• otdjewishistory

Leo Frank Lynched, 1915

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: August 17th, 1915

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#onthisday, August 17th, 1915, Leo Frank is lynched in Georgia and is recorded as the first case of an antisemitic blood libel in the US. [Warning: Image 2 Graphic Content]

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In 1913, Leo Frank was found guilty of killing a 13-year old girl named Mary Phagan. Mary Phagan left her home on April 26 to pick up her paycheck and she never returned home. Since Frank was the one who gave out the factory paychecks, he was the last person to see her alive and, so, became the prime suspect.

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Rumors circulated that she was sexually assaulted as well. At the time, in the South, if an African-American sexually assaulted a white girl, he would be hung. These same sentiments were felt against Frank who was Jewish.

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Although significant evidence pointed towards Jim Conley, a janitor at the factory, as the perpetrator since he was seen washing blood off his shirt and he admitted to writing the letters which were found next to her body - Leo Frank was found guilty.

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When the jury announced their decision - the courthouse chanted “hang the Jew!”

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This was one of the first times in the South that the testimony of an African-American man (Conley) was believed over that of a white man, albeit a Jew (Frank).

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The trial is believed to have been unfair from the start as jurors had already decided that if Frank was found not guilty, they would lynch him.

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The judge gave in to the mob mentality and sentenced Frank to death. Frank appealed the decision and the Supreme Court voted 7-2 against reopening the case.

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By 1915, Georgia Gov. Frank Slaton decided to review the case and after reading letters from the trial judge telling him to commute the sentence and the results of a private investigator he hired, Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence to life imprisonment.

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The people of Atlanta protested to near riot in front of the Governor’s mansion all night, but Slaton did not change his mind.

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Fatefully, #onthisday 25 people stormed the hospital where Frank was recovering from having his throat slashed by an inmate, kidnapped him, and lynched him right outside of Mary Phagan’s home.


A group referring to itself as "The Knights of Mary Phagan" brought back the KKK that same year (1915). Jews fled from Georgia en masse between 1915-1916. Meanwhile, the recently formed ADL (1913), used Frank cause as a driving motive to ensure an attack like it wouldn't occur again. It wouldn't be until 1986 that Frank was posthumously pardoned for failing to be protected while he was in custody.


Text Source: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/leo-frank

Image Source: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Second Image Source: WILLIAM BREMAN JEWISH HERITAGE MUSEUM OF ATLANTA


✍: @rebeccaroth01

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#judaism#jewishhistory#bloodlibel#antisemitism



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