Alexander Berkman was an anarchist leader who emigrated to the US from Lithuania in 1888 when he was 18 years old. Soon after he arrived in America, he met Emma Goldman, a fellow Russian immigrant, in 1889 at Sach's Café in the Lower East Side, the headquarters of Yiddish-speaking anarchists in New York City. This was the beginning of a lifelong relationship (and often romance) with Goldman, despite many disagreements and separations. He became a member of the Pioneers of Liberty, the first Jewish anarchist group in the US. Berkman soon came under the tutelage of Johann Most, an anarchist who advocated violence carried out to encourage the masses to revolt.
Johann Most influenced Berkman's assassination attempt on Henry Clay Frick on July 23, 1892. Goldman had a part in his plan--she was to explain his motives after he killed Frick and then himself. Berkman was unsuccessful and served 14 years in a Pennsylvania prison for his crime. While incarcerated, he edited the Prison Blossom, a secret journal, and later wrote his famous Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, describing his assassination attempt as the "first terrorist act in America". His time in prison did not do much to curb his violence; Berkman was later indicted for murder in association with the Preparedness Day bombing in San Francisco.
After his release from prison, there were reports that he married Goldman in New Jersey, but the marriage was never recorded, and at a later trial, they both testified as single. Berkman did serve as editor to Goldman's magazine Mother Earth, and later became editor of the Blast. Berkman and Goldman both served two years in jail for urging young men to refuse to register for the WWI draft. Under the 1918 Anarchist Exclusion Act, both were deported to Russia after they were released from prison. In the deportation documents, the government accused Berkman's and Goldman's teachings to have helped cause the assassination of President McKinley, for Czolgosz cited Goldman's writings in confession after assassination.
Berkman left the Russia after three years of compiling material with Goldman for a proposed Museum of the [Bolshevik] Revolution. They even met with Lenin himself before leaving the country. Berkman would end his life in France, the struggles of his deteriorating health causing him to commit suicide in 1936. Goldman rushed to Nice, France to be at his side; he recognized her, but the bullet that he had aimed for his heart had lodged in his spinal column, paralyzing him. He died with Goldman at his side at 66 years old.
Dramaturgy for the Ragtime musical and novel.
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