By Jeffrey Melnick
An research of the Leo Frank case as a degree of the complexities characterizing the connection among African american citizens and Jews in the USA
In 1915 Leo Frank, a Northern Jew, was once lynched in Georgia. He have been convicted of the homicide of Mary Phagan, a tender white lady who labored within the Atlanta pencil manufacturing facility controlled by means of Frank. In a tumultuous trial in 1913 Frank's major accuser was once Jim Conley, an African American worker within the manufacturing unit. was once Frank accountable?
In our time a martyr's air of mystery falls over Frank as a sufferer of non secular and local bigotry. The never-ending controversy has encouraged debates, videos, books, songs, and theatrical productions. one of the artistic works fascinated about the case are a ballad through Fiddlin' John Carson, David Mamet's novel The previous Religion in 1997, and Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown's musical Parade in 1998.
Indeed, the Frank case has develop into a touchstone within the background of black-Jewish cultural kin. How- ever, for too lengthy the trial has been oversimplified because the second while Jews well-known their vulnerability in the USA and commenced to make universal reason with African americans.
This examine has a special story to inform. It casts off outdated political and cultural luggage that allows you to examine the cultural context of Frank's trial, and to envision the tension put on the connection of African americans and Jews by way of it. the translation provided here's in keeping with deep archival examine, analyses of the court docket documents, and examine of assorted creative creations encouraged by means of the case. It means that the case can 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 means of robust white humans.
Black-Jewish relatives on Trial is anxious much less with what truly occurred within the nationwide Pencil corporation manufacturing unit than with how Frank's trial, conviction, and lynching were used as an social gathering to discover black-Jewish relatives and the hot South. simply as with the O. J. Simpson trial, the Frank trial calls for that american citizens make a profound exam in their crucial ideals approximately race, sexuality, and gear.
Jeffrey Melnick is an assistant professor of yankee stories at Babson university and the writer of A correct to Sing the Blues: African american citizens, Jews, and American renowned Song.
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Extra resources for Black-Jewish Relations on Trial: Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the New South
As a result, Jews like Leo Frank were much more likely to take up whiteness as a self-concept and mode of behavior than their northern counterparts, for whom identification by intermediate racial categories was not only more available but also sometimes compulsory. The northern college quota crisis of the early 1920s, for instance, demonstrated in a fairly systemic way that Jews—in elite circles anyway—were considered to deviate from normative whiteness: after complaining about their exclusion from a junior prom at New York University, Jews were faced with a poster that read "Make New York University a White Man's College" (Dobkowski 16768n67).
The voice of these disempowered workers, many of them first-generation city people, was Fiddlin' John Carson—himself a mill worker. Frank, on the other hand, not only was a boss but also had William J. Burns, a private detective, working for him. Burns was widely known and hated in Atlanta as a hired gun for the unionbusting forces of Fulton Bag. Jacquelyn Dowd Hall explains that the labor strife at Fulton Bag had an exceedingly negative effect on Frank's case (Hall, "Private Eyes"). Carson began writing ballads about Frank and Phagan very soon after the murder; he may even have performed some of these songs at anticommuta- 18 Leo Frank, the Musical tion meetings that were held in 1915.
The two movies along with Members of the Tribe also admit—at least tacitly—that approaching the Frank case necessarily means reckoning with the status of Black-Jewish relations. All three try to undo the damage that the case did to Black-Jewish relations (deriving from the ultimate Frank-versusConley battle at its heart) by suggesting third-man solutions to the murder; this is muted in They Won't Forget and the novel it was based upon. Murder in Harlem explicitly pins the blame on Mary Phagan's boyfriend: following the details of the Frank case closely, this movie proposes a clever solution to the "he said/he said" conundrum of Frank versus Conley.