Today In History: The Lynching of Leo Frank – Exploring Hate

Posted By on January 31, 2023

In the spring of 1913, Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old factory worker, was found murdered in the basement of the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta. In what would become one of the most notorious cases in Georgia history and one that still resonates today Leo Frank, the superintendent of the factory, was accused of her murder. A Northerner and a Jew, Frank was swiftly convicted and sentenced to death.

But when the governor of Georgia commuted Franks sentence in 1915 to life in prison, an outraged mob stormed the state penitentiary. Calling themselves The Knights of Mary Phagantheykidnapped Frank, carted him off to Phagans hometown of Marietta, and on August 17th, lynched him. Leo Frank was 31 years old.

Laying bare the disturbing reality of antisemitism and antisemitic conspiracies in America, the trial and lynching both reignited the KKK and fueled support for the recently founded Anti-Defamation League. As the late Dr. Clifford Kuhn said in this interview with Georgia Public Television:

People sometimes think the world is changing too fast. And we latch upon symbols to vent our confusion, our frustration, our anger at things that are out of controlIts very easy to find convenient scapegoats. And Leo Frank was certainly a scapegoat.

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Today In History: The Lynching of Leo Frank - Exploring Hate

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