Facing toward the Dawn

The Italian Anarchists of New London

By Richard Lenzi

Subjects: Italian American Studies, American History, Immigration, Ethnic History
Series: SUNY series in Italian/American Culture
Hardcover : 9781438472713, 334 pages, January 2019
Paperback : 9781438472706, 334 pages, January 2020

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Table of contents


1. From Fano to New London

2. Italian Revolutionaries in a Yankee State

3. Birth of Gruppo L’Avvenire

4. A Night at the Opera House

5. Toward Galleanism

6. Breakdown

7. Rebuilding
photo gallery follows page 104

8. Solidarity Neighborhood

9. Anarchists at War

10. Facing the 1920s

11. They Fought the Law

12. “The 12th of October in New London”

13. Allies and Enemies

14. From New Deal to World War

15. “Tested by Attacks of Time and Illness”


Examines the history of the Italian anarchist movement in New London, Connecticut.


In the early twentieth century, the Italian American radical movement thrived in industrial cities throughout the United States, including New London, Connecticut. Facing toward the Dawn tells the history of the vibrant anarchist movement that existed in New London's Fort Trumbull neighborhood for seventy years. Comprised of immigrants from the Marche region of Italy, especially the city of Fano, the Fort Trumbull anarchists fostered a solidarity subculture based on mutual aid and challenged the reigning forces of capitalism, the state, and organized religion. They began as a circle within the ideological camp of Errico Malatesta and evolved into one of the core groupings within the wing of the movement supporting Luigi Galleani. Their manifold activities ranged from disseminating propaganda to participating in the labor movement; they fought fascists in the streets, held countless social events such as festas, theatrical performances, picnics and dances, and hosted militant speakers, including Emma Goldman. Focusing on rank-and-file militants—carpenters, stonemasons, fishermen, housewives—rather than well-known figures, Richard Lenzi offers a microhistory of an ethnic radical group during the heyday of labor radicalism in the United States. He also places that history in the context of the larger radical movement, the Italian American community, and greater American society, as it moved from the Gilded Age to the New Deal and beyond.

Richard Lenzi is an independent scholar who was heavily involved in the labor movement and the political left for many years. A product of a lifelong interest in labor and radical history, this is his first book.


"…a remarkable addition to the literature on the history of Italian-American radicals. " — Italian Americana

"Facing toward the Dawn is an important book, an act of recovered memory, that says much about regional life at the dawn of the twentieth century, when the future seemed more open than it does now. " — New Politics

"Lenzi's cultural and political history of the New London anarchists is a valuable addition to the history of US radicalism. Simultaneously local and international in its scope, Facing toward the Dawn broadens the reader's understanding of early twentieth century immigrant life in the United States while adding some important context to the popular history of resistance to American capitalism. " — CounterPunch

"Facing toward the Dawn is unlike anything in the literature of local history. It's the biography of a place built and sustained on shared beliefs at an extreme end of the political spectrum. " — The Day

"This book is the product of some wonderful and groundbreaking historical detective work, and it succeeds in combining two seemingly incongruent genres of history: the local/neighborhood study and the history of transnational migration and radicalism. The result is one of the best and most detailed histories of a single anarchist community written to date. In addition, it makes new and important contributions to the history and background of the Sacco-Vanzetti case, Prohibition, and the history of fascism and anti-fascism in the United States. Scholars and lay readers interested in any of these areas will find this work indispensable. " — Kenyon Zimmer, author of Immigrants against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America