​Writing Sample: Home and Freedom:

Black-Jewish Connection and the Unsolved Murder of William Seidler


Endnotes

 

Archival collections cited in this writing sample are abbreviated as follows.

 

JCRC = Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia Records, SCRC 230, Special Collections Research Center. Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

SCRC Bulletin Clippings = George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Clippings Collection, Biographical, SCRC 169A, Special Collections Research Center. Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

WILPF = Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

 

WF = New Hampshire World Fellowship Center records, 1919-2013, MS-1105, Rauner Special Collections Library. Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.

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Prologue: March 18, 1971

 

1. Commissioner Joseph F. O’Neill, “Confidential: Slain Jewish Merchants 1968-1973” (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Police Department, April 10, 1973), n.p., Box 175, Folder 19-21: Slain Jewish Merchants 1968-1973 (City of Phila. Police Department), JCRC.

2. Rich Sapok, “Merchant Slain in N. Phila.,” Philadelphia Daily News, March 19, 1971, 5, https://www.newspapers.com/image/184971036. Miriam discusses never returning to the store in an interview circa 1989 for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom newsletter, n.d., DG 043: “Biographical information: Miriam G. Seidler,” WILPF. O’Neill (1973) confirms that the shooter was never apprehended, as does William R. Macklin, “A Volunteer Who Doesn’t Fit the Mold,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 30, 1998, sec. D, 1, 7, https://www.newspapers.com/image/179240192, https://www.newspapers.com/image/179240282.

3. For a contemporary account of the 1964 Columbia Avenue riot, see Lenora E. Berson, Case Study of a Riot: The Philadelphia Story (New York: Institute of Human Relations, American Jewish Committee, 1966). Charles Montgomery, “Store Owner Is Slain in North Phila. Holdup,” Evening Bulletin, March 19, 1971, 35, Box 2, Folder 13: Obituary: Bill Seidler, 1970, WF.  

 

4. The rapid decline of North Philadelphia’s Jewish population is illustrated by a 1970 report of social workers providing aid to the last few Jews they were aware of in the area. Bessie K. Stensky, “The Strawberry Mansion Project on the Aged: A Report on A Reaching Out Effort by the Jewish Family Service of Philadelphia,” November 1970, Box 179, Folder 2, JCRC. On the conditions affecting both white and Black Jews in North Philadelphia after the mid-1950s, see chapters 4, 5, 8 and 11 of this work. On anti-Black racism and discrimination in postwar housing benefits, see Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (New York: Liveright, 2017). Scholarship on culture and politics in Black North Philadelphia tends to appear within larger works on Black Philadelphia history, such as Matthew Countryman’s Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). The premier Philadelphia politician to capitalize off of overtly racial 'law and order' discourse was police commissioner and mayor Frank Rizzo. See chapter 9 and Timothy J. Lombardo, Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).

 

5. Sapok, “Merchant Slain in N. Phila.,” 5; Montgomery, “Store Owner Is Slain in North Phila. Holdup,” 35.

 

6. Sandy Padwe, “My Philadelphia: Believed in People - But He Met Death,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 31, 1971, Metropolitan Page, 39, https://www.newspapers.com/image/184760373; Associated Press, “Slain Storekeeper Eulogized by Black Panther Party Members,” Standard-Speaker, Hazelton, PA, March 30, 1971, final edition, 19, https://www.newspapers.com/image/67449040.

7.  Padwe, “Believed in People - But He Met Death,” 39; Dennis Kirkland and Edward Eisen, “Neighbors Take Up Arms After Merchant’s Death,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 20, 1971, final City edition, sec. A, 1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/179970373.

8. Montgomery, “Store Owner Is Slain in North Phila. Holdup,” 35. Kirkland and Eisen, “Neighbors Take Up Arms After Merchant’s Death,” 1. Black merchants seem to have armed themselves earlier than white merchants. Kitsi Burkhart and Alfonso Brown, Jr., “Slain Storekeeper Helped Neighborhood,” Evening Bulletin, Philadelphia, PA, March 20, 1971, n.p., “William Seidler,” SCRC Bulletin Clippings.

