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
Freund, David Harrington, Elisabeth Houseman, Akta Jantrania, Nona Richards, Lisa Simeone, Amy Sturtz, and Tiffanye Threadcraft handled myriad tasks in the field and on-site at the Bar Foundation. I am especially grateful to Betsy Mendelsohn, Susan Barsy, and Daniel Owings, whose dedication, imagination, and initiative measurably contributed to the maturation of my ideas and the maintenance of my sanity. I spent many happy weeks at the Benson Ford Research Center in Dearborn, Michigan, and at the
committee instructed Marshall to communicate privately with editors of Jewish newspapers, advising them not to endorse a Jewish boycott of Ford because it “might act as a boomerang and produce parties and players a counter boycott in which the Jews would greatly suffer.” This strategy of “dynamic silence” would be a mainstay of the AJC’s approach to propaganda both before and after World War II.73 In those first days of the Independent’s campaign, when no one knew how long it would
was driving a truck with two Ringolsky employees, Antone Juan Correro and Ah Wong. As they were returning from the Oakland Harbor to the Ringolsky junkyard on Franklin Street, their wagon approached a train crossing. A warning bell was ringing, but there were no gates to prevent traffic from moving across the tracks. After one train moved through going in one direction, Sapiro thought the intersection was clear and moved his truck forward. The wagon was then struck by an The Outsider
Ford sought to show that Jews intended to undermine the very foundation of American democracy. 5 the other war As an individual, I was immaterial; but I was there as a representative, first, of the cooperative marketing movement, and second, as a representative of the Jews who were trying in their own ways to bring social light to disorganized industry in America. —Aaron Sapiro, 19271 By the mid-1920s, the turbulence that gripped the country after the war had dissipated, replaced by a
writer makes must have the backing of truth, and he asked me to verify what he said, because he’s been too close to the affair, and has always been too close.” When Dunn’s tobacco article came out on August 16, its inattention to detail was immediately brought to Cameron’s attention, not by an indignant grower or cooperative official, but by a presumably friendlier figure: a tobacco broker. That broker, R. M. Barker, noted that several major warehouses had not been built at the time the