Abrams, Jacob, 1886-1953

Russian Jewish anarchist. Emigrated from Russia in 1908 and became a New York organizer for the International Brotherhood of Bookbinders. In 1917 he was a member of the advisory board of the New York Publicity Committee of the Alexander Berkman Labor Defense.Abrams was a leading member of a small New York anarchist group called Frayhayt (Freedom), which was organized in 1917. In June 1918 the group secretly printed and distributed the banned Yiddish journal Der Shturm (The Storm) from an office and apartment in Harlem. He was arrested with other members of Frayhayt, including Mollie Steimer, Jacob Schwartz, Hyman Lachowsky, and Samuel Lipman, on 23 August 1918 for distributing a Der Shturm leaflet entitled "The Hypocrisy of the United States and Her Allies." The leaflet criticized American entry into World War I and encouraged a revolution among workers. The five defendants were each charged with conspiracy to violate the Sedition Act of May 1918. The trial began on 10 October 1918, with Harry Weinberger defending the members of Frayhayt, and Judge Harry DeLamar Clayton presiding. On 25 October 1918 Abrams and the other defendants were found guilty and sentenced to twenty years in prison and a $1000 fine, except Steimer who was sentenced to 15 years and a $500 fine, after Weinberger unsuccessfully argued the unconstitutionality of the Sedition Act. Abrams and the others were free on bail until the United States Supreme Court upheld their conviction in November 1919. The Supreme Court majority opinion ruled that the pamphlet had created a clear and present danger to US security. The Abrams case became a landmark in the repression of civil liberties. The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. is also a landmark opinion supporting freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Upon the decision of the Supreme Court, Abrams attempted to escape to Mexico via New Orleans with Lipman. The two were caught by federal agents and sent to prison until Weinberger negotiated their release on condition of deportation to Russia. Abrams, Lipman, and Steimer traveled to Soviet Russia together in December 1921. Disillusioned with the Soviets, Abrams gained citizenship in Mexico in 1925 and resided in Mexico City until his death in 1953.

Abrams contributed to Freedom in 1919, "The Second Russian Convention"

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