Henry Ford's War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech
Victoria Saker Woeste
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Henry Ford is remembered in American lore as the ultimate entrepreneur—the man who invented assembly-line manufacturing and made automobiles affordable. Largely forgotten is his side career as a publisher of antisemitic propaganda. This is the story of Ford's ownership of the Dearborn Independent, his involvement in the defamatory articles it ran, and the two Jewish lawyers, Aaron Sapiro and Louis Marshall, who each tried to stop Ford's war.
In 1927, the case of Sapiro v. Ford transfixed the nation. In order to end the embarrassing litigation, Ford apologized for the one thing he would never have lost on in court: the offense of hate speech.
Using never-before-discovered evidence from archives and private family collections, this study reveals the depth of Ford's involvement in every aspect of this case and explains why Jewish civil rights lawyers and religious leaders were deeply divided over how to handle Ford.
"Thoroughly researched and ably written, Henry Ford's War on Jews traces [Aaron] Sapiro's valiant attempt to defend not only his good name but that of the Jewish people."—Rafael Medoff, Journal of American Studies
"The book is useful for the historian, students of law, and students of American Jewish history."—Chaim Seymour, Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Newsletter
"Drawing on new evidence from archives and private family collections, this study details the depth of Ford's involvement in every aspect of this case and explains why Jewish civil rights lawyers and religious leaders were deeply divided over how to handle Ford."—Law & Social Inquiry
"Victoria Saker Woeste's Henry Ford's War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech contributes significantly to our understanding of the dramatic libel lawsuit brought by Aaron Sapiro against the American automotive pioneer. Woeste's meticulously researched book thoughtfully examines the complex circumstances and personalities behind the case, the intricacies of the trial, and the implications of its resolution . . . Woeste's book offers a fascinating and rewarding account of Sapiro v. Ford, and what the case teaches us about hate speech, libel law, and the anti-Jewish crusade of an American icon."—Jessica Cooperman, American Studies
"A major new book by American Bar Foundation scholar Victoria Saker Woeste, Henry Ford's War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech provides a startling new interpretation of a watershed episode in the life of Henry Ford. . . never-before discovered evidence. . . new insights."—LegalNews.com
the entire editorial, rather than just the words anarchist and anarchy, they opened the door for the judge to exercise discretion as to what evidence the newspaper could bring in to justify its use of those words. “[U]nder the common law,” according to Nevins and Hill, “[Ford] would have had an ironclad case, for the courts had already decided that these words could be penalized.” In the years since the assassination of President William McKinley by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz, many states took
came to the United States. Jewish Americans sought to help victims of violence and persecution in Russia, but they found it difficult to organize private relief efforts without a central organization or established body to coordinate fund-raising and manage logistics. The violence, particularly the graphic reports emerging from the town of Kishinev in 1903, spurred leading Jews to put together a permanent organization. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) would serve philanthropic and relief
majority of American Jews, specifically those from Southern and Eastern Europe. The AJC’s critics formed the rival American Jewish Congress in 1918 to be more broadly representative of Jews, whatever their ethnic origins. At the time of the AJC’s founding, however, Marshall prevailed in limiting its scope and mission. In February 1906, fifty-seven invited guests from all over the country convened in Philadelphia to organize the AJC. Their plan, in the words of former U.S. ambassador Oscar Straus,
unfortunate escalation of tension during the summer of 1920.64 Provoked nearly as much by Franklin as by Ford, Marshall was particularly frustrated by Franklin’s apparent complacency and, worse, by his inability to see that any attack on Jews as a group was inherently racist. Marshall found it impossible to finesse Ford’s actions; the only possible response was to denounce him unreservedly. But this Franklin was unable to do. His investment in their personal relationship, which seemed greater
Ford offer” for Muscle Shoals, Peteet made sure that the NCFCMA’s May 5 statement made no mention of the matter. Instead, he delivered copies to Ford’s congressional supporters asking that they intercede with him on cooperative marketing: “[D]esigning interests have misled Ford into approving the Dearborn Independent’s attack on cooperative marketing. The fact that there are a thousand Jews in the speculative grain and cotton exchanges and in the old dealer system of handling farm products for