On April 26, 1913, 13-year-old Mary Phagan leaves home to collect her paycheck at the National Pencil Company and never returns. The next morning, her body is found strangled at the basement of the pencil factory, and entire town is changed in the events that follow her death. Several men are accused, and one, Leo Frank, is found guilty. There is certainly evidence that he did it, but there is also evidence pointing to the major witness in the trial, Jim Conley. Governor Slaton decides to commute Frank's sentence from death to life in prison. The uproar in the community, led by Tom Watson, leads to the lynching of Leo Frank.
When I started teaching Georgia history last year, I began to read this more complete account of the Leo Frank case. There is so much that happened in this case, and no way to explain it in the short amount of time we have in class. There were witnesses who told one story and then said another, leading many to be nearly convicted of perjury. There were cries of racism on both sides, anti-Semitism for the Jewish Frank and prejudice against the African-American Jim Conley. Even today when you look on the comments for Leo Frank material, there is still dispute over whether Leo Frank was innocent. This is not an easy read, and it took me six months to finish it. But if you read any of it, you will realize there is a lot more to this case from the newspapers (including the New York Times), to the detectives, to the lawyers (one, William Smith, who turned on his own client), to the lynching (which including former governors), to the jury that investigated the lynching (which included members of the lynching party).
Ms. Miller is reading