Ku Klux Klan (1915-1944)

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For other periods, see Ku Klux Klan eras.
For similar named organizations, see Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (disambiguation)
Ku Klux Klan
Flag of the Ku Klux Klan.png
Abbreviation KKK, Invisible Empire
Motto Today, Tomorrow and Forever
Existence 1915—1944
Type Americanism
Location United States
Leader William Joseph Simmons (1915—22)
Hiram Wesley Evans (1922—39)
James A. Colescott (1939—44)

The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, formerly known as the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was an ethnic and religious activist group which attempted to promote the group interests of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (and some other Germanic Protestant Americans) in the United States. The organisation was founded in 1915 by William Joseph Simmons in Atlanta, Georgia and existed until 1944. This was by far the largest and best known organisation of all the Ku Klux Klan movements. The founders were inspired by The Birth of a Nation film about the original Ku Klux Klan, but advocated Americanism instead of the Confederate cause.

By the early 20th century, new groups had begun to rise in prominence in America; Catholics through Tammany Hall-type political machines, labour unions and police, as well as Ashkenazi Jews through the mass media, banking, business, legal system and medicine. This new Ku Klux Klan was essentially an attempt by the founding stock of the United States to assert their group interests in response to the rise of these rivals. In some areas, they also performed a vigilante purpose, in response to rape and crime commited by Black Africans; this kind of action wasn't indiscriminate, though the media pays it the most attention.


William Joseph Simmons

Birth of the Second Klan

On December 4, 1915, William Joseph Simmons founded the second Ku Klux Klan which happened to be timed with the release of the now clasic silent film Birth of a Nation. Simmons was a preacher and Freemason, who was a member of dozen fraternal groups and two churches. The day before Thanksgiving in 1915, Simmons and 15 charter members lit a cross on Stone Mountain, Georgia, inaugurating the revived Klan.

The second Klan became a national organization and avoided sectionalism. It embraced "Americanism" and was stronger in the Midwest than in the Deep South. Presidents such as Washington, Jefferson, and even Lincoln were seen as true Americans in the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s.[1]

American Nationalism

The new Klan as a nationalist organization called for "100% Americanism", standing in opposition to rising Jewish and Roman Catholic political power in the USA. A joke in the early 1920s claimed "KKK" really stood for "Katholics, Kikes, and Koons": The group's opponents.

1920s: Peak of Power

File:Kkk 1926.jpg
KKK march in Washington

By the early 1920s, the organization had an estimated 4–5 million members. Of these some 40,000 fundamentalist ministers were members.[2] Michigan had the largest number in 1921, with 875,000.[3] The states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois had forty percent of the national Klan membership. For an organization first started in the South have of the membership were based in the Midwest.

In 1922 Simmons was replaced by Hiram Evans in what essentially was a coup where he was persuaded to resigned or have his character attacked at the national Klonvocation.[4] Evens moved the Klan headquarters from Atlanta to Washington D.C. in 1924. On September 13, 1926 the Klan held a parade where 40,000 robed Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington carrying American flags.

The 1920s-Klan helped elect nationalist, isolationist Republican candidates in the 1920, 1924, and 1928 elections. Republican President Warren Harding was alleged to have been inducted into the Klan in the White House in a secret ceremony.

Its greatest legacy was helping to pass an immigration restriction law in the early 1920s, made permanent in 1924. (Repealed in 1965).

Many whites in foreign countries, inspired by the Klan's message of nationalist-patriotism, developed branches overseas. [1]

Decline and Persecution by Roosevelt

Internal bickering and the Great Depression caused membership fall and the Klan's influence to wane. In 1942 it had fewer than 10,000 members and was no longer capable of delivering electoral victories.

Its influence as a racialist organization fell during 1930s and early 1940s with the growing popularity of fascist-oriented groups like the German American Bund, the Silver Legion and the Christian Front. Beginning in 1937 the Klan focused on communist infiltration inside organized labor particularly the Congress of Industrial Organizations. (CIO).

The political climate in Washington under the FDR administration began a crackdown on the Klan with the IRS levying a $640,000 lien in 1944 for failure to pay back taxes. The state of Georgia responded by revoking the Klan's charter leaving the national group to formally disband on April 23, 1944. This however did to stop the Klan from continuing to organize across the nation, whereas the once great organization splintered into seven major groups.

Klan leaders



  • Not a single solitary sound reason has yet been advanced for putting the Ku Klux Klan out of business. If the Klan is against the Jews, so are half of the good hotels of the Republic and three-quarters of the good clubs. If the Klan is against the foreign born or the hyphenated citizen, so is the National Institute of Arts and Letters. If the Klan is against the Negro, so are all of the states south of the Mason-Dixon line. If the Klan is for damnation and persecution, so is the Methodist Church. If the Klan is bent upon political control, so are the American Legion and Tammany Hall. If the Klan wears grotesque uniforms, so do the Knights of Pythias and Mystic Shriners. If the Klan holds its meetings in the dead of night, so do the Elks. If the Klan conducts its business in secret, so do all college Greek letter fraternities and the Department of State. If the Klan holds idiotic parades in the public streets, so do the police, the letter-carriers, and firemen. If the Klan's officers bear ridiculous names, so do the officers of the Lambs' Club. If the Klan uses the mails for shaking down suckers, so does the Red Cross. If the Klan constitutes itself a censor of private morals, so does the Congress of the United States. If the Klan lynches a Moor for raping someone's daughter, so would you or I.H. L. Mencken, The Smart Set, 1923.

See also

External links


  1. "They loved the American flag and adored American memories. In fact Texas Klansmen even accepted Abraham Lincoln as a true American hero and used him in their literature far more often than Confederates such as Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee. In the 1920s, at least, the Confederate flag never appeared as a prominent Klan symbol." Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas, By Gregg Cantrell, Elizabeth Hayes Turner, page 127
  2. Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism In Modern American History, By Stephen E. Atkins, page 8
  3. Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate, By Neil Baldwin, page 94
  4. The Ku Klux Klan in American Politics by Arnold S. Rice, page 9

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