San Francisco in San Francisco City and County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade
It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees! – Dolores Ibarrúri
— ... no man ever entered earth more honorably than those who died in Spain – Ernest Hemingway —
The artist must take sides.
He must elect to fight for
freedom or for slavery.
I have made my choice.
I had no alternative.
- Paul Robeson, Singer and Actor
While the International Brigades were only a small portion of the total Republican armed forces, the played a crucial role, especially at the early stages of the war. Our values went beyond our numbers because our presence showed that the Spanish people had many supporters, even though the Western nations refused to help the Republic. We were a volunteer army inspired by conviction and became a powerful symbolic force. – Steve Nelson, Volunteer
You are history. You are legend.
You are the heroic example of
democracy’s solidarity and
universality...We shall not forget
you, and when the olive tree of
peace puts forth its leaves again
entwined with the laurels of the
Spanish Republic’s victory –
- Dolores Ibarrúri, La Pasionaria
The middle panel is missing and the text of this panel is part of the text included in the bottom panel of column 2 and the middle and bottom panels of column 3.
... story of ordinary... people who, for the... traveled outside... their lives for the...demonstrate that... the preserve of those we call “intellectuals,” that assembly line workers, nurses, and sharecroppers are capable of seeing their won struggles tied to working people throughout the world. – Robin D.G. Kelley, Historian
Column 3, top panel
There will always be a place for us somewhere, somehow, as long as we see to it that working people fight for everything they have, everything they hope to get, for dignity, equality, democracy, to oppose war and to bring to the world a better life. – Harry Bridges, Labor Organizer
If you look out the window and see a hungry emaciated child and do not feel a desire to do something to make the world a little better – then you’re not a complete
os he visto
y mis ojos están hasta ahora llenos de orgullo
porque os vi a través de la mañana de niebla llegar a la frente pura de Castilla
silenciosos y firmes
como campanas antes del alba
llenos de solemnidad y de ojos azules venir de lejos y lejos,
venir de vuestros rincones, de vuestras patrias perdidas, de vuestros sueños
llenos de dulzura quemada y de fusiles
a defender la ciudad española en que la libertad acorralada
pudo caer y morir mordida por las bestias.
- Pablo Neruda, Poet
The bottom panel is an English translation of the poem above. Half the panel is missing.
... full of raging gentleness and rifles
to defend the Spanish city in which corralled liberty
might fall and die, devoured by the beasts.
- Pablo Neruda, Poet
If there are men who are composed of a soul without frontiers,
a forehead scattered with universal tresses,
covered with horizons, ships and mountain ranges,
with sand and with snow, then you are one of them.
The olive groves will set about piercing you bones,
unfolding their most ferrous of roots in the earth,
embracing men universally, faithfully.
-Miguel Hernandez, Poet
The middle panel is a map
Spain changed my whole life. I saw a country struggling – ordinary people, peasants, poor people. They couldn’t even read or write, but when these young people came up to the front, we became an integrated army, the people struggling against the oppressing group of fascists. It left an indelible impression on my mind. So when I got back, I decided that I was going to be committed to furthering the cause of people, whatever I did. – Dave Smith, Volunteer
Spain has been etched in the hearts of our generation... and carried around like a terrible wound. Spain gave us our first taste of defeat, and because of her we discovered with an enduring shock that one can be right and still be defeated, that sheer force can trample the human spirit underfoot, and that there are times when courage goes unrewarded. Without a doubt, this explains why so many people the world over have experienced the Spanish drama as their own personal tragedy. – Albert Camus, Author
For never before in the history of the world had there been such a body of men – a spontaneously gathered international volunteer army, drawn from every stratum of human life and every human occupation, handworkers and professionals, intellectuals and farmers. The very existence of this army, that had played so crucial a role in
Top panel, map of the conflict area
Center panel missing
I... told myself over and over again that as long as the sirens sounded the planes had not yet arrived... I went through the square quickly and towards my hotel and when I first heard the noise of the motors I didn’t want to turn to see where they were. I thought: in that hotel room is a toothbrush, a clean nightgown, a cake of soap, and old coat and a box of lousy candy. Yet I am hurrying to it, it is where I am trying to go, it is the place where I have what belongs to me. And I knew suddenly why even the poorest women in Madrid wanted to stay with what was theirs. – Lillian Hellman, Author
Top row, columns 8, 9, 10 & 11; The Abraham Lincoln Brigade title
All night, all night
flared in my city the bright
cruel explosion of bombs.
All night, all night,
there, where the soil and stone
spilled like brains from the sandbag’s head,
while the anti-aircraft barked,
barked at the droning plane,
and the dogs of war, awakened
howled at the hidden moon.
And a star fell, omen of ill,
and a man fell, lifeless
and, friendless, my friend.
