1884 the Unions called for a nationwide demonstration to begin May 1st of ’86 to proclaim the right of the 8 hour work day. This allowed them 2 years to plan, but it allowed the same for the city government.

By February ’86, law enforcement had been increased in preparation for the impending demonstrations and bad actors were being actively sought out. One of our detectives got a tip that a fellow by the name of Lingg liked to fiddle with explosives and was planning something big. I led a squad of officers to the address but as I rounded the corner I crashed head first into a young woman carrying a basket of items from the market. I helped her gather her things and she smiled and hurried down the way. By the time we reached the apartment, Lingg was gone, leaving behind only residue and a few fuses. 

Chapter 4: Uneasy Settling

May 1st 1886:

Louie was having another fight with William today. We’ve been living in his house ever since the police raid on our apartment. Louie spends most of his time these days making bombs, which is what he and Mr. Seliger were arguing about. William doesn’t want to be an accomplice to the trouble that will come with that, but Louie says he’s careful. They won’t tell me what’s going on, and why they need to prepare. But I’ve seen the way William looks at Louie when my brother isn’t watching him. He’s afraid of what Louie is becoming. The only other person my brother has spent any time around is this Elise woman. A good-for-nothing harlot, if you ask me, but she makes my brother happy, and he’s so serious all the time.

When we arrived in America, things were really hard for a while. Louie found work as a carpenter, but the boss charged him an extortionate rate for the tools he used, so food was hard to come by for a while. Eventually, we made it through, and Louie fell in with the Chicago Lumber Union, and even took up a leadership role in the group. It is fortunate that we found William when we did, as we lost most of our things in the police raid. I’m grateful I was able to distract that policeman, because if he hadn’t focused on me, Louie surely would have been caught.

I am busier than ever. I have steady work through some of Louie’s contacts, working for a mixed couple, Albert and Lucy Parsons. They need a housekeeper, and I have the free time. Albert is a real ball of energy. He’s an Englishman, and is passionate about worker’s rights. His wife, Lucy, she’s much more reserved. They get a lot of flak from folks around here, on account of her being a negro. They have two kids, who I care for often. They have their father’s drive to action. I got an earful from Lucy the day the two had me looking for them all over the market and we got home way after sundown.

The streets are getting wild. The strike is in full swing, and tens of thousands of working men are out marching, protesting for a 8 hour workday. A man named August Spies is leading them. They’re supposed to have a big rally in a few days, outside the McCormick Harvester Works. Although morale seems to be high, and the men are mostly of the agreeable sort, I do wish the crowds die down soon. This many people out and about make me anxious.

Chapter 3: Known, Unknown

I never wanted to be known.

I kept my story to myself; I never told anyone that I was born a slave in Virginia; I told the world I was a Mexican maiden from Texas —white Americans respect Mexicans.  

I never told the world about Oliver, about our baby.  

No, the public has no right to my past.

But Albert, he loved to be known.  He loved to be seen, to be heard.

Above all, he loved adventure.

Albert used to brag that there was a Parsons in every social, religious and political revolution on U.S. soil.  Growing up in Texas, his pride itched for the chance to fight alongside the next Washington.

This love of adventure led him to take many sides. 
As a boy of 13, it led him to abandon a newspaper apprenticeship and join his older brothers in the Confederate army, fighting to defend slavery.

By the time he grew into a man (and the Confederacy had been defeated), he could finally reflect on the humanity of the colored people who raised him, worked in his employ and alongside him.  He became an abolitionist-in-hindsight. 
He used the newspaper he ran to encourage freedmen to register to vote, and he joined the Republican party —architects of Reconstruction and Civil Rights, crushers of the slaveholder rebellion.  In doing so, he earned the fiery hate of his former Confederate and Democratic “comrades.”  When the Ku Klux Klan prevented him from publishing his paper, he threw himself into politics full-time, eventually working for President Grant.

He would boast that his political career was full of excitement and danger.  His love of adventure drove him on.
It was at this time when he and I met and began our adventure.  Albert’s party had made our mixed-race union legal, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long.  We left Texas and settled in Chicago, among a community of German immigrants and laborers that would become our home ever since.  Here, our work for the cause of true socialism, of anarchism, began.

by Thomas Boguszewski