 

9. Larry Fields, “It Takes More Than Guns to Kill Widow’s Ideals,” Philadelphia Daily News, March 1, 1972, 2, 26, https://www.newspapers.com/image/185112500, https://www.newspapers.com/image/185111898. Seidler’s death seemed to fit neatly into the racialized narratives both of politicians like Rizzo and of crime reporting in the U.S. in the 1970s. See Melissa Hickman Barlow, “Race and the Problem of Crime in ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’ Cover Stories, 1946 to 1995,” Social Justice 25, no. 2 (1998): 149–83.

 

Chapter One: A Slap in the Face to the Angel of Death

(numbering continues)

10. Visual impressions of the block are from my personal experiences of the neighborhood, including research visits in 2019. See historic images of Columbia Avenue, now called Cecil B. Moore Avenue, at https://www.phillyhistory.org/PhotoArchive/Search.aspx.

 

11. "1930 United States Census, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Digital Image s.v. ‘Beatrice Bullard,’" Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2002;  "Marriage License, Grant Bullard to Clara Davis," 22 December 1919, Robeson County, North Carolina. Office of Register of Deeds, Lumberton, North Carolina. Robeson County, North Carolina, North Carolina County Registers of Deeds, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC, Volume Unknown; p. 12, Microfilm. Record Group 048. Ancestry.Com. North Carolina, U.S., Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-Line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.Com Operations, Inc., 2015. "1910 United States Census, Wahee, Marion, South Carolina, Digital Image s.v. ‘Mattie Davis,’" n.d., Roll: T624_1451; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0075; FHL microfilm: 1375464, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2006. "1880 United States Census, Wahee, Marion, South Carolina, Digital Image s.v. ‘Melvina Wright,’" n.d., Roll: 1235; Page: 336C; Enumeration District: 102, Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.

12. Barbara Easley-Cox, interviewed by April Rosenblum via telephone, July 26, 2019. For a brief introduction to periodization of the Great Migration, see Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Vintage 2011 ed. (New York: Random House, 2010), 217–18.

13. “Staid Old Philly Blows Its Top,” Philadelphia Tribune, August 18, 1945, 1, 3, https://search.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/staid-old-philly-blows-top/docview/531820532/se-2?accountid=10977.

 

14. William C. Farson, “Philadelphia Roars Salute to Victory,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 15, 1945, 1, 4, https://www.newspapers.com/image/171472218.

15. Farson, “Philadelphia Roars Salute to Victory,” 1, 4; “Riots End Liberty for 100,000 in Navy: San Francisco Quiet Again After Battles in Streets Cause Deaths of 10,” New York Times, August 17, 1945, 6, https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1945/08/17/issue.html.

16. “Staid Old Philly Blows It’s Top,” 1, 3. 

 

17. Ernest Johnson, “V-J Day Presents Special Problems,” Philadelphia Tribune, August 18, 1945, 1, https://search.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/v-j-day-presents-special-problems/docview/531849015/se-2?accountid=10977.

18. Johnson, “V-J Day Presents Special Problems,” 1. Robin D. G. Kelley notes that this progress was slow; it was not until 1944 that wartime employment opened up significantly to African American workers. Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class (Simon and Schuster, 1996), 164.

19. Johnson, “V-J Day Presents Special Problems,” 1.

20. “Red Cross Workers To Relate Experiences,” Philadelphia Tribune, January 13, 1945, 16, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/historical-newspapers/red-cross-workers-relate-experiences/docview/531795629/se-2?accountid=10977.

