By Jeffrey Melnick
An research of the Leo Frank case as a degree of the complexities characterizing the connection among African americans and Jews in the USA
In 1915 Leo Frank, a Northern Jew, used to be lynched in Georgia. He have been convicted of the homicide of Mary Phagan, a tender white girl who labored within the Atlanta pencil manufacturing facility controlled via Frank. In a tumultuous trial in 1913 Frank's major accuser was once Jim Conley, an African American worker within the manufacturing facility. was once Frank accountable?
In our time a martyr's air of secrecy falls over Frank as a sufferer of non secular and nearby bigotry. The never-ending controversy has encouraged debates, videos, books, songs, and theatrical productions. one of the artistic works considering the case are a ballad through Fiddlin' John Carson, David Mamet's novel The outdated Religion in 1997, and Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown's musical Parade in 1998.
Indeed, the Frank case has turn into a touchstone within the heritage of black-Jewish cultural family members. How- ever, for too lengthy the trial has been oversimplified because the second while Jews well-known their vulnerability in the United States and commenced to make universal reason with African americans.
This examine has a distinct story to inform. It casts off previous political and cultural luggage for you to investigate the cultural context of Frank's trial, and to envision the tension put on the connection of African american citizens and Jews by way of it. the translation provided here's in response to deep archival learn, analyses of the courtroom files, and research of assorted inventive creations encouraged by way of the case. It means that the case will be understood as supplying conclusive early proof of the deep mutual mistrust among African americans and Jews, a mistrust that has been skillfully and cynically manipulated by way of robust white humans.
Black-Jewish kinfolk on Trial is worried much less with what really occurred within the nationwide Pencil corporation manufacturing facility than with how Frank's trial, conviction, and lynching were used as an get together to discover black-Jewish kinfolk and the recent South. simply as with the O. J. Simpson trial, the Frank trial calls for that americans make a profound exam in their crucial ideals approximately race, sexuality, and gear.
Jeffrey Melnick is an assistant professor of yank experiences at Babson collage and the writer of A correct to Sing the Blues: African americans, Jews, and American well known Song.
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Additional resources for Black-Jewish Relations on Trial: Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the New South
Creating a rarified life of the mind for Leo Frank, but no life at all for Conley and Phagan, Mamet writes an elaborate defense of his own turn toward Jewish orthodoxy. To be properly Jewish, according to Mamet, is to keep oneself apart and above smelly white women and stupid African Americans. In this, the novel reveals itself as a firm repudiation not just of Jewish assimilation but also of the New Left dream of Black-Jewish relations as part and parcel of the broadbased movements that included African American freedom struggles and women's liberation.
The most obvious way to demonstrate this is to examine the role played by southern whites in shaping the contest of African American versus Jew in and around the case. While Frank and Conley (and the African American and Jewish supporters of each) certainly played a large role in fashioning this public contest of Southem Others, the most influential interventions were made by Solicitor-General Hugh Dorsey and the former Populist leader Thomas Watson. This reveals to us that "Black-Jewish relations" is not executed in some sort of ethnic laboratory, free and clear of outside interference, but is staged in a public sphere 42 Leo Frank and Jim Conley in Atlanta in which the most powerful actors are often neither African American nor Jewish.
2 But Frank had surprisingly deep southern connections: his Uncle Moses, who recruited Leo to run the new pencil-making concern in Atlanta, was a Confederate veteran. After accepting Moses Frank's offer, Leo Frank went to Germany in 1907 to study pencil manufacturing, and then moved to Atlanta to take over the factory (Golden 6-8). Frank married Lucille Selig, the daughter of a prominent Atlanta family in 1911, and quickly became a leading member of Atlanta's Jewish community. As a successful and articulate German Jew, Frank certainly occupied a privileged place in Atlanta's Jewish community, which is not to say that he had much social currency among non-Jews.