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Linda Gordon THE SECOND COMING OF THE KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s & the American Tradition

1508792652261-Second-Coming-of-the-KKK_978-1-63149-369-0-1.jpegLinda Gordon is Florence Kelley professor of history and Professor of the Humanities at New York University. Her early books focused on the historical roots of social policy issues, particularly as they concern gender and family issues. Her first book, Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: The History of Birth Control in America, published in 1976 and reissued in 1990, remains the definitive history of birth-control politics in the US. It was completely revised and re-published as The Moral Property of Women in 2002. More recently, she has explored other ways of presenting history to a broad audience, publishing the microhistory The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction and the biography Dorothea Lange: A Life beyond Limits, both of which won the Bancroft Prize. She is one of only three historians to have ever won this award twice.43442F8100000578-0-image-a-81_1502796121395.jpgAfter being disbanded in 1870 following the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan was officially re-formed in 1915 by founder William J. Simmons, and saw a huge rise in popularity in its early years. Pictured, an eerie sight as hundreds of members gather adorned with hoods43442F8600000578-0-image-a-78_1502796121093.jpgFocused on an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, prohibitionist and anti-Semitic agenda, the new Klan took much of its early influence from popular 1915 film, the Birth of a Nation, which glorified the first version of the Klan. In this image, the streets of Washington are filled with 25,000 KKK members during a march in August 1925.43442FA800000578-0-image-m-91_1502796233891.jpgDespite attempting to portray themselves as a respectable establishment who ‘upheld law and order,’ the Klan’s activities were often coupled with widespread violence.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) shared a common interest in promoting and defending alcohol prohibition, women’s suffrage, Protestantism, and the protection of domesticity. They also both shared hostility toward immigrants. For this reason, the two groups cooperated with each other and shared many members and leaders.women_KKK.jpg

43442F4400000578-0-image-a-79_1502796121151.jpg A whole family can be seen taking part in a racist parade including three young children wearing KKK robes .

03-OC-back-story-women-KKK.jpgThe drum corps of the Dallas Women’s KKK poses in front of Union Station around 1930. The Dallas Klan No. 66 at one time was the largest KKK chapter in the nation. (Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress and
the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

kkk-membership-by-state-in-1924_for-kylie-pine.jpg

Amidst the backdrop of a post-war recession across America, the Klan proved hugely popular during the period, not just in its membership but in its support from every day Americans, too.

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They also wielded significant political power, moving their offices to Washington D.C. in the mid-1920s and reportedly playing a big role in the election of several Congressman and Senators across the country. However toward the end of the decade the Klan’s influence began to wane substantially. One of the group’s leading members, the Grand Wizard, was convicted of murder in a trial which revealed many at the top of the organization as womanizers and alcoholics, shattering their image as the upholders of law and order.

ba021814.jpg“…The civic leaders posing with Powell and Gifford in the photograph, from left to right, are: H.P. Coffin of the National Safety Council; Captain of Police John T. Moore; Chief of Police L.V. Jenkins; District Attorney W.H. Evans; U.S. District Attorney Lester W. Humphreys; T.M. Hurlburt, a sheriff; special agent of the U.S. Department of Justice Russell Bryon; Mayor George L. Baker; and P.S. Malcolm, the sovereign inspector general in Oregon for the Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge.

This photograph makes clear how comfortable KKK leaders were in the public spotlight in the early 1920s—despite their supposed anonymity—and how indulged they were by many civic governments, at least for a short time. That night Powell announced, “There are some cases, of course, in which we will have to take everything in our hands. Some crimes are not punishable under existing laws, but the criminals should be punished.” He did not elaborate, but the implication was clear: the KKK felt entitled to act outside the law. In a room full of enforcers of the law, Powell and Gifford spoke freely without fear of prosecution.

Klan membership in Oregon grew starting in 1921, with chapters springing up throughout the state. Its brief popularity stemmed, in part, from a general racism against minorities (particularly Chinese and Japanese), anti-Catholicism, and a belief in the enforcement of social morality. Gifford successfully lobbied for anti-Catholic legislation in Oregon during his term as Grand Dragon. The political effectiveness of KKK chapters was due in large part to the relationships its leaders formed with the state’s policy makers, law enforcers, and fraternal organizations…”

from KKK meets with Portland leaders, 1921 https://oregonhistoryproject.org/articles/historical-records/kkk-meets-with-portland-leaders-1921/#.Wl_rN0tG2jg