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Jewish Americans have flourished in America, enjoying immense freedom and opportunities. But like other minorities, Jewish Americans have also faced prejudice, especially during periods of economic hardship or war. During World War I and the Great Depression, Jews were often targeted as scapegoats.
The lynching of Leo Frank, a prominent Jewish businessman in Atlanta, alarmed Jewish Americans in 1915. He was falsely accused and convicted of killing a worker, Mary Phagan, in the pencil factory that he managed. After Georgia Governor John M. Slaton stayed Frank's execution because of a lack of evidence, a mob dragged him from the jail and lynched him. Though an isolated tragedy, it caused a ripple effect of fear. Decades later, in 1986, Frank was granted a posthumous pardon while evidence now points to the guilt of Jim Conley, a janitor in the factory who falsely accused Frank of the murder during the trial.
The Leo Frank incident also led to a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). By the mid-1920s, the KKK claimed to have four million members, more than all the Jews in the United States. In the midst of this turmoil and despite protestations at the time, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis D. Brandeis to the Supreme Court in 1916. As the first Jew to serve on the Court, Justice Brandeis had to endure bitter taunts, particularly from fellow justice James C. McReynolds. In the 1920s, Henry Ford, who revolutionized mass production in American industry, relentlessly blamed Jewish Americans for many of the nation's ills in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. It was only after World War II that barriers to Jewish Americans began to dissipate in America.