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An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank Library Binding – March 1, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—On April 26, 1913, 13-year-old Mary Phagan left her Atlanta, GA, home to pick up her paycheck at the National Pencil Company and then attend the Confederate Memorial Day celebration. She never made it to the latter. Instead, her battered body was found in the basement of the factory along with two cryptic, semiliterate notes and some bloody handprints on a nearby door. The investigation was compromised from the get-go by a determination on the part of the police to bypass an obvious suspect and indict Frank, the company supervisor. The strictly chronological structure of this account of his arrest, indictment, conviction, and lynching is extremely helpful in understanding both the progression of the case through the court system and the impact of anti-Semitism and resentment toward Northerners in the post-Reconstruction South. The author's stance can hardly be termed objective, as her pro-Frank bias is clear. As presented, it seems obvious that he was innocent of the crime. The actual murderer confessed to his lawyer, who divulged the information in an autobiography published 46 years later, and an eyewitness confession in 1982 corroborated this. However, many people in Georgia still believe wholeheartedly that Frank was guilty. As the record stands, with his death sentence commuted in 1915 and official pardon issued in 1986, this recounting of an injustice is as haunting as the author contends. Well-placed period photos and reproductions add immediacy to the text, though the photographs of Frank's lynching are graphic and disturbing.—Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This detailed, fully documented account tells of the trial and lynching of a Jewish factory superintendent, falsely accused of the 1913 rape and murder of teenager Mary Phagan in Atlanta. Alphin digs into the roots of anti-Semitism that grew from post-Reconstruction hardship and shows that Leo Frank was viewed, and despised, by many in his community as a “privileged Yankee Jew.” Throughout his trial, a racist mob raged outside the courtroom, spurred on by high-ranking government officials and by sensationalized press coverage. On one level, this is a whodunit. How did Phagan’s body end up in the basement? Was an African American worker involved? The details are made even more horrific when accompanied by the numerous black-and-white photos, including court scenes and a picture postcard of the lynching. The detailed back matter includes an annotated list of major figures in the case, as well as source notes and a bibliography. The case revitalized the KKK and prompted the formation of the Anti-Defamation League, and it clearly connects with the contemporary ongoing struggle by the underprivileged for fair judicial process. Grades 9-12. --Hazel Rochman

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Product Details

  • Library Binding: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Carolrhoda Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822589443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822589440
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,201,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this account heartbreaking and at times I could not believe what I was reading. I see that some reviewers have differing opinions as to what actually happened and who was the killer of this poor, lovely innocent. But from any viepoint this was a tragic chapter in American history.
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Format: Library Binding
In this latest book on the Leo Frank Case (152 pages), author Elaine Alphin takes for her title a post-lynching judgment by the Mayor of Atlanta (James Woodward): "a just penalty for an unspeakable crime." But she has recast that harsh approval of Leo's Midnight Ride, and added, "The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank." This is clearly not a volume of subtleties and the reader is thus quickly informed of the writer's sympathies. It is mostly about the trials and tribulations of the accused and there is little (correct) about Mary Phagan herself.

The book is aimed at young people, and Ms. Alphin notes that in all the literature on the case -- despite the abundance of teenagers at so many stages of the events -- there has not up to now been a retelling aimed for that audience. It is clearly written, with fine production values, with a large variety of vintage photographs, and rarely have they been reproduced so well. She is obviously entranced with this "miscarriage of justice" and has traveled widely and visited several of the major Archives - all are cited in the back along with the previous major books, and is so current that the recent PBS-TV Special ('The People v. Leo Frank') is mentioned.

Some of the original material was of a salacious nature, but all is handled here tastefully. The major problem is that even high-schoolers are entitled to an accurate accounting of this iconic case, and that is where this latest publication falls short. The basic narrative of the crime, and its ultimate resolution at the end of the lynchers' rope, strikes our sensibilities to this day, and there are still many who would prefer that an innocent Leo Frank be the prime example of American justice gone wrong.
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A Kid's Review on April 6, 2010
Format: Library Binding
As someone from a family who takes history very seriously, I have been familiar with the details of the Leo Frank case for a long time, and I thought it a great pity that no recounting of the case existed for teen readers like me, because so many teens were involved in the trial, so I was excited to see this book coming out. Now that I've read it, I've got to say it exceeded my expectations. Rather than condescending to simplify the information to a young person's level, like so many writersdo, Ms. Alphin elevated the reader to the complexity of the case.

I was really impressed at the quality of original research evident in the book, at the detailed endnote citations, and at the excellent period photographs and newspaper reproductions. These focus the reader's attention on the impact that period media had on the trial and its aftermath, and make you think about how the same is so true today. I think this book will encourage readers to think about the impact that we can have on current events, and teachers should like it because it invites debate and discussion.

So I suppose the early review by the gentleman claiming that this book is weak on facts shouldn't surprise me, as this case is still a hot topic in more places than around our dinner table, especially on holidays when the whole family is together. In the 21st century, one of those places is the internet, and I've seen that this reviewer has a website dedicated to misrepresenting the facts of the case. He similarly misrepresents the book he claims to review here, making it sound as if the material in the book is not footnoted when it is, stating that the author seems unaware that newspapers were an excellent source for the trial, when she consistently cites newspaper sources.
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Format: Library Binding Verified Purchase
Purchased by school district. Didn't hear any complaints from the teacher (and I would), so assume all's good.
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