The Fight Against Anti-Semitism: A Review of ‘Parade’

On Wednesday night, October 5, the Anti-Defamation League‘s Young Professionals Division hosted a gathering of roughly two dozen members to watch the musical, Parade, in Ford’s Theater.  The play is based on the trial and lynching of Leo Frank, a New York-born Jew who moved to live and work near Atlanta.

Mr. Frank was falsely accused of murdering a young factory girl named Mary Phagan.  He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. But  when the governor commuted his sentence, a lynch mob broke into the prison where he was being kept and murdered him.  This case helped give birth to the ADL, as Americans confronted anti-Jewish bigotry and discrimination.

Prior to the show, the ADL Young Professionals Division hosted a happy hour across the street at Bistro D’oc.  At this gathering, Sophie Dornstreich of the DC chapter of ADL hosted a brief discussion about this case, its importance, and the resulting fallout.

While today many of us live openly and proudly as Jews with little fear of anti-Semitism, merely one hundred years ago this was not the case for many of our ancestors.  It was a poignant reminder that, although much progress has been made, we cannot and should not take it for granted.

The musical itself was quite enjoyable and moving.  It presented a South still obsessed with the Civil War, as the yearly Confederate Memorial Day parade is central to the plot.  Many of the locals looked suspiciously at Leo Frank because he was guilty of being an outsider on two counts: Jewish and from New York.

The musical explores these themes, but I felt it could have done a better job digging a little deeper into the prejudices rather than display the Southerners as Confederate-flag waving, undereducated locals.  One of the pleasant surprises was that the musical showed the strength of Leo’s wife, Lucille, as she tirelessly campaigned for his freedom.  I was particularly moved at the ending of the play as the noose was around Leo’s neck and he began to say the Shema.  Let’s just say it got a little dusty in the room for me at that part.

Overall, I recommend taking an evening to see the show.  It is enjoyable and a reminder of the struggles we faced as Jews not too long ago.

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2 replies
  1. Leo Frank
    Leo Frank says:

    Leo Frank confessed to murder Mary Phagan three separate times according to the official record. Confession #3 was the most famous because he did it at his trial.

    Leo Frank Murder Confession #1: Made to Jim Conley, April 26, 1913, (See Brief of Evidence, 1913)

    Leo Frank Murder Confession #2: Made to his wife Lucille Selig Frank (See State’s Exhibit J, June 3, 1913, Brief of Evidence, and Last Will and Testament of Lucille S. Frank who requested cremation instead of burial next to her husband)

    Leo Frank Murder Confession #3: Made to the Court and Jury on August 18, 1913, when Leo Frank made a 4 hour statement. He confessed he “unconsciously” went to the bathroom in the metal room on April 26, 1913, between 12:05 and 12:10PM. This was an easy conviction because the State’s prosecution case was that Leo Frank murder Mary Phagan in the bathroom between 12:05 to 12:10PM on April 26, 1913.

  2. threnosode
    threnosode says:

    *Sigh* this is why the internet is a dangerous thing…

    You are looking at the prosecutions side so much that you forget about the defences reasoning.

    It didn’t matter if Leo Frank placed himself anywhere in the metal room during his stagement. The defence believed that Mary was killed in the basement and, to me, there really wasn’t any solid proof that Mary was killed in the metal room at all besides the blood and hair. The blood could have been anyone’s and the hair was later revealed not to have belonged to Mary, a fact that was hidden. Besides, if Leo was trying so despertately to hide the fact that he had been in the metal room why would he have done such a poor job of trying to hide the blood and hair? Why wasn’t there blood with the hair samples if this was where Mary did in fact hit her head and receive that gash? Why didn’t anyone discover these things when they were going through the Factory on Sunday? Why wasn’t there more blood for that matter?

    There are enough questions there to make me at least put the metal room and basement on the same level of probability for being the murder scene.

    Second I can’t even remember my own bathroom breaks in a day and Frank was likely trying to give any reason why Stover did not see him. You seem to forget that the defence claimed that Stover did not appear after Phagan had come but before. There was equal evidence for this.

    There is one major reason that will always make me doubt Leo Frank’s guilt. Well two. The murder notes.

    I’ve read the website you’ve visited and possibly run and I have tried to look at it with unbiased eyes. However, every single time I think of Frank as being guilty I have to ask myself why such a smart man would have someone write murder notes that were supposedly from a dead white girl in black slang. Leo Frank in a letter to his wife had already teased her about her own poor language so it was something he was paying attention to. If he was so infatuated with Mary he would have known there was no way that anyone would think that she written them. The man seemed prejudice to a degree. Second why he would leave not only one of them but two of them, written on different sheets of paper? I think all of this is kind of strange and lacking the intelligence and calculation the prosecution claimed that Frank possessed.

    Nor do I believe that Frank was trying to frame Newt Lee. The note mentioning the “night witch” obviously was meant to cast suspicion off of Lee stating that it wasn’t him but another person. The whole trying to put it on Newt theory came about only because of Lee thinking that was the case and people falling into that line of thinking. It is another example of the mass hysteria the whole case caused. Read the murder note and it is plain that this wasn’t the case at all.

    The simple truth to me is that it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Leo Frank did it.


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