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Ku Klux Klan ritual on Stone Mountain, Georgia. Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library via Digital Library of Georgia.

Anti-Defamation League and Ku Klux Klan

The Leo Frank case catalyzed significant growth of several sociopolitical organizations of the day, including both advocates for and against racial violence. The first of these was the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL), founded in 1913 by Sigmund Livingston, a Chicago attorneythe  same year as the Leo Frank trial. Although the creation of the ADL preceded the Leo Frank case, Frank’s experience bolstered Livingston’s belief that American Jews needed an organization that would challenge American anti-Semitism. The ADL remains an influential civil rights organization.

The second was the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), which was revived in Georgia at the end of the Frank case. Originally founded after the end of the Civil War, the KKK had been shut down by federal intervention during Reconstruction. Inflammatory editorials penned by Thomas Watson soon after Frank’s lynching incentivized the newly formed Klan, who burned a cross on top of Stone Mountain on Thanksgiving Day, 1915, to signify the organization’s rebirth. Several members of Leo Frank’s lynching party were also charter members of the new Klan.

The Klan’s white supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, and anti-immigration platform secured political influence in Georgia and nationwide—the KKK reached an estimated membership of five million people by the mid-1920s. Internal feuding and the exposure of Klan violence by journalists who infiltrated the organization eventually led to a steep decline in the group’s political influence by the late 1940s.