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August 15: Jews and Lynchings

On this date in 1868, the Ku Klux Klan lynched a Jew, S.A. Bierfield, who ran a dry goods store in Franklin, Tennessee. Bierfield was a supporter of Reconstruction who did business with both white and black customers; his employee, Lawrence Bowman, who was black, was lynched with him.  The KKK had been founded in […]

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August 7: Strange Fruit

The lynching on this date in 1930 of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, two black men accused of murder and rape in Marion, Indiana, was captured by a local photographer, who sold the image in thousands of copies. The photo was seen in 1937 by Abel Meeropol, a New York school teacher, who was haunted […]

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June 21: Philadelphia, Mississippi

Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Philadelphia, Mississippi shortly after midnight on this date in 1964. Goodman, 20, and Schwerner, 24, were New Yorkers who came to Mississippi as part of the “Freedom Summer” drive for Black voter registration; James Chaney, 21, was a […]

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June 19: The 1964 Civil Rights Act

The 1964 Civil Rights Act was approved by the Senate on this date after enduring a lengthy filibuster led by Southern Democrats. This landmark legislation, as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, were drafted in the conference room of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C., under the aegis of […]

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May 27: The Meat Boycott of 1935

A boycott of Manhattan butcher shops began on this date in 1935, led by Clara Lemlich Shavelson, who at age 23 had sparked the 1909 “Uprising of the 20,000” garment workers strike with a militant speech at a meeting at Cooper Union. The 1935 boycott brought together the Communist-led Council of Working-Class Women and various […]

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May 24: John Brown and August Bondi

On this date in 1856, John Brown and a small group of his Free State volunteers killed at least five pro-slavery men in three different houses along the Pottawatomie Creek in southeastern Kansas. Among the killers was Theodore Weiner, a Jew described as a “big, savage, bloodthirsty Austrian.” The next day, Brown and an expanded […]

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May 16: Sammy Davis, Jr.

Sammy Davis, Jr., a nightclub performer and recording star who converted to Judaism at age 28 in 1954, died on this date in 1990. Davis was the son of a Cuban woman and African-American man, both of them vaudeville dancers; his father separated from his mother and took him on tour as a performer when […]

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May 4: Freedom Rides

On this date, in 1961, the first Freedom Riders — seven African-Americans and six whites — set out in two buses from Washington D.C., headed for New Orleans, to challenge segregationist transportation laws that the Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional. One group was viciously attacked on Mother’s Day by a Ku Klux Klan mob in […]

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April 27: Leo Frank

On this date in 1913, the body of 13-year-old Mary Phagan was discovered at a pencil factory where she worked in Atlanta, Georgia. She had been raped and strangled. The murder investigation led to the arrest, unjust conviction, and ultimate lynching of Leo Frank, the factory manager, a Jew from Brooklyn who had just become […]

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April 23: The Abolitionist Rabbi

On this date in 1861, Rabbi David Einhorn, an anti-slavery crusader who had served at Baltimore’s Har Sinai Congregation for six years, was forced to flee his pulpit and head to Philadelphia when a pro-slavery mob destroyed his newspaper, Sinai, and threatened to tar and feather him. Einhorn was a theological radical who removed from […]

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