March 14, 2005
Leo Frank (photograph c. 1915)
Virulent anti-Semitism led directly to the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and lynching of the innocent, but Jewish, Leo Frank. Police and prosecutors fabricated evidence to win a death by hanging verdict. When the governor of Georgia commuted Frank's sentence to life in prison, a resurgent Klan mob stormed the prison and re-imposed the original sentence.
by Denise Noe
At approximately 3 a.m. on Sunday, April 27, 1913, the night watchman of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta discovered a girl's brutally battered body in the factory's basement. Covered with sawdust, her skull was caked with dried blood, her eyes were bruised, her face scratched and bruised and some of her fingers out of joint. A piece of rope, along with a strip taken from her own underpants, encircled her neck.
She was soon identified as 13-year-old Mary Phagan, the child of a working-class family. She had been employed at the factory putting metal tips on pencils. She had recently been laid off because the factory had run out of the metal required for her job. On Saturday, April 26, 1913, Confederate Memorial Day in Atlanta, she planned to see the parade but first wanted to stop off at the factory to collect $1.20 in wages owed her.
The killing captured the Monday headlines and news about it would appear on the front pages of Atlanta newspapers for more than a year afterward. Much of Atlanta suffered a paroxysm of grief over this murder. About 10,000 people showed up at the morgue and over 1,000 attended her funeral. Those grieving over this stranger were nicknamed ''Mary's People'' while she became known as ''the little factory girl.''