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Writer and Newspaper Publisher
“‘What’s a Jew doing down here trying to change the Southern way of life?’ I am trying to organize a Jewish society for the preservation of Christian ethics.”
– Harry Golden
Probably North Carolina’s most famous Jew, Harry Golden (1903-1981) raised his voice for civil rights for a quarter century as publisher of The Carolina Israelite newspaper. Born Harry Goldhirsch, he grew up in New York’s Lower East Side, but an early interest in financial speculation landed him in jail for three years in Atlanta. Upon release, he renamed himself Harry Golden, and in 1941 he moved to Charlotte.
The next year he founded The Carolina Israelite and began churning out weekly columns. In the voice of a streetwise ghetto Jewish kid, he advocated for Israel, explained New Yorkers to Southerners and Southerners to New Yorkers. He rhapsodized on kosher pickles and the U. S. Constitution. And he sought to undermine racism through ridicule. Noting that African-American nannies could attend segregated theaters with white children, he suggested distributing white plastic babies to any black who wanted to see a movie. Since Southern whites didn’t seem to mind standing with Blacks at lunch counter, (only sitting with them) he proposed a “Vertical Negro Plan” – integrating restaurants and schools by removing their chairs.
As The Carolina Israelite’s circulation surged and his essay collections became best-sellers, Golden became a national celebrity. A favorite of magazines and TV talk shows, he became friendly with the likes of the poet Carl Sandburg, the Kennedy brothers, and Billy Graham. Martin Luther King, Jr., praised Harry Golden in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”