21. "Marian Greenberg (Subsequently ‘Marion’), SS Volturno Passenger Manifest,” November 14, 1912, Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 (Microfilm Serial T715, roll 1975, line 1, page 205); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. Ancestry.com [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Tony Michels describes how local Jewish communities were captivated by the Russian Revolution in two works focused on New York, A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2005) and “The Russian Revolution in New York, 1917–19,” Journal of Contemporary History 52, no. 4 (October 2017): 959–79, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022009417724213. On the 1918 Philadelphia riots, see Khalil Gibran Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2010) and Vincent P. Franklin, “The Philadelphia Race Riot of 1918,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 99, no. 3 (1975): 336–50.

22. Imani Perry, May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem, Ebook-Adobe Digital Edition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 50. The phenomenon of Yiddish-language newspapers identifying white riots against Black communities as pogroms is discussed in Hasia R. Diner, In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915–1935 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1977), 43, 229.

23. On Miriam’s sisters see Sara Solovitch, “Women of Peace Who Fight Onward,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 25, 1983, sec. A, 20. On her mother see Teresa Jaynes, “Folk Arts of Social Change: Excerpts from an Exhibition,” Works in Progress: Magazine of the Philadelphia Folklore Project, Winter 2000, 13. Among the Yiddish songs which compare dark eyes to black cherries are "Baym Oybsheyd," Yiddish Songs Sung by Ruth Rubin (New York: Folkways Records, 1978), "Oy dortn, dortn, ibern vaser," Ruth Rubin, Jewish Life: The Old Country (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007) and "Dreyt zikh arum mayne fenster," Elvira Grözinger et al., “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin”: jiddische Lieder aus den St. Petersburger Sammlungen (Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2008). For the original connotation of "zaftik" versus the euphemistic English usage, see Michael Wex, Just Say Nu: Yiddish for Every Occasion (When English Just Won’t Do) (New York: St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2007), 70-71.

24. “Just How Much Is It Safe to Reduce?,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 25, 1926, Magazine section, 6, https://www.newspapers.com/image/173421692. “High School Girls Present Christmas Play (in ’News of the World Told in Pictures’),” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 23, 1926, 17, https://www.newspapers.com/image/173295405; “500 Alumnae Dine,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 14, 1926, 2, https://www.newspapers.com/image/173486803.

25. Miriam’s high school yearbook writers recorded her nickname as “Money,” probably a misreading of her family pet name, the Yiddish Monye, or Manye. “In politics,” they wrote, “it would be hard to find a more fiery suffragette,” and suggested she was destined to be a lawyer or politician, then groped further to compliment her: “or since her nickname is Money, she may yet turn out to be a real estate agent.” The Record of the Class of June, 1926 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia High School for Girls, 1926), n.p. Miriam’s romantic excursions are discussed in Deborah Zubow, interviewed by April Rosenblum, Philadelphia, PA, May 25, 2019. “Marian Greenberg (subsequently ‘Marion’), SS Volturno Passenger Manifest,” November 14, 1912, Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 (Microfilm Serial T715, roll 1975, line 1, page 205); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. Ancestry.com [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

26. Solovitch, “Women of Peace Who Fight Onward,” 20; WILPF newsletter, “Biographical information: Miriam G. Seidler,” n.p.

27. Untitled photographic spread, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 10, 1926, Rotogravure section, 4 (electronic page 112), https://www.newspapers.com/image/173313224/.

28. WILPF newsletter, “Biographical information: Miriam G. Seidler,” n.p.; Laurie Ann Alexandre, “The John Reed Clubs: A Historical Reclamation of the Role of Revolutionary Writers in the Depression,” MA thesis (California State University, Northridge, 1977), 57–58.

29. “1910 United States Census, Philadelphia Ward 39, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Digital Image s.v. ‘William Seidler,’” 1910, Roll: T624_1409; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 0973; FHL microfilm: 1375422, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc.; Fields, “It Takes More Than Guns to Kill Widow’s Ideals,” 2, 26.

