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
an agreement on disputed points could be reached.” Ford hoped to conclude the deal quickly, but those expectations were dashed, not least by his own mistakes in the bidding process. Opposition increased in the Federal Reserve, where officials looked askance at Ford’s monetary theories.51 Scarcely two weeks later, Ford appeared to draw a firm conclusion from these events: the Independent’s antisemitic campaign was hurting his pursuit of Muscle Shoals. Early in January 1922, Ford strode into the
languished in the New York state courts, Marshall remained publicly silent while privately reminding friends that he opposed it. But it was just one of many unfortunate developments for him that year. Between Muscle Shoals and his rumored presidential aspirations, Ford was never out of the public eye during 1923. The International Jew effectively continued where the Independent had left off, “‘stir[ring] up bitterness against the Jews.’”71 Indeed, while the Bernstein suit percolated on low heat,
Oakland Tribune reported that Jacob left behind a family of eight children. By the summer of 1894, most accounts agree that Selina had only six mouths to feed.11 Determined to keep her children together, Selina turned to her sister and brother-in-law, the Ringolskys, in whose employ her husband had met his death. Fanny and Simon were the best off of all the Wascerwitzes. For both those reasons, the family believed that the Ringolskys bore an obligation to assist Selina and her children in some
enabled cooperatives to invest in all of the operations involved in harvesting, processing, packing, and marketing—including retail branding—for just their members’ crops and nothing else. The raisin growers found an innovative device to keep their organization together from one year to the next. To solve the perennial problem The Outsider of losing members to commercial packers, who easily tempted growers with temporarily higher prices, the California Associated Raisin Company came up
perform on growers’ behalf.38 Dunn’s exposé on Kentucky tobacco appeared on August 16. It began with the escalated allegation that Sapiro cooperatives were “uniformly disastrous to the non-Jewish member.” Effective cooperation began in tobacco in 1921 when Judge Robert Bingham brought Sapiro in to consult on drafting a cooperative marketing law for Kentucky. In 1923, for two months’ work organizing the burley and dark-tobacco growers, Dunn reported, Sapiro received $107,845—enough to “pay the