The two good men alluded to here are Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti
; while they were indeed a long time gone by the time Guthrie was commissioned to write and record the Ballads of Sacco & Vanzetti
album on their behalf, their case remained a hot-button issue.
Sacco and Vanzetti were working-class immigrants from Italy who were put on trial for the murder of two men during the course of a 1920 payroll robbery. They were convicted and put to death in 1927, but their case drew a lot of attention as many questioned the evidence. Guthrie was clearly on their side.