On Aug. 17, 1915, Leo Frank, a Cornell-educated Jewish industrialist, was lynched just outside Atlanta. The atrocity marked the culmination of an ugly conflict that began with the 1913 murder of a child laborer named Mary Phagan, who toiled for pennies an hour in Atlanta's National Pencil Factory. Frank, the plant superintendent, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death, though he always maintained his innocence. He appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, losing each time, whereupon Georgia Gov. John Slaton commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. The decision so angered the general populace that a mob organized by a Superior Court judge, the son of a U.S. senator and a former governor abducted Frank from a well-guarded state prison and hanged him from an oak tree.
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