Historical Markers Help Us Remember Jewish History

If my mail is any indication, there are a lot of Jewish organizations, all worthy of our support. But there is one which does not send out mailers and also deserves our support.
The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation (JASHP) came to my attention recently, when I read that it assisted in the rededication of the Leo Frank Memorial in Marietta, Georgia. The marker had been removed because of road reconstruction.
Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager, was found guilty in the 1913 killing of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old employee.
Emotions ran high among the local citizens. Although evidence indicated that the custodian was the more likely killer, Frank’s religion and position probably worked against him.
The judge, feeling pressured, found Frank guilty, but gave him a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
The townsfolk had other ideas. Frank was forced out of prison and was hung to death close to where the memorial is now located.
Leo Frank’s innocence is still being sought. He received a full pardon as a result of an unfair trial, but he was never fully exonerated for the crime with which he had been charged.
Seventy years after Frank was murdered, a witness admitted that he had seen the custodian, Jim Conley, carrying the victim’s body the day she died.
He had kept silent for fear of he would be killed if he had spoken up. Conley had been the main witness for the prosecution.
Hopefully, this recent rededication and the efforts of the JASHP and the local Jewish community and friends will eventually result in Frank’s full legal exoneration.
As the rededication ceremony began, word arrived that in a few months, a 30-inch black granite marker would soon be installed next to the Leo Frank Marker, recognizing every person lynched in the United States.
This national anti-lynching memorial honoring over 4,000 victims will have the following inscription, “In respectful memory of the thousands across America, denied justice by lynching, victims of hatred, prejudice and ignorance.”
Markers such as these help us to remember our past so that important people, places and events will not be forgotten.
Admittedly, not every historical marker reflects an important person, place or event.
Texas, with its 16,000 thousand markers, has its share of seemingly insignificant inscriptions, such as “Former site of Bob’s Barber Shop.” But then again, if Bob’s Barber Shop was the only one in town, those folks probably did think it was pretty important.
Historic markers help us to learn and remember our history. Texas and American History textbooks fail to mention the 4,743 lynchings that occurred in the United States from 1882-1968.
More markers cannot erase the evil which occurred, but they can help us to be less ignorant of the truth.

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