In honor of President Barack Obama’s re-election last night, take a look back at our exclusive 2009 photo essay, Jews and Blacks in America.
“It would be impossible to record the contribution that Jewish people have made toward the Negro’s struggle for freedom, it has been so great,” the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once said. From fiery abolitionists and quiet philanthropists to eloquent rabbis and pragmatic leaders, American Jews helped lay the groundwork for achieving full citizenship for African-Americans. During the Civil War, some Jews fought on behalf of the Confederacy; others saw a parallel between Jewish bondage in Egypt and the chains worn by blacks. Jews who immigrated in the latter half of the 19th century were staunchly against slavery: many had been denied equal rights in Europe and recognized that the scourge of anti-Semitism would not be eradicated as long as racism persisted. And so, by the dawn of the last century, a partnership had been forged—one that culminated in the Selma Civil Rights march on March 21, 1965, about which Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said: “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.”