2022 YIR: Lynching Memorial Toppled, Then Repaired
A memorial dedicated to victims of lynching was vandalized in February.
Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.
On the morning of Feb. 10, Jordan Strong, of Waleska, Ga., discovered that a memorial to lynching victims, adjacent to the Leo Frank memorial in Marietta, had been toppled.
Strong had come to the site, on Roswell Road near Interstate 75, the day after his 13-year-old son came home from school with questions about what his class had learned about Frank. As Strong walked from his car to the memorial, he saw the black granite slab lying on the ground, apparently removed forcibly from the pedestal to which it was attached by steel pins. “I was on the phone with my wife. I said, you’ve got to be freaking kidding me. Somebody has managed to tip this thing over,” he said.
Photographs shared with the AJT show no visible clue as to how the monument was dislodged. No other vandalism or defacement was apparent at the site. When informed of the damage, the Anti-Defamation League contacted law enforcement.
The lynching memorial landed face up, allowing Strong to read the inscription:
In respectful memory of the thousands across America, denied justice by lynching:
Victims of hatred, prejudice and ignorance.
Between 1880–1946, ~570 Georgians were lynched.
Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation
Rabbi Steven Lebow, Temple Kol Emeth
The memorial — 36 inches tall, 14 inches wide at its base and six inches in depth — was installed in December 2018, three months after the rededication of the Leo Frank memorial. The Frank marker had been removed four years earlier by the Georgia Department of Transportation because of road construction.
Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent, was lynched on Aug. 17, 1915, in a long since built-over wooded area, along what now is Freys Gin Road. Frank was convicted in 1913 of murder in the death of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, who worked at the Atlanta pencil factory where he was the manager. Cobb County residents, angered by Gov. John Slaton’s commutation of the death sentence, kidnapped Frank from the state prison in Milledgeville and drove him to the woods where he was hanged.
Frank’s is the only known lynching of a Jew in the United States.
By some estimates, as many as 95 percent of those lynched in Georgia were African Americans. The memorial uses the “~” figure because the documented number of lynchings may be incomplete.
By May, the memorial was upright again. The benefactor of the repairs, Jerry Klinger, a retired financial services executive from Rockville, Md. — and founder of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation — also funded the memorial’s creation and installation. JASHP has placed historical markers at more than 110 locations in the United States alone and others in a half dozen countries.