"Prison Cannot Crush Their Spirit": The Ideological Impact of Incarceration on Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and Eugene V. Debs



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This thesis revolves around the prison experiences of Eugene V. Debs, Emma Goldman, and Alexander Berkman. These working-class revolutionary intellectuals were each imprisoned multiple times between 1892 and 1921. By using their memoirs and prison letters, I explore and analyze how prison affected the ideology of these revolutionaries, how it changed their personal lives, and how these individuals influenced their contemporaries as well as future radicals. By examining their relationships with other inmates while incarcerated, I reveal aspects of their personal character to better illuminate their revolutionary ideals. All three experienced profound ideological change during their first long-term imprisonment. Prison also served to reinforce their commitment to revolution. For all three, their commitment to revolutionary activism and organizing forced them back into prison cells, and all three emerged from their second long-term prison sentences yet more committed to their ideals. For Eugene Debs, this thesis focuses on his time at the Woodstock prison in Illinois as a result of his role in the 1894 Pullman Strike, as well as his time at the federal penitentiary at Atlanta for violating the Espionage Act in 1918. For Emma Goldman, this thesis looks at her time at Blackwell's Island in 1893 after she was convicted on charges of inciting to riot, as well as her imprisonment in 1917 at the Missouri State Penitentiary for violating the Espionage Act. For Alexander Berkman, this thesis explores his fourteen years at the Western Penitentiary from 1892 - 1906 for his attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick, as well as his imprisonment at the federal penitentiary at Atlanta for violating the Espionage Act in 1917.



Eugene V. Debs, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, anarchists, anarchism, socialism, socialists, prison, incarceration