Jews in the South

By Leonard Dinnerstein; Mary Dale Palsson | Go to book overview
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Atlanta in the Progressive Era: A Dreyfus Affair in Georgia

Leonard Dinnerstein

F RUSTRATION and disillusionment with the rapid social changes caused by the industrial transformation at the end of the nineteenth century set off racial attacks in the United States and Europe. Alfred Dreyfus, Mendel Beiliss, the Haymarket anarchists, and Sacco and Vanzetti were all aliens victimized by societies undergoing rapid conversion. Jews, Italians, Germans, immigrants, anyone, in fact who deviated from the ethnic norm easily served as a scapegoat for the turmoil accompanying industrialism. Barbara Tuchman attributed antisemitism in France to "building tensions between classes and among nations. Industrialization, imperialism, the growth of cities, the decline of the countryside, the power of money and the power of machines...churning like the bowels of a volcano about to erupt." To a considerable extent, many of these same forces -- in greater or lesser degree -- also applied in Kiev, Chicago, and Boston. In Russia, Maurice Samuel tells us, "the Beiliss case was mounted by men who hoped by means of it to strengthen the autocracy and to crush the liberal spirit that was reviving after the defeat of the 1905 revolution." In Chicago, fear of foreigners, social revolution, and labor ascendency triggered the vigilante response to eight immigrant anarchists charged with the bomb-throwing incident in Haymarket Square. "A biased jury, a prejudiced judge, perjured evidence, extraordinary and indefensible theory of conspiracy, and the temper of Chicago led to the conviction. The evidence never proved the guilt." Sacco and Vanzetti, atheists, labor agitators, and "Reds" of Italian birth, were convicted of

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