This Woman Was Described as ‘More Dangerous Than 1,000 Rioters’ In the 1800s

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Lucy Parsons was a radical socialist who was deemed as more dangerous than a thousand rioters.


Reported by Maria Lloyd

You can’t define a strong woman without referencing the life and legacy of Lucy Parsons. Although a trailblazer, she’s rarely ever mentioned in history textbooks in the classroom because documents detailing her controversial past were seized by Chicago Police Officers after a house fire took her life on March 7, 1942.

Parsons, born Lucy Eldine Gonzalez (approximately) in 1853 in the state of Texas, is believed to have been born as a slave to parents of African-American, Native American, and Mexican ancestry, though she only identified herself as the latter two. She began her journey as radical activist upon marrying The Alarm newspaper editor and former Confederate soldier Albert Parsons. The couple moved north to Chicago — where they both spearheaded highly controversial movements against oppression — due to intolerant reactions to their interracial marriage.

Many details of her life are unknown, but the facts of her life that have been unearthed are profound. Below are three things you should know about Lucy Parsons:

  1.  Chicago Police described her as ‘More Dangerous Than a Thousand Rioters’ in the late 1800s-1920s.  Known as an anarchist organizer, Parsons was primarily involved in the labor movement in the late 19th century, but she also participated in revolutionary activism on behalf of political prisoners, people of color, homeless people, and women. Her writings encouraged people to think and act independently, as opposed to thinking and acting how they were taught to. In her piece titled “The Negro: Let Him Leave Politics to the Politician and Prayer to the Preacher,”  she challenges Black people to reconsider their commitment to religion, among many other things.
  2. Police barred her from speaking publicly and arrested her for the ‘crime’ of passing out pamphlets. Despite her husband’s execution by the state of Illinois in conjunction with the Haymarket Affair, Parsons spent the latter 40 years of her life in Chicago relentlessly fighting to empower the oppressed. She was constantly harassed by police for delivering electrifying speeches and also arrested for the ‘crime’ of passing out revolutionary pamphlets on the street. Police barred her from speaking publicly throughout the city.
  3. Her writings were seized by Chicago Police upon her death, possibly destroyed. When Parsons died in a house fire, Chicago Police eagerly seized more than 3,000 volumes of literature and writings about sëx, socialism, and anarchy from her personal library. They turned the documents over to the FBI, fearing that her words would enlighten the underclass and spark anarchy. Although her comrades made several inquiries about the documents, they were never seen again and are believed to have been destroyed.