After the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan, led by former Confederate General Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, used terrorist tactics to intimidate former slaves. A new version of the Ku Klux Klan arose during the early 1920s. Throughout this time period, immigration, fear of radicalism, and a revolution in morals and manners fanned anxiety in large parts of the country. Roman Catholics, Jews, African Americans, and foreigners were only the most obvious targets of the Klan's fear-mongering. Bootleggers and divorcees were also targets.
Contributing to the Klan's growth was a post-war depression in agriculture, the migration of African Americans into Northern cities, and a swelling of religious bigotry and nativism in the years after World War I. Klan members considered themselves defenders of Prohibition, traditional morality, and true Americanism. The Klan efforts were directed against African Americans, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants.
In 1920, two Atlanta publicists, Edward Clarke, a former Atlanta journalist, and Bessie Tyler, a former madam, took over an organization that had formed to promote World War I fund drives. At that time, the organization had 3,000 members. In three years they built it into the Southern Publicity Association, a national organization with three million members. After the war, they bolstered membership in the Klan by giving Klansmen part of the $10 induction fee of every new member they signed up.
During the early 1920s, the Klan helped elect 16 U.S. Senators and many Representatives and local officials. By 1924, when the Klan had reached its peak in numbers and influence, it claimed to control 24 of the nation's 48 state legislatures. That year it succeeded in blocking the nomination of Al Smith, a New York Catholic, at the Democratic National Convention.
The three million members of the Klan after World War I were quite open in their activities. Many were small-business owners, independent professionals, clerical workers, and farmers. Members marched in parades, patronized Klan merchants, and voted for Klan-endorsed political candidates. The Klan was particularly strong in the Deep South, Oklahoma, and Indiana. Historians once considered the Ku Klux Klan a group of marginal misfits, rural traditionalists unable to cope with the coming of a modern urban society. But recent scholarship shows that Klan members were a cross-section of native Protestants; many were women, and many came from urban areas.
The leader of Indiana's Klan was David Curtis Stephenson, a Texan who had worked as a printer's apprentice in Oklahoma before becoming a salesman in Indiana. Given control of the Klan in Indiana in 1922 and the right to organize in 20 other states, he soon became a millionaire from the sale of robes and hoods. A crowd estimated at 200,000 attended one Klan gathering in Kokomo, Ind. in 1923.
Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQJX8v0sC3Q and watch the video clip about the KKK (or type “Ku Klux Klan 1920s” and click on the first link called KKK in the 1920s).
Excerpted from: The Klansman’s Manual 1925
Objects and Purposes (Article II, The Constitution)
Mobilization This is its primary purpose: "To unite white male persons, native-born, Gentile citizens of the United States of America, who owe no allegiance of any nature or degree to any foreign government, nation, institution, sect, ruler, person, or people; whose morals are good; whose reputations and vocations are respectable; whose habits are exemplary; who are of sound minds and eighteen years or more of age, under a common oath into a brother hood of strict regulations."
Cultural The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is a movement devoting itself to the needed task of developing a genuine spirit of American patriotism. Klansmen are to be examples of pure patriotism. They are to organize the patriotic sentiment of native-born white, Protestant Americans for the defense of distinctively American institutions. Klansmen are dedicated to the principle that America shall be made American through the promulgation of American doctrines, the dissemination of American ideals, the creation of wholesome American sentiment, the preservation of American institutions.
Fraternal The movement is designed to create a real brotherhood among men who are akin in race, belief, spirit, character, interest, and purpose. The teachings of the order indicate very clearly the attitude and conduct that make for real expression of brotherhood, or, "the practice of Klannishness."
Beneficient "To relieve the injured and the oppressed; to succor the suffering and unfortunate, especially widows and orphans."
The supreme pattern for all true Klansmen is their Criterion of Character, Jesus Christ, "who went about doing good." The movement accepts the full Christian program of unselfish helpfulness, and will seek to carry it on in the manner commanded by the one Master of Men, Christ Jesus.
Protective 1. The Home. "To shield the sanctity of the home." The American home is fundamental to all that is best in life, in society, in church, and in the nation. It is the most sacred of human institutions. Its sanctity is to be preserved, its interests are to be safeguarded, and its well-being is to be promoted. Every influence that seeks to disrupt the home must itself be destroyed. The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan would protect the home by promoting whatever would make for is stability, its betterment, its safety, and its inviolability.
2. Womanhood. The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan declare that it is committed to "the sacred duty of protecting womanhood"; and announces that one of its purposes is "to shield… the chastity of womanhood." The degradation of women is violation of the sacredness of human personality, a sin against the race, a crime against society, menace to our country, and a prostitution of all that is best, and noblest, and highest in life. No race, or society, or country, can rise higher than its womanhood.
3. The Helpless. "To protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal." Children, the disabled, and other helpless ones are to know the protective, sheltering arms of the Klan.
4. American Interests. "To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and all laws passed in conformity thereof, and to protect the states and the people thereof from all invasion of the right from any source whatsoever."