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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • UNFAIR TO BABIES, 1936

Bal Masque: 1922

Bal Masque: 1922

June 28, 1922. Washington, D.C., or vicinity. "Ku Klux Klan meeting." 8x10 inch glass negative, National Photo Company Collection. View full size.

 

Famous people

I think I see Hugo Black and Robert Byrd.

Low-Rent

I grew up and have lived in a very rural section of NC all my life. I can remember the subject of the KKK coming up in conversation with my grandparents and great-grandparents. According to them the KKK was always made up of the "low rent" crowd and looked down on.

Colorized

That flame is colorized, right? It really stands out because of that.

I'm sure there's something clever to be said about colorization and the black and white photograph, but I'll leave you to work out the details.

The soft option

Vile as that bunch was, and I don't at all minimize it, it could have been worse.

What you're looking at here is the "Second Klan," which was primarily political in its orientation. The guys in front, kneeling and wearing masks, are waiting to be inducted into the Real Organization so that they can wear robes.

Nasty to a huge degree, but not a patch on the original KKK, which was organized by die-hard Southerners as what we today would call a "resistance group" along the lines of the IRA or Shining Path. They didn't march in the streets wearing robes, they moved around in the shadows assassinating people and engaging in what can only be called terrorism in general. Imagine if that had taken hold.

The original Klan was derailed by its insistence on racial repression, which weakened it enough that the Government was able to infiltrate and eventually suppress it. If they'd stayed with States' Rights and the like, instead of concentrating on "beating up the n--s" (as an ancestor of mine supposedly put it), they might still be around as an organized force not all that different from al Qaeda. It may be difficult to comprehend, but in this case vicious race prejudice was the soft option.

Cross Burnings

My mother was born in Independence, Missouri, in 1915. Together with my grandparents she lived there until moving to Los Angeles in 1937. In the 1960s my older brother once idly remarked that it would be "interesting" to attend a cross burning, to which my mom replied "they weren't all that great." Upon further questioning, she reluctantly recalled that such events sadly weren't uncommon in 1920s Missouri, frightening (though memorable) as they were to a small child and certainly beyond that to whomever was being targeted.

A sign of age.

We haven't changed all that much. I passed a group of five Klansmen, dressed in white and red robes (they looked so silly) picketing outside of Mount Dora, Fla., in 2001, right beside a major highway! Just when you think it's safe to go back on the road.

Sad

This one reminds me of being a little girl, in North Carolina, from 1959-63, when I was 5-8 years old. My dad was stationed at Camp LeJeune and we were living in base housing. On the base, the only segregation was by rank. Off base, it was a different story. There were "whites only" signs, separate restrooms, and footage of KKK rallies on the local news. I saw a little girl about my age, at one of those rallies. She was standing on the hood of a car and her father, wearing one of those scary, idiotic hoods, had his arm around her. I felt very sorry for her.

Soft Serve Ice Cream

Everything reminds me of food today to the point that I feel like Homer Simpson. I do have to say though that any group that has to wear masks and hoods to hide their true identities have to be feeling profound shame at what their group represents. Since 1922 when this was taken, we have had a Catholic and an African-American president and there may one day be a Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Mormon,or any other faith-based leader of our country that shows most humans MUST be getting smarter, even though lots of old-timers might disagree. This picture says a lot though, in that all the participants would not reveal their faces and they had their meetings under cover of night.

Initiates

This has all the look of a fraternity initiation with the pledges assuming various uncomfortable, subservient postures before the older (robed) members. Also, the apparently portable/reuseable burning cross (with guy lines) seems to be an innovation that I've not noticed before in pictures like this.

It's almost hard not to laugh

If the import of this were not so serious, it would be difficult not to laugh at the image of so many grown men with face-masks apparently in homage and thrall to other grown men in such ridiculous attire.

Appalling as were their attitudes and their beliefs, this group, at least, could hardly be accused of being tainted by the presence of the opposite sex. Presumably most women would have considered these menfolks' activities as faintly ludicrous.

Not that long ago

My family is from Columbia, South Carolina. After my grandfather died in 1953, about six months before I was born, hidden among his personal effects were found his robe and documents indicating that he had at some time been a member. Neither my grandmother nor anyone else in the family had a clue.

I can remember seeing newspaper ads announcing meetings well into the 1960s, a few in the 70s.

I once read or saw in a documentary that the highest per capita membership was in Indiana.

Scary!

The really "UGLY" side of America.

Not the Klan of Today

In the 1920's, the Klan was less about racism and more about maintaining the status quo of the day. Which sure, was racist but as others have said we can't look back on photos and judge them with standards of today. What I find interesting though is that this photo is in Washington D.C.

In 1922, the KKK held a march down the streets of Washington. They were met not by outrage, but cheered by the citizens and treated like heroes. At the time it was fashionable to be part of the Klan, since they stood for good American values. Meaning God, Country, and Family. (Racism as I said was there, but keep in mind the period.) The culmination of this march was the swearing in of U.S. President Warren G. Harding as a member in the White House. (This is largely disputed, but there is evidence that supports it.) Harding renounced that membership about a year later, after consultation with his advisers.

It didn't help that he had passed the anti lynching law, which brought much of the old Klan's activities to light in 1923.

However when this picture is taken, it's entirely possible this is the night before the march on Washington, making the photo VERY historic.

[Your timeline may be a little confused. The Klan was forced to postpone or abandon various parades in 1922 and 1923 due to community opposition in the Washington suburbs. Its "march on Washington" came in 1925 (and then in 1926), after Warren Harding had died. Serious historians dismiss the "evidence" of Harding's induction (the alleged deathbed reminiscence of a New Jersey Klan leader many years later) as ludicrous; rumors to that effect may have been spread in response to a speech he delivered in 1923 denouncing hate groups, a move that was widely viewed as a rebuke of the KKK. - Dave]

Beyond scary

It's amazing just how much power the KKK had in this country in the '20s. They controlled elections in many areas and kept Catholics from serving in many venues (including the governor's position in my home state). Let's hope their reign of terror is completely finished.

Oh my

What dangerous fools!!!! Sad that these people still exist today.

Cowards hide your face

This was not too many years ago. The same mentality still exists.

Men in Sheets

The most scary image I can think of for Halloween.

A sign of age

To me 1922 seems shockingly recent for as photo like this to have been taken near our nation's capitol, yet to my 14 year old son, it's nearly a century ago. I pray we can change as much in the next 90 years.

Herb, where's the good pillowcase?

Grampa, is that you?

 
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