Historian scraps with self-appointed Wikipedia "experts"

Historians in the News

A real historian, who knows a few facts about what really happened during the Haymarket riots, has crossed swords with Wikipedia editors who are insisting on pushing a fantasy history on the great unwashed.

Writing in the Chronicle, Timothy Messer-Kruse is a professor in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University and has been studying the Haymarket riot and trial of 1886. He has also written two books on the subject.

When a bomb was thrown during an anarchist rally in Chicago, America had its first Red Scare. There was a high-profile show trial and a worldwide clemency movement for the seven men executed.

Messer-Kruse decided to experiment with editing one particularly misleading assertion on Wikipedia that the prosecution, led by Julius Grinnell, did not offer evidence connecting any of the defendants with the bombing.

His quest to find out what really happened began after he read an identically worded statement in a history text book and one of his students pointed out that if the trial went on for six weeks and no evidence was presented, the question was what they talked about.

In fact, 118 witnesses were called to testify, many of them unindicted co-conspirators who detailed secret meetings where plans to attack police stations were mapped out, coded messages were placed in radical newspapers, and bombs were assembled in one of the defendants' rooms....

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