Imagine yourself in this scenario: a young girl in your hometown is brutally murdered.
End of story.
BUT... What if the man were innocent?
This is the premise for Parade, a new musical about the all-too-real Leo Frank case, which involved an odd eccentric man wrongfully convicted of murder. As he fights to clear his name, he grows to be a better husband, and to love and respect his wife, but it does him no good. When the governor realises that Leo Frank is innocent, he commutes the sentence only to have a lynch mob grab the convict.
There were many reasons for the unjust conviction and lynching: Leo Frank was living in Atlanta, Georgia at the time (1913), but he was from New York. The Civil War had only been over for forty-eight years, and the scars were still not yet healed. He ran a factory that paid children twelve cents an hour for body-breaking-mind-numbing work. And, to top it off, he was Jewish. He represented everything Southerners at the time hated, and here an ideal of Southern innocence had met her end in his factory. It would be easy to blow the lynchers off as redneck bigots, and perhaps they were... but we must also look at it from their point of view. They were wrong in the long run, but they honestly believed that they were doing the right thing for Justice, and for their own honour.
None of these changes damages the story in any real way - in fact, they make this horror story all the more dramatic - but I wanted to point them out.
Parade tells the story pretty accurately, even including actual words spoken by the real-life characters. A few changes are made for dramatic effect, most notably (for me, at least) the timing of events. Mary Phagan was murdered on April 26, 1913, Leo Frank was lynched August 17, 1915. Parade has the lynching occur some time before April of 1915, so that the show can end on the second anniversary of the child's death. Leo Frank was not in the courtroom when he was declared guilty; the judge was certain that he would be acquitted, and was afraid of mob violence.This murder - and many like it - happened in our United States, the "land of the free and the home of the brave". It's not just in Germany, Kosovo, and Rwanda. Our ancestors committed these crimes, and the only way we can attempt at atonement is to accept what they did and make certain it never happens again. Education is the best, and in this case, only defence.