‘Hang the Jew’,the curious case of The People v. Leo Frank
Tonight on PBS will air “The People v. Leo Frank,” a must-see documentary about the only known Jew to be lynched in the American South, Monday, Nov. 2, at 10 p.m.
Leo Max Frank (April 17, 1884 – August 17, 1915) was an American man who became the only known Jew to be on lynched American soil.(Source Wikipedia).
Frank was the manager of a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia, and was originally from Brooklyn, New York.On April 27, 1913, a 13-year-old factory worker named Mary Phagan, a white child laborer, was found strangled to death and possibly raped in the basement of the factory.
Atlanta, like the rest of the deep south,the white citizens were totally anti-Semitic, and hated Jewish people, just as much as they hated black people.
Jews were subject to be treated as harshly as black people, certainly when it came down to trumped-up charges of rape and murder of white women , that we now know were perpetrated by white men, who framed black and jewish men for their evil deeds.
In the early 1900’s,the ignorance and bigotry of the white Americans,made their population predisposed to irrationally believe anything but what the evidence proved, just as long as it pointed to a black man, typically, and unfortunately for the innocent Jew, Leo Frank.
In 1915, the modern Ku Klux Klan was rising very rapidly across the south, and this case was a big stimulate, along with racist propaganda from Hollywood in the form of a movie, ”The Birth of a Nation”, by D.W Griffith,for the racist organization to gain power, and it brought to prominence a fledgling organization called the Anti-Defamation League.
Unfortunetly, he was tried and convicted, based on what most historians say was the perjured testimony of a black man, who lied on the stand due to the fact that he had been tortured and his family as well as himself, were under the threat of death if he did not lie, and sentenced to death.
But when the governor commuted his sentence in 1915, about 25 men abducted Frank, 31, from the state prison and hung him from a tree in Marietta, Georgia.
Leo Frank was lynched by a group of prominent citizens who called themselves the “Knights of Mary Phagan”.The group is reported to have included the son of a senator, a former governor, lawyers, and a prosecutor.
No physical evidence ever connected him to the crime,but his nervousness and the contradictory testimony of the black janitor convinced the jury of all white men that he was guilty.
It was a miscarriage of justice that played into the vile deep seeded hatred of jews in the south. There was some fake evidence discovered by the police that seemed to point to a black factory worker as the killer, but this evidence was probably false as well.The majority of these killings have been proven thru time to have been committed by white men.
Blacks and Jews were convenient targets to blame, as xenophobia in the south was practiced like a religion.In actuality, they did not care about Mary Phagan, or who killed her, they just wanted to lynch a black or a jew.
After Frank’s lynching, approximately half of Georgia’s 3,000 Jews left the state.They focused international attention on Frank’s lynching and formed the Anti-defamation league to fight against future miscarriages of justice based on race or/and religion.
To learn more about the Leo Frank case, tune in to P.B.S. Monday, Nov. 2, at 10 pm to watch a documentary on it, and click on the links below…