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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE NAVY NEEDS YOU IN THE WAVES

Klanorama: 1925

Klanorama: 1925

Sunday, August 9, 1925. "KKK services." The "services" at the Capital Horse Show grounds in Arlington, complete with flaming 80-foot cross, wrapped up the Klan's weekend in Washington. Some 100,000 people from all over the country were thought to have attended. National Photo Co. glass negative. View full size.

 

The Klan Was For 100% Pure Americanism

In the early 1920's, how often did we hear about rape, robbery, murder, drug dealing, child molestation and other such crimes -- we didn't. People today simply do not want to admit it, but the Klan, at one time, was a great patriotic organization. Say what you want to, but your words will not change history.

[You should look at an actual 1920s newspaper. I've gone through hundreds researching posts for this site. They are full of assaults, murder and robbery. When I was a kid I knew a lady whose grandfather was lynched by the Klan for driving in the wrong place after sunset. - Dave]

Xenophobic Pageantry

As I understand, the Klan was also fairly anti-immigration. There was plenty of fear and uncertainty around that time.

Everyone in this picture seems just out for a good time. Jump in the roadster. Fresh night air and the crowd. Bring the kids.

This was before "American Idol."

This shot does sort of remind me of those iconic photographs of American lynchings--kids, women and men in straw hats, all smiling at the camera save one. Those photos are REALLY disturbing.

Kennebunk Maine

An 80 year old man I know remembered how his neighbor would hold Klan rallies (in Kennebunk, no less). Afterward the neighbor would give this person's family the leftover food. Forgetting the family in question was Catholic.

Re: Average-looking folks

Of course they were average-looking folks. What's most striking to me about the comments on the KKK pictures is the widespread assumption that the people attending these meetings and participating in the Klan were evil, fringe members of society. They weren't, as you can see. The Klan, particularly in the 1920s, was sold as a patriotic, Christian organization. As repulsive as it is to modern sensibilities, to the average middle-class white guy in Indiana in 1923, joining the Klan wouldn't have sounded any weirder than joining the Rotary Club (or any other civic organization) might sound to someone today. As someone mentioned on one of the other photos, the Klan salesmen received a portion of the membership fees for each person that joined, so it was obviously in their interest to make it sound as mainstream as possible.

The tendency to jump all over these people and paint them as the spawn of Satan is, I think, a fearful reaction to the fact that they DO look so normal. Deep down, many of us know that had we grown up in the same circumstances of the time, we would have likely made the same choices as Mr. Joe Schmoe Klansman. To deal with that guilt and fear, the only choice is to demonize these people as "way different than us."

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly glad that racial attitudes and attitudes toward Catholics and other religious groups are fairer and more inclusive now than they were then, and I certainly don't condone the actions of the Klan. But I think there is some danger in imagining ourselves to have reached such a state of enlightenment that we would never be tempted to act or think in a similar way. Ironically, that sense of superiority is exactly what breeds groups like the Klan.

"Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan" by Todd Tucker is an interesting look at the Klan at this point in American history. It's quite character and narrative driven, so it's a pretty easy read. I think it explains well some of the appeal of the Klan in the 20s, and uses the prominence of the Notre Dame football team as a sort of counterpoint, culminating in a Klan march through South Bend, Indiana. It also describes the horrific career and downfall of one of the Klan's leading figures, D.C. Stephenson.

Four?

How do you get four Grandfathers? My fathers father & my mothers father, that's two. Where are the other two? Or is this a joke?

[I said everyone has four great-grandfathers, not four grandfathers. - Dave]

Great Granddad is that you?

When researching grave sites for family genealogy, my aunt talked to the cemetery caretaker and he sheepishly told of an ancestor who rode in parades in full white sheet and hood KKK getup on a big white horse. But seeing as he had the only white horse in the county, he kind of blew the anonymous part!

The caretaker was cautious since telling someone their ancestor was a proud KKK member might not be welcome, but my Aunt loved the story even though she does not share the ancestors racial viewpoint.

Yesterday's Noose

The first thing I thought of when I saw the structure at the middle of all this hubbub was that it looks an awful lot like a gallows.

In the Basement

Decades ago when I was a small-town editor in Oklahoma, one of the old-timers told me about trouble that the local Kluckers tried to stir up in their heyday in the 1920s. They whispered, he said, that the basement of the home of the local Catholic priest contained an arsenal, concrete evidence, you see, of a planned Papist takeover. Years later, the house was torn down -- revealing the fact that there was no basement.

Flags

The so called KKK of modern times waltz around waving Confederate flags instead of Old Glory. I don't think either of my great-grandfathers would approve of their battle flag being used by radicals like the present Klan.

[Don't forget your other two great-granddads. Everyone has four. - Dave]

The Lottery

The smiling father to the right of the center foreground group is simultaneously creepy and depressing, like those old photos of the whole town turning out for a lynching.

God bless the First Amendment

No matter how stupid the speech is.

Average white band.

Amazing how many average-looking folks participated in the klan back then. Of course, you can't judge people by how they look...this is a prime example of that old adage.

 
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