Tag Archives: South

Kennedy vote seems key to Supreme Court redistricting cases

Justice Anthony Kennedy appears to hold the decisive vote in two Supreme Court cases involving challenges from African-American voters to electoral districts in North Carolina and Virginia.

The court’s liberal and conservative justices seemed otherwise divided after arguments this week about whether race played too large a role in creation of congressional districts in North Carolina and state legislative districts in Virginia.

The issue of race and redistricting one is a familiar one at the Supreme Court. States have to take race into account when drawing maps for legislative, congressional and a host of municipal political districts. At the same time, race can’t be the predominant factor, under a line of high court cases stretching back 20 years.

Kennedy said he had problems with a lower court’s reasoning in upholding 12 districts in Virginia, suggesting there could be a majority for throwing out that decision. He had less to say about the two North Carolina congressional districts, which were struck down by a lower court.

The arguments demonstrated the difficulty in distinguishing racial and partisan motivations, when African-Americans overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

The justices soon could be asked to decide whether the Constitution also prohibits electoral maps that are too partisan, in a case from Wisconsin.

Justices on both sides of the divide voiced a certain fatigue with the issue. Justice Samuel Alito suggested states are being held to an impossible standard that is “just an invitation for litigation in every one of these instances.”

Justice Stephen Breyer said he had hoped his majority opinion in a case from Alabama “would end these cases in this court, which it certainly doesn’t seem to have done.” Breyer said lawmakers could not take not a “mechanically numerical” approach to redistricting.

In Virginia, lawmakers in 2011 used the results of the 2010 census to create 12 districts in which African-Americans made up at least 55 percent of the population of eligible voters, saying that level was necessary to ensure they could elect their candidate of choice. Black voters who sued contended lawmakers packed the districts with black voters, making other districts whiter and more Republican. The effect was to dilute black voting strength, they said.

Arguing for the Virginia challengers, attorney Marc Elias said the lower court was wrong to uphold a “one size fits all” standard regardless of the different voting patterns and demographics across the 12 districts.

He drew support from Justice Elena Kagan. “It sort of defies belief you could pick a number and say that applies with respect to every majority-minority district,” Kagan said.

Paul Clement, representing Virginia, said 55 percent actually is a reasonable number for all 12 districts. “So it’s not like this number comes out of thin air,” Clement said.

Nine of the 12 districts had greater black populations under the plan in effect before the 2010 census, and two others were at least 53 percent black.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who appeared to favor the state, questioned whether it is so easy to determine the most important reason for drawing a district a particular way when there are several considerations about its geographic size and shape, as well as the interests that unite its residents. “It’s easy to imagine situations where you cannot say that one dominates over all the others.”

The North Carolina case seemed to present more of a puzzle to the court. The lower court struck down two majority-black congressional districts, finding they relied too heavily on race.

The state, also represented by Clement, conceded the use of race in one district, but only to maintain a black-majority district. In the other, Clement said, race played no role at all in the creation of one district. “This was an avowedly political draw,” he said, meaning that Republicans who controlled the redistricting process wanted to leave the district in Democratic hands, so that the surrounding districts would be safer for Republicans.

Clement also suggested that the challenges in both cases were motivated more by Democratic politics than concerns about race.

Kennedy’s votes in redistricting cases can be hard to predict. He joined Breyer’s opinion in the Alabama case last year. In 2013, Kennedy sided with more conservative justices to effectively block a key component of the landmark Voting Rights Act that led to the election of African-Americans across the South. Its provisions requiring states to create and preserve districts in which minority voting groups can elect their candidate of choice remain in effect.

In North Carolina, the federal court also struck down some state House and Senate districts, and last week, those judges ordered new districts drawn and special elections held next year.

North Carolina Republicans have used the current districts to achieve veto-proof majorities in both chambers. In addition, they hold 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats. By contrast, statewide contests suggest a narrower gap between the parties. Two Republicans won statewide elections last month, President-elect Donald Trump with just under 50 percent of the vote and Sen. Richard Burr with 51 percent. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday conceded defeat in his closely fought bid for another term.

Decisions in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 15-680, and McCrory v. Harris, 15-1262, are expected by early summer.