30. “New York, New York Index to Marriages, New York City Clerk’s Office, v. 3: Marriage of William Seidler and Miriam D. Greenberg, #6281, 1932; New York City Municipal Archives, Manhattan. Ancestry.Com [Database Online], Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.Com Operations, Inc., 2017”; “Public Is Invited to Girls’ Music Contest,” Bristol Daily Courier, May 28, 1932, 1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/48719218.

31. “Nazi End Boycott on Jews,” Sunday News, Lancaster, PA, April 2, 1933, Volume 10, Number 30, 1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/559878869.

32. Rafael Medoff, “American Jewish Responses to Nazism and the Holocaust,” in The Columbia History of Jews and Judaism in America, ed. Marc Lee Raphael (Columbia University Press, 2008), 293, https://doi.org/10.7312/raph13222-012. Dick Levins, “Touch Red,” in Judy Kaplan and Linn Shapiro, Red Diapers: Growing Up in the Communist Left (Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1998), 261.

33. Isolationist fears of being pushed into war led to an increase in visible antisemitism not only at the grassroots but in the halls of legislative power. Edward S. Shapiro, “The Approach of War: Congressional Isolationism and Anti-Semitism, 1939–1941,” American Jewish History 74, no. 1 (1984): 45–65. The Seidlers were likely in Aberdeen by fall 1935, as Miriam is pictured among local junior college students for 1935-1936. Associated Students of the Grays Harbor Junior College at Aberdeen, The Nautilus (Yearbook) (Aberdeen, WA: Grays Harbor Junior College, 1936), 1421, https://issuu.com/graysharbor/docs/1936, 14, 21. Bill’s employment is referenced in "United States World War II Draft Registration Cards," Card for William Seidler, Serial No. 948, Local Draft Board 9, Houston, Harris County, Texas; The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1356, Ancestry.Com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [Database Online]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.Com Operations, Inc., 2011.,” October 16, 1940, Draft Registration Cards for Texas, 10/16/1940 - 03/31/1947, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1356, https://www.fold3.com/image/625362380?xid=1022 and in “News From The Boys Serving In The Armed Forces of Uncle Sam,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, August 8, 1943, 5.

34. Kathleen O’Donnell, interviewed by April Rosenblum, Philadelphia, PA, July 12, 2019;. Bobbie Newman, “Growing up with the Houston Symphony,” Houston Symphony (blog), January 24, 2011, https://houstonsymphony.org/growing-up-with-the-houston-symphony/.

35. Here, as in many official documents, her name was misspelled. Miriam’s own hand always recorded her given legal name as “Marion,” a spelling typical in the U.S. for boys. "Marian Seidler Petition for Naturalization (1940)," Naturalization File 5275, Texas District Court, Houston; Page 42. Ancestry.com. Texas Naturalization Records, 1852-1991 [Database online]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.Com Operations, Inc., 2012. https://search.ancestry.ca/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=2509&h=900159400&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=2238.

36. "Marian Seidler Petition for Naturalization (1940)."

37. “United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, Card for William Seidler, Serial No. 948, Local Draft Board 9, Houston, Harris County, Texas; The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1356, Ancestry.Com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [Database Online]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.Com Operations, Inc., 2011.,” October 16, 1940, Draft Registration Cards for Texas, 10/16/1940 - 03/31/1947, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1356, https://www.fold3.com/image/625362380?xid=1022.

38. Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, The Naming of Children in Jewish Folklore, Ritual and Practice (Cincinnati: CCAR, 1932), 21-22, in Omi Morgenstern Leissner, “Jewish Women’s Naming Rites and the Rights of Jewish Women,” Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, no. 4 (2001), 172, note 101.

39. Deborah E. Lipstadt, Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933- 1945 (New York: Free Press, 1993), 159–60.

40. Miriam recalled that Texas’ antisemitic atmosphere made her unwilling to remain in Texas without Bill. Kathleen O’Donnell, interviewed by April Rosenblum, July 12, 2019. “News From The Boys Serving In The Armed Forces of Uncle Sam,” 5.