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The Lynching Project: Cobb County

Overview:

Cobb County was one of the ten northwestern Georgia lands that once belonged to the Cherokee before 1832. It is named after the US senator Thomas Wills Cobb from Greensboro. Marrietta (currently the largest city in Cobb County) was settled in 1833 and receieved the county's designated seat the following year of 1834. Back in the mid 1800s, Cobb county mainly consisted of many small farms. Today, Cobb County is a suburb of Atlanta and Georgia's 3rd most populace county, with over 700,000 inhabitants. In 2010, it was over 60% white and about 20% black, but it is much more diverse than in years past. Gentrification of Atlanta's center-city has reversed decades of "white flight" and allowed for more middle-class minorities to move into suburbs like Cobb, while white residents leave to suburbs for newly rejuvenated downtown. 

Leo Frank - 8/17/1915 - A Jewish man lynched after being accused of murder. Frank managed a factory for the National Pencil Company in Atlanta. Mary Phagan was a 13-year-old girl who worked at Frank’s factory. On April 26, 1913, Frank paid Phagan her wages before the factory closed. In the middle of the following night, the factory watchman found Phagan’s dead body bruised and battered in the cellar.

Because he was likely one of the last people to see Phagan alive, police interviewed Frank the next day. After taking him to the morgue to see the body and studying his behaviour, the police determined that it was unlikely that Frank committed the crime. However, as Phagan’s funeral neared on April 29, public outcry reached an all-time high. Due to the pressure, the police arrested 5 men, including Frank, between April 27 and May 1.

Due to the testimony of a janitor who claimed that Frank had ordered him to help clean and dispose of the body, Frank was found guilty of sexually assaulting and murdering Phagan. This ruling led to great delight among the mobs that gathered outside the courthouse. Frank, receiving assistance from prominent Northern Jewish lawyers, appealed the case to the Georgia and United States Supreme Courts. The Supreme Courts dismissed the appeals, but two SCOTUS justices did dissent, acknowledging that the trials were held in an atmosphere of mob hostility which does not allow for due process.

Georgia Governor John M. Slaton, after exhaustive research, became convinced of Frank’s innocence. He changed Frank’s death sentence to that of life in prison so that once proven innocent officially, Frank would be released. Because of how this enraged Georgians, Frank was transferred, for his safety, to a prison farm in Milledgeville. However, once Slaton’s term ended as governor in 1915, two months after Frank’s transfer, Frank was no longer safe. On August 16, 1915 a mob of citizens from Marietta caravaned to Milledgeville, removed Frank from his cell, and returned with him to Marietta, where they hanged him. Crowds of over 3,000 came the next day to view the hanging body. Due to the lynching of Leo Frank, many Jewish people in the United States feared for their lives heavily and it caused them to hide from running for office for the next two decades. Frank was eventually pardoned for the murder in 1986. In August 2018 a monument was placed at the side of Frank’s lynching to memorialize Frank and the thousands of other lynching victims, mostly black, in United States history.

Henry Daniels - 12/14/1891 - Lynched in December 14th 1891 after being accused of murder

John Bailey 3/1900 - A young black man that was lynched in March of 1900 after being accused of rape. A mob of at least 150 lynchers kidnapped him and lynched him in Marietta.

Bibliography

"Leo Frank Case." New Georgia Encyclopedia.  

https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/leo-frank-case

Brasch, Ben. "Cobb’s Leo Frank memorial site is getting a national lynching marker." Atlanta Journal Constitution. 

https://www.ajc.com/news/local/cobb-leo-frank-memorial-site-getting-national-lynching-marker/96k1XwZfAcQb5h95oJy5aM/

https://books.google.com/books?id=dSWBeZ2mawAC&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=John+bailey+lynching&source=bl&ots=JChx1g1-Pq&sig=ACfU3U1Wk1rEzpBkbv4nj9DSC_otVTM4xQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjEpd7rk63hAhWoUt8KHYVQBDYQ6AEwCHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=John%20bailey%20lynching&f=false

https://www.cobbcounty.org/communications/info-center/about-cobb-county