3 in 10 gay men have HIV in some Southern cities

Three out of every 10 gay or bisexual men in several Southern cities have been diagnosed with HIV, three times the national rate, according to a study about how common HIV infections are in metro areas.

The study echoes other research that reported higher rates of HIV diagnoses in the South but it is the first to look at how common HIV diagnoses are in these men by city.

“For the first time, we can see not only the numbers, but the proportions,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report found 21 of the 25 metro areas with the highest levels of HIV diagnosis in gay and bisexual men were in the South.

HIV was diagnosed in about three in 10 gay and bisexual men in El Paso, Texas; Augusta, Georgia; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In Jackson, Mississippi, the rate was four in 10, the highest in the nation.

According to the report, about 11 percent of gay and bisexual men had been diagnosed living with an HIV infection nationwide during the time covered by the study.

Emory University researchers produced the new numbers using national counts of HIV diagnoses in different communities. Lacking good census counts of sexually active gay and bisexual men, they used data from previous studies to calculate how many men had sex with other men.

In its look at metro areas, the study counts only those who have tested positive for HIV.

Because many HIV cases are not diagnosed, those numbers don’t reflect how common HIV infections really are in each area. It’s also not clear what factors may vary from city to city that might explain differing rates.

Still, while the largest total numbers of gay and bisexual cases are in large cities like New York and Los Angeles, this research gives a better understanding that the chance of encountering partner living with HIV is far greater in some smaller communities, some experts said.

The research was released through an obscure publication, the Journal of Medical Internet Research. CDC officials described the work as important and useful in deciding how to target HIV prevention funds.

On the Web

The CDC.

The journal.

Backlash builds after N.C. enacts anti-LGBT law

Georgia’s governor used his veto power to reject a bill intended to permit discrimination under the guise of religious beliefs.

So did Virginia’s governor.

But North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law HB 2, legislation that rolls back an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte and preempts any efforts in other municipalities to protect LGBT people from bias.

“The extraordinary measures that lawmakers are peddling take different forms and claim to address different needs, but they all boil down to the same thing: Authorizing discrimination against LGBT people and halting progress in its tracks,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Rose Saxe. “The only problem that needs solving is to stop those who claim to represent us from authorizing discrimination that is out of line with the American public, the business and sports communities and the majority of us who believe in equality.”

In a single day, the anti-LGBT legislation was introduced, debated and signed into law in North Carolina.

The new law prohibits enactment of local anti-discrimination ordinances and obligates transgender people, including public school students, to use restrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, not necessarily the gender with which they identify.

McCrory, in defending his action, claimed, “We have not taken away any rights that have currently existed in any city in North Carolina.”

Backlash was immediate.

Broad backlash

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee banned government employees from nonessential travel. So did Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“From Stonewall to marriage equality, our state has been a beacon of hope and equality for the LGBT community and we will not stand idly by as misguided legislation replicates the discrimination of the past,” Cuomo said. “As long as there is a law in North Carolina that creates the grounds for discrimination against LGBT people, I am barring nonessential state travel to that state.”

Hundreds of national companies — from Airbnb to Zynga — lined up in opposition. In a letter to McCrory, business leaders wrote, “Discrimination is wrong and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.”

The NFL indicated Atlanta could lose bids for the Super Bowl in 2019 and 2020 while Walt Disney and Marvel Studios threatened to stay away from the state.

Plus, powerhouse Georgia companies, led by Coca-Cola, also opposed the new law.

Additionally, a coalition of civil rights groups — Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina — turned to federal court and sued. The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, alleges:

  • HB 2 sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect and protections afforded others in the state.
  • HB 2 is unconstitutional, violating the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14 Amendment because it discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation and is an invasion of privacy for transgender people.
  • HB 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees based on sex. The law could cost the state about $4.5 billion in federal funding under Title IX.

The lawsuit names McCrory as a defendant, as well as the North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and the University of North Carolina.

But as the suit was being filed, Cooper said he would refuse to enforce the law because it is not constitutional. He called HB 2 a “national embarrassment” that “will set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal it.”

Vetoes in Virginia, Georgia

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed SB 41, legislation he said would legalize discrimination against LGBT people. The GOP-backed bill would have prohibited the state from penalizing entities that refuse services related to same-sex marriage.

