The KKK in the United States 1915-1944

[ 1915 - 1944 ]

[KKK - Ku Klux Klan]

The 20th-century Klan had its roots more directly in the American nativist tradition. It was organized in 1915 near Atlanta, Ga., by Colonel William J. Simmons, a preacher and promoter of fraternal orders who had been inspired by Thomas Dixon's book The Clansman (1905) and D.W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation (1915). The new organization remained small until Edward Y. Clarke and Mrs. Elizabeth Tyler brought to it their talents as publicity agents and fund raisers. The revived Klan was fueled partly by patriotism and partly by a romantic nostalgia for the old South, but, more importantly, it expressed the defensive reaction of white Protestants in small-town America who felt threatened by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and by the large-scale immigration of the previous decades that had changed the ethnic character of American society.

This second Klan peaked in the 1920s, when its membership exceeded 4,000,000 nationally, and profits rolled in from the sale of its memberships, regalia, costumes, publications, and rituals. A burning cross became the symbol of the new organization, and white-robed Klansmen participated in marches, parades, and nighttime cross burnings all over the country. To the old Klan's hostility toward blacks the new Klan--which was strong in the Midwest as well as in the South--added bias against Roman Catholics, Jews, foreigners, and organized labour. The Klan enjoyed a last spurt of growth in 1928, when Alfred E. Smith, a Catholic, received the Democratic presidential nomination.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s the Klan's membership dropped drastically, and the last remnants of the organization temporarily disbanded in 1944...