Lecturer Catherine Cangany spoke at the Dearborn Historical Museum about Henry Ford and his anti-Semitic newspaper, The Dearborn Independent.

Photography by Corrie Colf

The Dearborn Historical Museum welcomed lecturer Catherine Cangany, executive director of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan on Sept. 25 to speak about The Dearborn Independent, the legacy of Henry Ford’s newspaper.

The event was put on by the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, the Anti-Defamation League, Motor Cities National Heritage Area and The Henry Ford.

In addition to her lecture, the museum opened an exhibit detailing the history and timeline of the Dearborn Independent, headlines from the newspaper, and the reactions and resistance of the newspaper from the Jewish community.

Cangany began her lecture by talking about the history of the Dearborn Independent and how Henry Ford bought the weekly publication in 1918 and used it as a mouthpiece for his anti-Semitism.

She pointed to prominent headlines and sub headlines as evidence of Ford’s anti-Semitism and discussed how his anti-Semitic thoughts were influenced by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

“Ford, of course, was not the only public figure who used his platform to perpetuate them,” Cangany said. “In 1923, The Protocols were given to Adolf Hitler and soon became part of Nazi ideology. In fact, Hitler came to admire Ford’s role in distributing and popularizing anti-Semitism so much, that in 1925 in the second edition of his manifesto, Hitler recognized Ford by name.”

Cangany then spoke about Ford’s compilation of the Dearborn Independent’s articles featured in the four-volume set titled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.

Cangany also discussed how Detroit’s Jewish community, including Rabbi Leo Franklin of Temple Beth El, started to resist in attempts to shut down the paper.

 

Through boycotts of Ford products, refusal to distribute the publication, back-channel negotiations and libel/defamation of character lawsuits filed by Jewish lawyers, Aaron Shapiro and Louis Marshall, the Jewish community was able to fight back.

Unfortunately, Ford never took responsibility for the harm his publication had caused to the Jewish community. “He simply redirected the blame to his subordinates, avoided legal consequences — due to a mistrial, and continued to distribute the Dearborn Independent’s articles,” Cangany said.

Today, the remnants of Ford’s hate speech are still visible. The International Jew still appears in print.

“This hate speech isn’t just in circulation,” Cangany said. “It is still being used and commended, as journalist Bill McGraw has shown. These publications routinely receive five-star reviews on Amazon. Even the organizers of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville claim the publication motivated them.”

Cangany concluded her lecture by saying that the community must stand up against this rhetoric because “this hate speech has no place in our society.”

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