The ACLU said the bill would have allowed a religiously connected hospital to refuse to recognize a married gay or lesbian person as a spouse for medical decision-making or visitation rights or allowed a government-funded homeless shelter to refuse shelter to a gay couple and their children.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill.

Deal said he vetoed HB 757 to prevent discrimination and protect commerce. The proposal would have allowed people, businesses and faith organizations to deny services to people based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the ‘hands-off’ admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution,” Deal said.

Backlash halts removal of Confederate symbols in New Orleans

Backlash against a plan to remove prominent Confederate monuments in New Orleans has been tinged by death threats, intimidation and even what may have been the torching of a contractor’s Lamborghini.

For now, at least, things have gotten so nasty the city hasn’t found a contractor willing to bear the risk of tearing down the monuments.

The city doesn’t have its own equipment to move them and is now in talks to find a company, even discussing doing the work at night to avoid further tumult. Further complicating the issue was a court ruling in March that effectively put the removal on hold.

Initially, it appeared the monuments would be removed quickly after the majority black City Council on Dec. 17 voted 6-1 to approve the mayor’s plan to take them down. The monuments, including towering figures of Gens. Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, have long been viewed by many here as symbols of racism and white supremacy.

The backlash is not surprising to Bill Quigley, a Loyola University law professor and longtime civil rights activist in New Orleans who’s worked on behalf of a group demanding the monuments come down.

The South has seen such resistance before, during fights over school integration and efforts in the early 1990s to racially integrate Carnival parades in New Orleans.

“Fighting in the courts, fighting in the legislature, anonymous intimidation,” Quigley said. “These are from the same deck of cards that are used to stop all social change.”

For all its reputation as a party city of fun and frolic, New Orleans is no stranger to social change and the tensions that come with it. It was the site of an early attempt to challenge racial segregation laws in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case and home to then-6-year-old Ruby Bridges whose battle to integrate her elementary school was immortalized in a Norman Rockwell painting.

New Orleans is a majority African-American city although the number of black residents has fallen since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina drove many people from the city. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who proposed the monuments’ removal, rode to victory twice with overwhelming support from the city’s black residents.

Nationally, the debate over Confederate symbols has become heated since nine parishioners were killed at a black church in South Carolina in June. South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds in the weeks after, and several Southern cities have since considered removing monuments.

“There is no doubt that there is a huge amount of rage over the attack on Confederate symbols,” said Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based group that tracks extremist activity.

His group counted about 360 pro-Confederate battle flag rallies across the nation in the six months after the church shootings. Such rallies were rare before then, he said.

In New Orleans, things have turned particularly ugly.

In early January, as it beat back legal challenges seeking to stop the removal, the city hired a contractor to remove the monuments.

But H&O Investments LLC. of Baton Rouge soon pulled out of the job, citing death threats, “unkindly name-calling,” outrage on social media and the threat of other businesses canceling contracts.

One day, several protesters came while H&O workers took measurements. Some of the protesters wore materials “with affiliation to white supremacy groups,” said Roy Maughan Jr., a lawyer for the contractor.

That same day, Maughan said, “a specific articulated threat” was phoned into city authorities warning workers at the monuments to leave for their safety. On Jan. 12, H&O sent the city a letter saying it was dropping out.

Then, on Jan. 19, a Lamborghini belonging to the owner of H&O Investments was set on fire. The sports car was parked outside his office near Baton Rouge, Maughan said.

A national rental crane company the city had hoped to hire also refused to be involved.

The FBI and local fire investigators declined to comment. No arrests have been made.

After H&O withdrew, the city opened a public bid process to find a new contractor — and things got messy again.

When the names of companies interested in the work turned up on a city website, businesses were reportedly slammed with emails and telephone calls denouncing their involvement. The protest was organized at least in part by Save Our Circle, a group touting thousands of supporters who want a massive monument to Lee in Lee Circle preserved in the spot where it has stood since 1884.

The city closed public viewing to the bidding process and has met with contractors without disclosing their names. The mayor declined requests for an interview.

Michel-Antoine Goitia-Nicolas said his reasons for supporting boycotts, making calls and joining protests on behalf of the monuments are personal: He traces his ancestry to Beauregard, a Louisiana native who led Rebel troops at the opening of the Civil War. A prominent equestrian statue of Beauregard at the entrance to City Park is slated to be taken down.

