Antisemitism in America: From General Grant to Charles Lindbergh

By Gideon

General Ulysses S. Grant

“In 1862, in the heat of the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant initiated one of the most blatant official episodes of anti-Semitism in 19th-century American history. In December of that year, Grant issued his infamous General Order No. 11, which expelled all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi: The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department [the “Department of the Tennessee,” an administrative district of the Union Army of occupation composed of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order. Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.” [Jewish Virtual Library]

President Lincoln ordered General Grant to revoke the order and three days after Licoln’s order was issued, Order No. 11 was revoked by General Grant.

“After the war, Grant transcended his anti-Semitic reputation. He carried the Jewish vote in the presidential election of 1868 and named several Jews to high office. But General Order No. 11 remains a blight on the military career of the general who saved the Union.” [Jewish Virtual Library]

The lynching of Leo Frank – a flashpoint of anti-Semitism in the United States

“Leo Frank, a northern Jew who’d moved to Atlanta to supervise the National Pencil Company factory. When the body of Mary Phagan, a white child laborer, was found in the basement, law enforcement homed in on Frank. He was tried and convicted, based on what most historians say was the perjured testimony of a black man, and sentenced to death. But when the governor commuted his sentence in 1915, about 25 men abducted Frank, 31, from the state prison and hung him from a tree in Marietta, Georgia.” [CNN]…On August 17, 1915 a mob of men abduct and lynch Jewish-American businessman Leo Frank near Marietta, Georgia. Convicted of the April 1913 murder of 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan in Atlanta, Georgia, Leo Frank appeals the conviction for the next two years, and the U.S. Supreme Court eventually rejects Frank’s final appeal in April 1915. Leo Frank’s case energized the press, resulting in nationwide coverage of the trial and Frank’s eventual death, and the Frank case is today widely regarded as a flashpoint of anti-Semitism in the United States. [The Library of Congress]

Henry Ford

Henry Ford, the farmer’s son who became a successful car maker and one of America’s richest men was also an influential anti-Semite who sponsored hate propaganda against the Jewish people.

“By contemporary standards, America in the first half of the 20th century was a profoundly racist nation. Jews and people of color were openly barred from clubs, colleges, neighborhoods, and mainstream American life. In vaudeville, racist humor dominated. Performers playing African Americans were required to appear in blackface, while stage Jews had to wear long beards, and be venal Shylocks. By 1939, the anti-Semites had two causes: keeping America out of the European war, and keeping European Jews out of America ” [PBS]

In the period from 1910 to 1918, Ford became increasingly anti-Semitic. A close friend recalled a camping trip in 1919 during which Ford lectured a group around the campfire. He “attributes all evil to Jews or to the Jewish capitalists,” the friend wrote in his diary. “The Jews caused the war, the Jews caused the outbreak of thieving and robbery all over the country, the Jews caused the inefficiency of the navy…”

In 1919, Ford purchased a newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. Ford wanted to assert that there was a Jewish conspiracy to control the world. He blamed Jewish financiers for provoking World War I so that they could profit from supplying both sides. He accused Jewish automobile dealers of conspiring to undermine Ford Company sales policies. In May 1920, the newspaper printed the first of a series of 91 successive articles titled “The International Jew: The World’s Problem.” It portrayed a group of perpetual aliens, united by race and busy employing their financial sophistication to further a program of world domination. The series was collected and published as a book around the world, with notable success in Germany during the 1920s and ’30s. The Dearborn Independent also reprinted The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a document purporting to be a blueprint for Jewish world domination that was actually created in the 1890s by the Russian secret police.

Charles E. Coughlin

A Catholic priest, one of the first public figures to make effective use of the airwaves; at the height of his popularity in the early 1930s, some 30 million listeners tuned in to hear his emotional messages. In the late 1930s the priest’s rhetoric became increasingly filled with attacks on Jews. He accused the Jews of controlling America’s financial institutions. In response to the November 10, 1938, “Kristallnacht” attack on Jews in German-controlled territory, Coughlin explained that “Jewish persecution only followed after Christians first were persecuted.” [PBS]

Charles Lindbergh

In a speech given in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941, Lindbergh announced that it was time to “name names,” “Lindbergh decided to identify what he saw as the pressure groups pushing the U.S. into war against Germany. “The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration.” Of the Jews, he went on to say, “Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it in every way, for they will be the first to feel its consequences. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.” The speech was met with outrage from numerous quarters. Lindbergh was denounced as an anti-Semite. His mother-in-law and sister-in-law publicly opposed his views. Civic and corporate organizations cut all ties and affiliations with him. His name was even removed from the water tower in his hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota.” [PBS]

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