First, we went to the Pencil Factory – the site of Mary Phagan’s murder, leading to Leo Frank’s lynching, that shaped the Southern Jewish experience and helped determine the Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement. Leo Frank, a Jew, was accused of murdering Mary Phagan but there was overwhelming evidence against him which would accuse a black man instead. However, the police didn’t believe that a black man was capable of coming up with such a complex story behind the murder. Because of this racist theory, Frank was falsely accused, found guilty and scheduled to be lynched in public. However, the Georgia Governor thought that Frank shouldn’t be murdered, so he commuted Frank’s sentence to life in prison. The KKK took Leo Frank from prision and lynched him. Leo Frank was lynched because of anti-semitic prejudice against him. Personally, this story touched me deeply because I believe firmly that everyone should have a fair trial and a right to an attorney – all of the laws that were only half-followed in Frank’s case.
After hearing this history, we lightened things up by visiting a Southern institution, Krispy Kreme and enjoyed a nice break.
Later today we went to the Names Project AIDS Quilt in midtown Atlanta. We talked with two men, Richie and Alan. Alan was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS about twenty years ago. Alan told us about his battle with AIDS which is a constant struggle with all 24 medications he takes daily to suppress symptoms.
This taught me that I should not take simple things, like health, for granted. Now I feel luckier and more appreciative of my life. Richie, his partner, showed us all the rooms where the quilts were stored and taught us about how sex education and awareness are necessary, but nationally our country isn’t consistent with sex education. Especially in the South, the government only funds abstinence education. This leaves room for teenagers being unaware, and therefore unsafe in adolescent decisions. In my school, I had two semesters of sex education and I feel I have been educated on AIDS and other risks of sexual behavior. However, many kids on our trip have not had this type of education. I think it’s better to learn, and be safe than be sorry in the future.
At lunch we went to an indoor market called Sweet Auburn Market and we were able to choose all different foods, from salad to barbecue to ice cream. The food was delicious!
Later on, we went to Martin Luther King Jr.’s house and Ebenezer Baptist Church to hear a recording of his sermon. His voice booms and fills the air with a deep presence. His words were powerful and confident. Just being in Dr. King’s church was very inspiring.