“It’s totally divided this city,” Goitia-Nicolas said of the city’s plans.

Standing next to the Beauregard statue, Goitia-Nicolas said he was willing to chain himself to statues to stop the removal.

“Our lesson in history is that when we tear down the monuments of the past we rebuild the errors of our past,” he said. He said he was proud of Beauregard, who he said “never owned slaves.”

“Why take it down? Put a statue of somebody positive in black history right here, in the midst of Beauregard, or in the midst of Lee. We support that.”

Just this month, a state lawmaker began pushing a bill meant to save the monuments. And on Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction sought by opponents of removal. They argued that lifting and hauling the structures could cause irreparable damage that shouldn’t be risked while appeals are pending.

“With this city, the way things go, it might not come down,” Lisa Huber, a 39-year-old greenhouse gardener, said as she pondered the statue of Lee atop a 60-foot-high marble column, standing in his Confederate uniform with his arms crossed, staring down the North.

“I think it should come down, just because of the symbolism behind it.”

Tech giants join rebuke of North Carolina law blocking LGBT rights

Technology giants Apple, Google and Facebook are among a dozen big companies or their top executives objecting to a North Carolina law that bars municipalities from adopting their own anti-discrimination ordinances.

Facebook, Google and Apple each run massive data-processing complexes in western North Carolina.

They joined American Airlines, IBM and others in reacting to a state law quickly adopted on March 23 that blocked local government measures to counter discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people.

None of the high-profile companies have threatened to immediately withdraw business from North Carolina.

San Francisco’s mayor on March 25 banned city workers from non-essential travel to North Carolina. The city, which has a large LGBT population, “will not subsidize legally sanctioned discrimination,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement.

The Charlotte ordinance would have enabled transgender people to legally use restrooms aligned with their gender identity and would have provided broad protections against discrimination in public accommodations in the state’s largest city.

North Carolina is the first state to require public school and university students to use only those bathrooms that match their birth certificates, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

Civil rights advocates say state legislators demonized LGBT people with bogus claims about bathroom risks. Supporters say the new law protects all people from having to share bathrooms with people who make them feel unsafe.

 

Support for the law

Some other businesses have voiced support for the measure Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law, a spokesman for his re-election campaign said. Spokesman Ricky Diaz did not respond when asked which businesses backed the governor’s decision.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat challenging McCrory this fall, opposes the law.

He said he’s worried actions by the GOP-led legislature and the governor could harm the state’s chances to land or keep sporting events such as the NCAA basketball tournament and the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte in 2017. Both organizations released statements about the law on March 24, but stopped short of saying they would not hold the events in the city.

“Not only is it wrong to discriminate, but we should not be putting our economy in jeopardy,” Cooper told 99.9 The Fan, a Raleigh-area radio station, calling the actions creating the law “a national embarrassment.”

McCrory and his allies have blamed Cooper for failing to intervene before the General Assembly did to stop Charlotte’s ordinance. McCrory said Thursday that Cooper has “lost touch” with the privacy norms the public expects while using a restroom or locker room.

About 200 protesters blocked a downtown Raleigh street in front of the state’s Executive Mansion on March 24. Police said in a statement that five people were arrested after they sat down in the street and refused orders to disperse.

McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, stays in the mansion while in the state capital but was not there at the time of the protest, spokesman Josh Ellis said.

 

Breaking today in North Carolina

LGBT civil rights groups were preparing on March 28 to announce a legal challenge to the North Carolina law. The lawsuit is being filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on behalf of several organizations and individuals who will be harmed by the law.

New adaptation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ heads to Broadway

Harper Lee’s classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — and its now-somewhat sullied hero Atticus Finch — are heading to Broadway in a new adaptation written by Aaron Sorkin.

Producer Scott Rudin said Wednesday the play will land during the 2017-2018 season under the direction of Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, who is represented on Broadway now with the brilliant revivals of “The King and I” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” No casting was revealed.

Sorkin’s plays include “A Few Good Men” and “The Farnsworth Invention.” He won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his screenplay for “The Social Network,” which Rudin produced, along with Sorkin’s other films “Steve Jobs” and “Moneyball.”

