This exhibit, examines anti-Semitism in America. Through a large number of artifacts, it revisits the murder case and trial that ultimately captured the attention of the nation and led to the lynching of a Jewish man in Marietta, GA in 1915.
Exhibit Dates: September 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013
Location: Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, 211 N. Record Street, Dallas, TX 75202 (In the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas at the southwest corner of Pacific and Record.)
Hours: Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
In 1913, a jury convicted Leo Frank, a Jewish superintendent in a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia, of the murder of a child laborer who worked there. Mary Phagan was 13-years-old. Her body was found in the factory cellar. The conviction came after a long trial. In June 1915, Governor John Slaton, who believed Frank was innocent, commuted the sentence to life in prison on his last day in office. This outraged many.
Two months later, a lynch mob of 25 armed men, including pillars of Georgia’s legal community, kidnapped Frank from prison. Frank was driven 150 miles to Frey’s Gin, near Phagan’s home in Marietta, and hanged. A large crowd gathered and took photographs. Sources: The Breman Catalogue and GeorgiaInfo.usg.edu
In 1986, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles pardoned Frank, stating according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia:
Without attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence, and in recognition of the State’s failure to protect the person of Leo M. Frank and thereby preserve his opportunity for continued legal appeal of his conviction, and in recognition of the State’s failure to bring his killers to justice, and as an effort to heal old wounds, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, in compliance with its Constitutional and statutory authority, hereby grants to Leo M. Frank a Pardon. Source: The New Georgia Encyclopedia
The pardon was inspired in part by the 1982 testimony of 83-year-old Alonzo Mann, who as an office boy had seen Jim Conley carrying Mary Phagan’s body to the basement on the day of her death. Conley had threatened to kill Mann if he said anything, and the boy’s mother advised him to keep silent. For those who thought Frank innocent, this provided confirmation; for those who believed him guilty, this was insufficient evidence to change their views.
This trial had long- and far-reaching impact. It struck fear in Jewish southerners, causing them to monitor their behavior in the region closely for the next fifty years—until the civil rights movement led to more significant changes. Source: The Breman exhibit catalogue
The Leo Frank caused ripples well beyond Atlanta, GA. The case ignited the rebirth of the KKK and solidified the founding of the Anti-Defamation League. We present this exhibit with the same intent as The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum which developed it…
...to revisit the case of Leo Frank and pose critical questions relating to individual and moral responsibility, respect for individual difference, the fragility of the democratic process, responsible citizenship, and the importance of community.
The exhibit presents the complicated and nuanced story of Mary Phagan’s murder, Leo Frank’s fate, and the historical, cultural, and political backdrop against which these events took place.