In 1913, the Jewish community in the United States faced rampant antisemitism and overt discrimination. Books, plays and, above all, newspapers, depicted Jews with crude stereotypes. Against this backdrop of bigotry and intolerance, an attorney from Chicago named Sigmund Livingston, put forward a bold idea—to create an organization with a mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all…” The Anti-Defamation League was founded with the clear understanding that the fight against one form of prejudice could not succeed without battling prejudice in all forms.
During this same time, an event in Georgia made the need for the organization painfully clear. Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman who moved to Atlanta to manage his family’s pencil factory, was convicted of the rape and murder of a 13-year-old female employee, following a trial that was defined by antisemitism. When the Governor reduced Leo Frank’s death sentence to life in prison, a hate-filled mob—which included many influential community leaders—dragged Frank from his prison cell and lynched him.
It was not until decades later, at ADL’s urging, that the State of Georgia issued Frank a posthumous pardon.