The book has been made the leap to the stage before, including a 1991 adaptation by Christopher Sergel, which premiered at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. There also was a production in 2013 that had a run at London’s Barbican Theatre with Robert Sean Leonard in the role of Finch, the noble widower and lawyer called upon to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman in Depression-era Alabama. This new version will mark the story’s Broadway debut.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” published in 1960, introduced Finch, Scout, Boo Radley and other beloved literary characters. The book was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie starring Gregory Peck as Atticus and has become standard reading in schools and other reading programs, with worldwide sales topping 40 million copies.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and widely praised as a sensitive portrait of racial tension as seen through the eyes of a child in 1930s Alabama, it also has been criticized as sentimental and paternalistic.

Last year saw the publication of Lee’s recently discovered manuscript, “Go Set a Watchman,” described as a first draft of the story that evolved into “Mockingbird.” Critics and readers were startled to find the heroic Atticus of “Mockingbird” disparaging blacks and condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw segregation in public schools.

Civil rights groups oppose MLK monument by Confederate memorial

A proposal to erect a monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. atop Georgia’s Stone Mountain is getting a chilly reception from some of the civil rights groups that King worked with.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King co-founded, and the Atlanta and DeKalb branches of the NAACP said that they oppose placing a tribute to King near the figures of three Confederate leaders engraved on the mountain outside Atlanta.

The state authority that oversees the mountain and surrounding park said this week that a Liberty Bell replica atop the mountain would recall a famous line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. 

SCLC President Charles Steele questioned why the state would place a reference to King, “one of Georgia’s most favorite sons, anywhere near these three traitors?”

The carving is the largest relief sculpture in the world, beating out Mount Rushmore. Critics repeatedly have called for removing the images of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on horseback, and renewed those efforts following June’s mass shooting that killed nine members of a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Supporters of the Confederate battle flag rallied this summer at the giant stone landmark, which for years was the site of Ku Klux Klan cross burnings. 

The SCLC and NAACP leaders said the meeting with Deal will focus on removing Confederate symbols from Stone Mountain, but they also hammered the King proposal. 

“The proposal to include Dr. King is simply to confuse Black folk about the issues,” said John Evans, president of the DeKalb NAACP branch, in a written statement. “It’s an attempt to gain support from Blacks to keep these racist and demeaning symbols.”

A Southern heritage group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, panned the King proposal this week, calling it “wholly inappropriate” to place a monument atop the mountain because of the site’s designation in 1958 as a Confederate memorial. 

A century after lynching of Leo Frank, Marietta still wrestles over history

Down past the Big Chicken, the 56-foot-high, steel-beaked beacon of extra crispy that may be this town’s most prized landmark, and just across from Fast Eddie Auto Sales, the wedge of dirt hard by Interstate 75 is notable only for its lack of notability. And when Rabbi Steven Lebow pulls up there, he leaves the engine running and door open.

Nearly ever since the South Florida native found a pulpit in this fast-changing county just north of Atlanta three decades ago, this spot — or, more specifically, the tale of murder and vengeance that has stained its ground and local history for 100 years — has weighed on him.

But with transportation crews readying to build over the place where Marietta’s leading citizens lynched a Jewish factory superintendent named Leo Frank on an August morning a century ago, Lebow talks only of what’s worth preserving.

“There’s nothing to see here. It’s anonymous. That’s why we need to be the memory,” Lebow says, as trucks grind past. “We don’t want to remember it, but it’s a cautionary tale.”

As this community revisits that tale, though — “whether it wants to or not,” the Marietta Daily Journal’s “Around Town” columnists wrote recently — there are reminders that it remains unsettled as well as unsettling.

In 1913, Frank was convicted of murdering a 13-year-old girl, Mary Phagan, who worked for 10 cents an hour in his Atlanta factory. The case, charged with race, religion, sex and class, exploded in a national media frenzy, cementing a North-South divide and exposing the resentments of economic upheaval. When Georgia’s governor commuted Frank’s death sentence, citizens took matters in their own hands.

The case established the Anti-Defamation League as the country’s most outspoken opponent of anti-Semitism, while helping fuel rebirth of what had been a dormant Ku Klux Klan, months after the lynching.

Until ADL lawyers pressed officials to posthumously pardon Frank in the 1980s, the case was hushed in Atlanta’s synagogues, the homes of Old Marietta, and among Phagan’s descendants.

