Donna C. Schuele, Reflections on Henry Ford's War on Jews
This essay provides an introduction to and overview of four essays that emerged from an “Author Meets Readers” session at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association, considering Victoria Saker Woeste's book, Henry Ford's War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech. Three essays are authored by panelists (Aviam Soifer, Carroll Seron, and Clyde Spillenger) and a final essay is provided by Woeste. The essays explore larger themes suggested by the book, including what the involvement of Louis Marshall reveals about the rise and role of spokespeople purporting to represent Jewish interests; whether the arc of Aaron Sapiro's education and career challenges our understandings of the development of the legal profession in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; and how the law of group libel intersected with government attempts to regulate hate speech during the twentieth century. Woeste ends the symposium with a reconsideration of Henry Ford's War and how it fits into the new civil rights history.Aviam Soifer, The Spokesman Conundrum: “Is It Good for the Jews?”
Battles concerning who legitimately speaks for minority groups pervade US history. The historically decentralized organization of American Jewry affords a prime example of this key leadership dilemma. Competing approaches to how to deal with Henry Ford's virulent anti-Semitism and extensive hate speech in the 1920s underscore the familiar, yet seldom carefully analyzed, tension between confrontation and negotiation that is often faced by outside groups and their spokesmen who seek change, wish to defend themselves, and/or hope for increased inclusion.Carroll Seron, Prestige, Networks, and Social Mobility Among Lawyers: A View from California of Woeste's book, Henry Ford's War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech
In Henry Ford's War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech (2012), Victoria Saker Woeste raises provocative questions for students of the legal profession. Aaron Sapiro, an Eastern European, Jewish immigrant to California, rose to international prominence through his corporate specialization in agricultural cooperatives. Our understanding of the social structure of the legal profession, based on studies of the East and Midwest, shows that for most of the twentieth century, the structure of the bar was highly stratified around markers of ethno-religious status. The trajectory of Sapiro's career does not fit this story. A focus on the West generally or California in particular complicates our understanding of how factors such as ethno-religious background, social networks, career mobility, and prestige interact.Clyde Spillenger, Hate Speech, Group Libel, and “Ford's Megaphone”
This essay on Victoria Saker Woeste's Henry Ford's War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech (2012) emphasizes that what made Ford's broadsides against Jews in the 1920s so dangerous was technology—his command of an unparalleled network of distribution, through his nationwide Ford dealerships. In addition, at the time of Ford's libels, US legal culture had not yet absorbed the idea that ideological and psychological subordination of minority groups was the principal harm worked by what would later be called “hate speech.”Victoria Saker Woeste, Framing Henry Ford's War: Representation, Speech, and the New Civil Rights History
In this essay, I respond to three readers of my book, Henry Ford's War and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech, by embracing the opportunity to reconsider the book's theoretical and historiographical frames. I synthesize the contributions that Clyde Spillenger, Carroll Seron, and Aviam Soifer make in their deep readings of the book and respond to their criticisms. I then place the book into a new interpretive frame that is emerging in the field of the “new civil rights history,” as it is now being conceptualized in the work of Risa Goluboff, Kenneth Mack, Tomiko Brown-Nagin, and others writing on civil rights advocacy in the twentieth-century United States.