Today the AJC and other Atlanta media outlets reported a gathering of folks near Roswell Road and Frey’s Gin Court to unveil a new historical marker that references another gathering that took place on August 17, 1915.
Today’s gathering was much more conciliatory considering that the location is the spot where Leo Frank was murdered by a mob of citizens. They were provoked into frenzied action when Frank’s death sentence for raping and murdering thirteen year old Mary Phagan was commuted to a life sentence by then Governor John M. Slaton. At the time Gov. Slaton stated per this website, “Two thousand years ago another Governor washed his hands and turned over a Jew to a mob. For two thousand years that governor’s name has been accursed. If today another Jew were lying in his grave because I had failed to do my duty, I would all through life find his blood on my hands and would consider myself an assassin through cowardice.”
The mob was not a group of ignorant rabble, but were actually prominent members of society including an ancestor of Gov. Roy Barnes.
Over the years there have been several reviews of the evidence including new possible evidence regarding the murder and rape of Mary Phagan. There have been many books written on the subject and many online articles exist such as this one and this one. While many doubt Leo Frank’s guilt today, members of the Phagan family hold fast that the court system had the correct man.
While we may never know for sure the Mary Phagan/Leo Frank case should be part of any historical study regarding the movement of farmers to the city and the increase of manufacturing in the early days of the twentieth century, a revival of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as the interaction between various ethnic groups converging in Atlanta during that time.