The pardon, though granted, was less than conclusive. Now, in a summer that has already seen Southerners wrangle with the best-known symbol of the region’s embattled past, Lebow and others want to reopen a painful chapter some would prefer to let be.

But their effort to right history, as they see it, has renewed charges that, in doing so, they are unfairly trying to rewrite it.

Soon After Dan Cox turned an abandoned Civil War-era hotel off the downtown square into the Marietta Museum of History more than two decades ago, he knocked on the door of a 96-year-old resident. She regaled him with stories until Cox asked about Leo Frank.

“You could see the iron curtain fall,” says Cox, who’s 76. “I said, ‘Why won’t you tell me?’ But she said, ‘We were told not to talk about it,’ and they never did.”

Even so, actors and academics, reporters and playwrights, have repeatedly delved into the story.

Frank, raised in New York, ran a factory in industrializing Atlanta, where he married into a prosperous Jewish family. In 1913, Phagan, her hair in bows, stopped to collect her pay from the factory, where she ran a machine that inserted rubber erasers into pencils. She was on the way to the city’s Confederate Memorial Day parade.

That night, a watchman found her bloodied body in the basement. Prosecutors alleged she’d been raped. Police arrested several men before settling on Frank, who proclaimed his innocence. His conviction rested on the testimony of a custodian, Jim Conley, a rare case of a black man’s word used against a white defendant.

Frank’s lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that a climate of anti-Semitism had resulted in an unfair trial. The court upheld the verdict, 7-2. In 1915, Gov. John Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence to life, and a furious crowd hanged the politician in effigy.

“Jew money has debased us, bought us and sold us,” wrote Thomas Watson, who used his Jeffersonian newspaper to attack Frank. “In the name of God, what are the people to do?”

Months later, a group of men from Marietta, the Phagan family’s hometown, took Frank from the state prison. As the sun rose that Aug. 17, they hanged him in a grove outside town. Nobody was ever charged.

“The Frank case was like a lightning strike,” says Steve Oney, an Atlanta native whose 17 years researching the case produced the book, “And the Dead Shall Rise.” “Everything in the South stood briefly in relief and then it was dark again.”

Substantial evidence points to Frank’s innocence, Oney says, but “there are imponderables that are always going to be imponderables.”

When Oney’s book was published in 2002, Cox says he thought it would air old questions and vanquish stereotypes of a county whose synagogues, taquerias and six-fold population increase since 1960 testify to change.

But calls to the museum about Frank kept coming, even as the sites of nearly 4,000 lynchings of black men throughout the South mostly remain unmarked.

The ADL is marking the anniversary with a push for Georgia to pass a hate-crime law. The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in nearby Kennesaw opens a Frank exhibit. A musical about the case, “Parade,” is being re-staged in Atlanta. The Georgia Historical Society is bringing Oney to Marietta to talk about a case that white supremacist websites continue to pore over.

And on Aug. 16, Lebow will lead a memorial service at which he and some current and former Georgia Supreme Court justices plan to call on state lawmakers to declare Frank’s exoneration.

“This is a story that won’t go away,” Cox says. He leads the way through exhibits detailing Cobb County’s past _ Cherokees banished on the Trail of Tears, Confederates and their Unionist neighbors, and more. The only nod to the Frank case is a single placard and an old historical marker, soon to be returned to storage.

“I don’t want to minimize the event, not at all,” Cox says. “But it needs to be put away, like the flag, in its proper place.”

Dale Schwartz was 11 when his parents took over a department store in a small north Georgia town, where they became the only Jewish family. When they hired a black couple, a group of white women confronted his mother.

“Wait, they raise your children and give them milk from their breasts and they can’t sell you a dress?” his mother said. “They stormed out,” Schwartz says, chuckling at the memory.

Soon, though, crosses were set afire on the Schwartz’s lawn. The living room window was shot out while young Dale lay on the sofa. The family called the ADL.

More than 60 years later, Schwartz is a lawyer who keeps a print of Don Quixote in his office lobby. And his story is by way of explaining why, when an ADL official called in the early 1980s, he agreed to pursue a pardon for Frank.

