Her Powerful Words Made Her ‘More Dangerous Than A Thousand Rioters’

lucy parsons
Zain Murdock
May 11, 2023

On May 4, 1886, a bloody war between a group of union workers and police began in Chicago. It’s now known as the Haymarket Rebellion. But what did a formerly enslaved woman have to do with any of it?

Lucy Parsons was an anti-capitalist labor activist who helped organize a peaceful march for workers’ rights. But when police killed several striking workers on May 3, only 2,000 out of an expected 20,000 people gathered the next day for fair working conditions, including the eight-hour work day we know today. 

Then, there was the bomb.

It’s unknown where the bomb came from, but after its explosion, police shot in the dark, killing seven of their own officers and four workers. And a year later, four civilians, including Parson’s own husband, were hanged for the policemen's crime. Still, Lucy Parsons kept fighting.

In the next few decades, she published a newspaper called “Freedom,” was the only woman to address the Industrial Workers of the World union, and delivered anarchist speeches so powerful, the Chicago PD said she was “more dangerous than a thousand rioters".

In other words, despite the risks to her own life, Parsons continued to fight for workers and impoverished people’s rights. We still have strikes, police brutality, and poverty today. But we can keep fighting with that same level of perseverance and resilience.