100 years ago today, white supremacist fascists lynched Jewish American Leo Frank. The lynching of Frank set the stage for the rebirth of the KKK, in what would become the second and largest phase of the terrorist organization.
Abraham Cahan, a Jewish socialist and one of the founders of the left-wing Jewish Daily Forward, wrote a chilling reflection on the murder many years ago (translated from Yiddish by Chana Pollack, courtesy of the Forward):
Frank is dead.
The tragedy ended with blood and murder. The hand that persecuted the unfortunate one for more than two years didn’t rest until it made an end to his young life. A heavy hand! A cruel hand!
This is the same hand that held him between life and death for months and then years. In that way all the doors of justice closed for him and only one egress remained—to the electric chair. This had already been ordered for him after his being assaulted by a criminal’s knife. This hand dragged him from prison and brought about the bloody revenge as a conclusion. Frank is dead.
Wild racism. Fanatical, raging hatred of everything ‘other.’ Barbaric customs of former slaveholders who remain uncivilized and have thus corrupt police, corrupt administrations and corrupt justice all coalescing to rob a man of his life.
Nowhere in the world would this have taken place in this manner. In no other place in the world would it be understood how it was possible for Frank to die.
We wouldn’t be awed if at the site of Frank’s murder yesterday a picnic with music would be organized the following day with the crowd drinking, eating, singing and dancing and politicians giving speeches. But that is what took place only a short time ago in that same ‘South’ where two Negroes were hanged. That was how the wild African tribes used to behave when they’d capture a foreigner and prepare him for roasting and eating. That’s how all savages behave and the Southern savages are no different.
One thing does beg commenting. When will our administration query this? Our President, our Justice Department, our Governors, our Police-Chief—will they say to you that America is a civilized country and that in a civilized country anarchy cannot be permitted. And actually—every time police even smell a hint of anarchist activity they prepare with all their might to oppress and persecute. If it’s not the work of anarchists then they prepare for ‘conspiracies’ and traitorous acts.
Frank’s murder is a full-on anarchist plot. It’s the fullest expression of a well organized well implemented conspiracy against the law and against humanity. That’s the real threat against the public welfare.
Will the police be as nimble here in finding the guilty? Will they really place the accused on the bench? Will they prove that murder is murder and that blood spilled cannot be tolerated in an organized society? We have every right to doubt it. The history of many such murders speaks clearly.
It is incredibly important to understand that the KKK was (and is, as it unfortunately still exists today) not just an anti-black organization. Conceiving of the KKK as an exclusively anti-black organization fails to account for its larger ideological orientation.
Black Americans certainly were the primary target of the KKK’s acts of violent, unmitigated terror, but black Americans were not the only group targeted. The KKK also terrorized Jews and other minorities.
The heinous murder of Leo Frank, an innocent man, serves as a reminder that the KKK is more than just a racist organization. The Republican Party is a racist organization. Calling the KKK simply “racist,” without further qualifiers, fails to do justice to just how extreme the group is.
Fascism is the most accurate term. The KKK is an explicitly fascist organization.
The KKK is what fascism looks like in the US. The KKK that killed Leo Frank was the American foreshadowing of the Fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany. The KKK is the US equivalent of the Nazis.
It is not a coincidence that the KKK and the American Nazi Party (ANP) are very closely connected. Many, perhaps even most, members of the ANP are also members of the KKK.
True, the KKK also claims to be a religious organization, and the ANP is technically secular, but many Nazis are Christians, especially of the extremist variety. George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the ANP, was a proponent of the white supremacist Christian Identity movement, an explicitly anti-Semitic and risibly ahistorical Christian cult that claims the ancient Israelites were in fact “Aryans” (by which they means northern Europeans and/or Anglo-Saxons).
The grotesque lynching of Leo Frank a century ago today should serve as a chilling reminder that the KKK and its sibling white supremacist terror movements in the US, which are once again growing, are more than just racists: they are fascists, homegrown American fascists.