The effort was prompted by the words of Alonzo Mann, the office boy for Frank, who, 69 years after Phagan’s murder, told the Nashville Tennessean he’d caught Conley with the girl’s body, but stayed silent because he was threatened with death.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected the first request.

“It was like Atlanta didn’t want to revisit that story,” Schwartz says, recalling a packed meeting at a Jewish center. “These old people got up to the microphone and they begged us not to do it. They said it was too big a wound.”

But in 1986, officials granted a pardon, recognizing the state’s failure to protect Frank, “without attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence.”

The ADL deemed the pardon closure of its “oldest case.” Schwartz calls it one of his proudest moments, while acknowledging it was a compromise. To challenge it now and fail “would cast a shadow over what we’ve already got,” he said. And yet, as the 100th anniversary of Frank’s death approaches, the recent mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., is on his mind.

“Somehow the juxtaposition of these events keeps popping up in my head,” he says. “There is still some element of society that thinks that hate is OK.”

When Roy Barnes came home after losing re-election as Georgia’s governor, he renovated an abandoned church in downtown Marietta as a law office, commissioning a huge stained glass window of Lady Justice, lit up at night. Settled in an armchair in what used to be the sanctuary, the Democrat reflected on a fascination with the Frank case.

Barnes, who is 67 and was raised on a Cobb County farm, recalls the hush around Frank’s name when he was a boy, and how, as a legislator, he borrowed books on the case from the state library to pass time when debate dragged. As details surfaced, he learned the lynching party included Cicero Dobbs — grandfather of Barnes’ wife, Marie.

Dobbs owned businesses including a taxi company that provided transport that fateful night. Other lynchers included a judge, a former mayor turned state prosecutor, a leading lawyer and the scion of one of Marietta’s wealthiest families. They’re all long gone, with many descendants who openly acknowledge what happened.

But Barnes says some people tell him that, while they agree Frank didn’t get a fair trial, he was still guilty.

Barnes is certain that’s wrong and should be corrected. The Frank story needs to be talked about, “to remind people here that we’re only one step away from mob rule, even from the leaders in our community, and we need to be told that and study so that we never let that happen again,” he says.

Reminded that he lost the governorship in no small part because he pushed to eliminate the Confederate battle flag from the state banner, Barnes paraphrases the words of Martin Luther King Jr.

“You know, the arc of history does bend toward justice,” Barnes says. “And for Leo Frank, justice hasn’t been given yet.”

Just off a gravel road tucked into North Georgia’s hills, Mary Phagan Kean ushers a visitor into a moss-green room filled with scrapbooks, family photos and files detailing the life and death of a 13-year-old girl a century ago.

“She’s my family. She’s my history. History is what makes you who you are,” she says.

Phagan Kean was 13, herself, when a teacher asked if she was related to the girl murdered at the National Pencil Co.

Her father confirmed that she was the victim’s great niece and namesake. Phagan Kean began years of research that produced a book and confirmed her certainty of Frank’s guilt.

When the ADL sought Frank’s exoneration, Phagan Kean recalls telling her family that it was time to speak up. Her protest saw the pardon limited.

When a historic marker was proposed for Phagan’s grave, she asked for wording making clear the pardon was based on the state’s failure to protect him, “not Frank’s innocence.” That is the marker now retired to the Marietta museum, replaced by one Lebow lobbied for, noting simply that Frank was pardoned.

Phagan Kean bought the empty plot just below Phagan’s a few years ago. If Lebow and others keep pushing, she says, she’ll erect her own marker, reminding visitors of the verdict.

“They’re not telling the truth. They’re swaying the truth their way,” says Phagan Kean, a retired teacher who acknowledges that anti-Semitism played a role, but only in the lynching.

In thoughtful, but separate, conversations, she and Lebow voice frustration over each other’s repeated insistence.

Southerners, Phagan Kean says, should not have to apologize for history. Lebow, who recently posted a picture of Frank on Facebook, followed soon after by a photo of Cobb County’s first Jewish same-sex wedding, says acknowledging mistakes of history is the only route toward a “newer South.”

Each speaks of a responsibility.

Phagan Kean, noting that for years she’s dismissed inquiries from white supremacists seeking to use the case for their own purposes, says she acts as a voice for the murdered girl because “there’s nobody to protect her but me.”

