Henry Ford's War on Jews

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More than a century after his motor vehicles revolutionized American life, Henry Ford is still a household name in the United States. But largely forgotten is the role he played in spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories by supporting the publication of a series called "The International Jew" in the Dearborn Independent, a newspaper owned by Ford and distributed through Ford dealers. In this podcast, we talk to Victoria Saker Woeste about the legal battle Ford became caught in after being sued by a Jewish lawyer defamed in the Dearborn Independent. We also reflect on the implications of this episode for larger considerations of hate speech and misinformation in American history.

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Contributor Bios

Victoria Saker Woeste was educated at the University of Virginia (B.A. 1983) and the University of California at Berkeley (M.A. 1985, Ph.D. 1990). Since 1994 she has been a member of the research faculty at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, where she specializes in U.S. legal history and writes about political economy, hate speech, antisemitism, and modern American political conservatism.
Chris Gratien is Assistant Professor of History at University of Virginia, where he teaches classes on global environmental history and the Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region of the former Ottoman Empire from the 1850s until the 1950s.


Release Date: 24 May 2019
Recording Location: University of Virginia
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: Zé Trigueiros
Bibliography courtesy of Victoria Saker Woeste

Select Bibliography

Victoria Saker Woeste, Henry Ford’s War On Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech. Stanford University Press, June 2012. 

Victoria Saker Woeste, “Insecure Equality: Louis Marshall, Henry Ford, and the Problem of Defamatory Antisemitism, 1920-1929.” Journal of American History, 91:3 (December 2004), 877-905

Naomi W. Cohen, Encounter with Emancipation: The German Jews in the United States, 1830–1914.  Philadelphia:  Jewish Publication Society of America, 1984.

Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Eric L. Goldstein, The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity.  Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006.

John Higham, Strangers in the Land:  Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. New Brunswick, N.J.:  Rutgers University Press, 1955.

Leo P. Ribuffo, “Henry Ford and the International Jew.”  American Jewish History 69:4 (1980), 437-77.

Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism:  A History. New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2004.


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