And I stumbled away from them, crying
from eyeless lids, blinded.
Trees became torches
lighting the avenues
where lovers huddled in terror
who would be lovers no longer.
- Edwin Rolfe, Volunteer
Column 9, center panel
... the first American volunteers in Spain entered into battle at Jarama Valley in defense of Madrid. Many of the American volunteers who went to support the Spanish Republic in 1937 and 1938 were actively involved in the efforts to “organize the unorganized,” from the factories of Pittsburgh to the coal mines of
Column 9, bottom panel missing
Column 10, center & bottom panels
I have praised the Causa of the Republic of Spain on the slightest provocation for twenty years, and I am tired of explaining that the Spanish Republic was neither a collection of blood-slathering Reds nor a cat’s-paw of Russia. Long ago I also gave up repeating that men who fought and those who died for the Republic, whatever their nationality and whether they were Communists, anarchists, Socialists, poets,
Column 11, center panel missing
Column 11, bottom panel
... Salvador, Nicaragua, South Africa, the Persian Gulf, and Iraq... After fifty, sixty, even seventy years of commitment to radical dissent, Lincoln veterans had come to view political agitation as the surest measure of personal fulfillment and the value of a life’s work. – Peter N. Carroll, Historian
... you may wonder why I write as if we had been here for years when we came here three weeks ago today. Well, a day seems ten weeks, sometimes a year. It seems as if we had been here for months as New York is a faint and unreal dream. All our lives we seem to have been running back and forth along these cold corridors, all our lives we have hated white moonlight because it means the birds of death are busy nearby... – Frederick Martin, Volunteer
On the battle front of the world,
What does your heart hear,
What poems unfurl
Their flags made of blood
To flame in our sky –
Made of words
With red wings to fly
Over the trenches
And over frontiers,
And over all barriers of time
Through the years
To sing this story
On the ramparts of the world –
What does your heart hear,
What songs unfurl?
- Langston Hughes, Poet
I think going to Spain made me feel that I was part of the world, that I could play a role no matter how small, and that it was significant. And I think that I lost a lot of my fear...what can be worse than dying? There’s really very little worse. And once we didn’t die, and we survived it, and we came back, other things were never that frightening again. - Ruth Davidow, Volunteer
Column 13, center and bottom panels are missing
Column 14, top panel
If you have tears to shed for the million dead of the Spanish Republic, save them. Shed them for the million dead of Vietnam. And if you feel moved to praise the courage of the defenders of Madrid, save that praise too. Save it for the young men of you own generation who share with you the agony of Vietnam and who resist the war. - Robert Colodny, Volunteer
The poem below fills the center and bottom panels of columns 14 and 15.
Brothers, from now on
may your purity and your strength,
be known by the child and the man, by the woman and the old man,
may it reach all beings without hope, descend into the mines corroded by sulphuric (sic) air,
climb the inhuman staircases of the slave,
may all the stars, may all the wheat shoots of Castile and the world
write down you name and your bitter struggle
and you victory, strong and terrestrial like a red oak.
Because of you sacrifice you have made lost faith,
absent soul, confidence in the earth, be reborn,
and through your abundance, through your nobleness, through you dead,
as if through a valley of hard rocks made of blood,
flows an immense river with doves of steel and hope.
- Pablo Neruda, Poet
Erected 2008 by San Francisco Arts Commission.
Topics and series. This memorial is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, Music • War, Spanish-American • War, World II. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1937.
Location. 37° 47.731′ N, 122° 23.704′ W. Marker is in San Francisco, California, in San Francisco City and County. Memorial can be reached from Market Street near Embarcadero, on the left when traveling east. Touch for mapTouch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Captain Leidesdorff (within shouting distance of this marker); San Francisco Vietnam Veterans Memorial (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Freeway Supports (about 300 feet away); Fruit Seller (about 300 feet away); Klebingat Recalls The City Front (about 300 feet away); The Embarcadero Freeway (about 400 feet away); Ferry Building (about 400 feet away); Port Time (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Francisco.
More about this marker. This marker is located at Justin Herman Plaza near the (inoperable) Vailliancourt Fountain.
Also see . . .
1. Monument to Lincoln Brigade unveiled - SF Gate. David Smith was a young college student with no military training when he shipped off to Spain to fight in the brutal Spanish Civil War. On Sunday, a throng of Bay Area history buffs gave him a standing ovation and shouted "Viva Dave!" as the now-92-year-old Berkeley resident teared up and pumped his fist in the air at the unveiling of San Francisco's newest public monument: a memorial to soldiers who fought in the lost war more than six decades ago. (Submitted on March 1, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.)
2. Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives. (Submitted on November 13, 2018, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.)
Credits. This page was last revised on November 13, 2018. It was originally submitted on March 1, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 813 times since then and 37 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on March 1, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.