And Lebow, noting that time has taught Jews the danger of forgetting the past, recalls hearing about the case at a Kiwanis meeting years ago and realizing he had, by accident, become Leo Frank’s rabbi.

“We’ve got to be the memory of this guy,” he says, “because no one else wants to be.”

South Carolina church drops troop after Boy Scouts allow gay leaders

A Presbyterian church in South Carolina says it is dropping its nearly 50-year association with the Boy Scouts after the organization agreed to allow gay leaders.

The First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, about 60 miles northeast of Columbia, sent a letter to 63 scouts in a troop sponsored by the church saying that it ended its sponsorship of the Boy Scouts on July 31.

Church member Buddy Lever says it was a tough decision, but the Boy Scouts’ announcement it would allow gay leaders doesn’t match the church’s beliefs on homosexuality.

The scouts are being given an opportunity to join other troops.

The Lancaster church is also joining with a group called Trail Life USA, which is a Christian outdoor adventure club.

Country music struggles with its Confederate flag past

Country artists are struggling to articulate their feelings about the Confederate flag’s history and symbolism amid heightened debate following the recent massacre at a South Carolina church.

The killing of nine churchgoers on June 17 renewed calls for the emblem to be removed from government displays — both chambers of South Carolina’s legislature and Gov. Nikki Haley agreed on legislation that brought the flag down from its place on the statehouse grounds on July 10 — as well as from other aspects of American culture, including on television, in sports and in popular art.

Mainstream country music has been quietly distancing itself from the Confederate flag for decades, with many adopting the U.S. flag instead, the genre’s own history paralleling changing public sentiment.

“You won’t find it being used by young country acts today, partly because it doesn’t mean the same thing to them,” said Robert K. Oermann, author and columnist for MusicRow magazine. “Partly because some of them aren’t Southern and partly because if you want to appeal to a national audience, why would you do that?”

The Confederate flag was not commonly used by country artists until the late ‘60s and through the ‘70s and ‘80s, when it was adopted by some Southern country and rock artists who identified as outlaw musicians appealing to blue-collar fans, Oermann said.

David Allan Coe, Hank Williams Jr., the country group Alabama and rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd all used the flag on stage or in merchandise, or referenced the flag or the Confederacy in song lyrics.

But the symbol quickly fell out of favor as country music became more commercial in the 1980s and the industry sought to reach wider audiences in the suburbs and urban areas outside of the South.

Only a small number of country artists have been willing to speak on the issue in the weeks since the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting. John Rich, of the duo Big and Rich, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he agreed with the call to remove the Confederate flag from its pole outside the South Carolina state Capitol. Charlie Daniels wrote a long column on his website addressing the most recent controversy over the flag.

“The Confederate battle flag was a sign of defiance, a sign of pride, a declaration of a geographical area that you were proud to be from,” Daniels wrote. “That’s all it is to me and all it ever has been to me.”

Daniels said he opposes racism and believes that every person, regardless of skin color, deserves the exact same rights and advantages.

“Unfortunately, the Confederate battle flag has been adopted by hate groups — and individuals like Dylann Roof (charged with murder in the church shootings) — to supposedly represent them and their hateful view of the races,” Daniels said on his website.

Several country artists didn’t respond or their representatives declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press, including Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Charley Pride, Colt Ford and Hank Williams Jr.

Country artists take a big risk in addressing controversial social and political issues. Just two years ago, Brad Paisley was criticized for recording a song called “Accidental Racist” with rapper LL Cool J that ultimately sought to explore racial tensions but came across as naive and ill-advised.

Diane Pecknold, an associate professor of women and gender studies at the University of Louisville who has written extensively about the history of country music, said country music has a strong association to patriotism and promoting viewpoints that are inclusive of all races and cultures, noting that Paisley, Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks all have songs that are explicitly anti-racist.

“You can criticize them for being naive or being post-racial in a way that ignores contemporary and institutionalized racism,” Pecknold said. “You can criticize them for failing to conceptualize it in a meaningful way, but you still have to say that they are talking about race and an ideal of America that is anti-racist.”

Rucker, a black artist who hails from Charleston, chose to communicate directly to his fans on Twitter: “Incredibly proud of my city for handling this tragedy with love. Thankful to be a part of a community that can come together in a time of need.”