Southern Jewish History
The Lynching of Leo Frank
Leo Frank, born in Texas on April 17 of 1884 and killed in Georgia on August 17th of 1915, was convicted of murder in Atlanta, Georgia. He was an American factory superintendent, and owned the factory where a 13-year-old worker named Mary Phagan was killed. Religious prejudices against the Yankee Jew caused Frank to be found guilty, regardless of the evidence defending him and pinning the murder on Jim Conley, the janitor. When Frank’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison, a mob associated with the Klu Klux Klan marched through the prison where he was held and kidnapped him. He became the first and only known Jew to be lynched in the United States. The lynching of Leo Frank offered information on the social, political, and economic stance of Jews in the South at that time. Leo Frank was lynched because of his recognized differences from the Gentile majority, shocking the Jews that thought that they had assimilated.
In the early twentieth century, the economy was based on manufacturing and commerce, leading many people to enter Atlanta urban life from the rural countryside. There were often dangerous working conditions, child labor, and low salaries. During the same time, Atlanta Jewish elite was uncommonly integrated into the economic fabric of the South. They were, as a whole, generally wealthy, and held high positions in many factories and other businesses.
Despite their economic success, they felt the difference between themselves and the majority Gentile population. They were...