The story of Parade focuses on the conviction of a Jewish man, Leo Frank, for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan in 1913. The trial was manipulated by propaganda which spurred prejudice onto the prosecution team, the jury, the witnesses, the police, and the citizens of Atlanta. Leo Frank was lynched on August 20, 1915 by a mob of white men who felt his commutation to life imprisonment was unjust. They took it upon themselves to administer what they thought was real justice unto the alleged murderer.
The actions taken against Leo Frank were fueled by fear—fear of industry, fear for the young girls who had to go work for their families, fear of the “New South” as they still reminisced for the Antebellum past. It was also fueled by prejudice against those who did not fit the Southern ideals: freed slaves still did not fit into Southern society, Jim Crow laws has begun to be put into effect in 1877 with a polling tax that would then develop into more segregated laws, and then the Race Riot of 1906 in which African Americans were targeted by white mobs over two days because of alleged stories of black men assaulting white women. On the other side of Atlanta, Jews were discriminated against as well – their stores were boycotted, a rise in anti-Semitic propaganda, and families sent wives and children out of the city for a time due to violent threats. Finally, media also played a significant role in partaking with yellow journalism or sensationalism, which played on the people’s emotions allowing fear and prejudice to bubble to surface and gave them permission to act on it.
Today there are still problems with racial prejudice and hate crimes. Recently, the murder of Ahmed Aubrey in Georgia rose to national awareness. His death is now added to the list of senseless violence against the African American community that includes Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. There are also cases of anti-Semitism prevalent in this country: the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, the Unite the Right/neo-Nazi rally in Virginia, and the shooting at a rabbi’s home during Hanukah in Brooklyn, NY this past December. Looking back 100 years ago on the story of Parade shows how the fight for justice for all is still being fought in the land of the free.
Kaitlyn Regan, May 14, 2020