The Klan of the 1920's
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was notorious for their hatred towards African Americans and their proclamation of white supremacy. They were known as the invisible empire and for their symbols of intimidation, which included white cloaks with hoods, and burning crosses. The KKK was depicted as an organization which was mostly active in the southern Confederate states and targeted African Americans. It originally died out in the late 1860s, but The Klan rose again in the 1920's because of the motion picture Birth of a Nation, new immigrants arriving to America, and hatred towards African-Americans . Birth of a Nation was a silent film that premiered in 1925 that was directed by D.W. Griffith. Griffith went to Johns Hopkins University where he met Woodrow Wilson and became good friends. Wilson was a supporter of the Klan. One of the slides in Birth of a Nation has a quote by Wilson that said,"The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation ... until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country." Dixon's was a legislator, baptist preacher, lecturer, novelist,playwright, and an actor. The movie is based on the 1905 book The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan by Thomas Dixon (Chalmer 28). This story revolves around two polar opposite families; the northern Stonemans and the southern Camerons. In this story their sons and daughters fell in love but were split by the civil war stricken states and reconstruction had devastated them. Congressmen Stoneman (was based on radical republican Thaddues Stephens) was represented as a hate-filled villain, urged by his Mulatto mistress to degrade the captured south, and with the recent assassination of “The Great Soul,” Abraham Lincoln, there was nothing to stop his rage. According to the book the south was ruled by Black tyranny and black corruption 'stained' the legislative hall. The opposite of Congressmen Stoneman was Ben Cameron, leader of the KKK and a civil war hero of the south. In the end the Klan comes and saves the innocent, avenges the fallen, and reunites the grand lovers (Binder 9:166). D.W. Griffith based the movie on Dixon's book, by re-staging the war battles, Sherman's march to the sea. This gave the impression that the Klan was the 'savior' of the states and the patriots leading our country with an invisible fist. This inspired many people to be patriotic like the Klan but others wanted to be the Klan again. William J. Simmon was one who had viewed this movie and took it to heart. He thought that it was time to bring The Klan back.“Colonel” Simmons plan for the Klan had been revealed in an advertisement in the Atlanta Journal on December 7 1915.It contained blurbs such as, “ The world's greatest secret, social, patriotic, fraternal, and beneficiary order.” This helped make the Klan more popular, but it wasn’t the only reason for the KKK's substantial growth. There are many other things that led to the KKK success that fell into place beautifully. They were allowed to march in parades during World War I in demonstrations of patriotism. After the war the seized the opportunity for power.(Binder 9:167) Many problems were caused by a new influx of immigrants across the United States. Race riots sprang up in Chicago, Omaha, Duluth, Springfield, Tulsa, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Florida. The KKK disdained the new southern and eastern European immigrants that were. usually either Roman Catholic, Jews, Slavs, or Bolshevik. But they still hated people who were not white. This helped the KKK spread quickly through anti-Catholic socialist Wisconsin. The Catholics seemed to be real “threats” to the public schools and the enforcement of prohibition. The Klan actually favored something that may considered correct with there stance against alcohol during prohibition. The Klan went sour from there, when a few white men from Louisiana began criticizing...
Cited: Chalmer, David. "The hooded knights revive Ruler by Terror in the 'twenties." American History Illustrated. Feb 1980:28-37. Print. They was very resourceful, especially in the information over Birth of a Nation. It had also gave a pretty good idea of what new immigrants experienced when interacting with the KU Klux Klan.
Selected Letters of William Allen White, 1899-1943, Walter Johnson, ed., New York, 1947, pp. 220-221. The letter from Mr. White showed what people had thought during this time.
The Associated Press. The Klan Rises Again. Danbury: Grolier Educational Corporation, 1995. Print. The Associated Press really depicted the Klan for what they are and showed the uncanny actions by the Klan in government corruption and murders of citizens .
Drowne, Kathleen and Huber, Patrick. “the 1920s” West Port: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print. This source had given a general over view of the KKK.
Binder, Frederick and Reimers, David M. “The Way We Lived.” Toronto: D.c. Healthand Company, 1988. Print. This source had a good description of The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan by Dixon and some information over early Klan formation of the 1920s.
Van Der Veer, Virginia. “Hugo Black and the K.K.K” American Heritage Magazine, April 1967. <http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1968/3/1968_3_60.shtml> Gave great information over Hugo Black and the Klan in Arkansas during this time.
Leuchtenburg, William E. “A Klansman Joins the Court: The Appointment of Hugo L. Black.” The University of Chicago Law Review. Fall 1973. Print. This gave me extended information over F.D.R and Hugo Black.
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