by Jerry L. Wallace
President Calvin Coolidge was fortunate to preside over what was probably the most exciting, vital, and creative decade of the Twentieth Century — the Nineteen-Twenties. It was a decade of youth, symbolized by Lindbergh and the Flapper. It was a decade when modern America came alive. Cars filled the roads; radios, refrigerators, and electric washing machines appeared in the home; movies sparkled with “stars,” whose voices would soon be heard on the screen; and thanks to a general prosperity, there was money to spend not just on the necessities of life but on its pleasures as well. It could be rightly said that the American people had never had it so good.
Yet, for all its many positive aspects, the 1920s was a period sadly marred by widespread intolerance. Religious, racial, and ethnic prejudices, long present in American life, bubbled to the surface. This intolerance manifested itself most famously in the form of the hooded knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who marched down the Main Streets of small town America as well as Pennsylvania Avenue, the “Avenue of Presidents.” The Klan came to be one of the most important and certainly spectacular social movements of the postwar years. What follows is a description of the Klan that burst onto the national scene in 1921, reached its high point at mid decade, and then faded away.
The first thing the reader must understand about the Ku Klux Klan is this: There have been three Klans, each separate and distinct. The Klan that flourished in the 1920s was the second Ku Klux Klan. It existed as a legally chartered entity from 1915 to 1944, a total of 29 years. To assist the reader, sketches of the first and third Klans are presented below, followed by a detailed discussion of the second Klan.[i]
The Original Klan: The Order of the Ku Klux Klan, self-described as the “Invisible Empire of the South,” came into being in the desolated Southland at the end of the Civil War. This body functioned as an underground resistance movement, battling to preserve its members way of life. Its founders were bored veterans of the Confederate Army, who originally conceived of it as a fraternal society for amusement and companionship. The Klan, however, was soon transformed into a loosely organized vigilante or terrorist group, noted for its spook-like costumes and secrecy. Its mission and driving force were clear-cut: restoring and maintaining white supremacy in the Reconstruction South. At its peak, the group possibly numbered 550,000 men. The targets of its attacks were the newly freed blacks, along with their Southern and Northern supporters (called scalawags and carpetbaggers, respectively, by local whites), who had assumed political power under the Republican banner.[ii]
Fear and intimidation, backed up by the terror of the whip and the noose, were the Klan’s weapons. Excesses within its ranks, along with much external opposition, caused Klan leaders to order it disbanded in 1869, but some individual units disregarded the order and continued on.[iii] Under President Ulysses S. Grant, the Federal government intervened forcibly to suppress the nightriders and end their reign of terror.<ahref=”#_ednref4″>[iv] As political power in the South reverted to white Democratic control after the withdrawal of Federal troops in 1877, the need for an anti-Republican, anti-black organization ceased and the first Klan passed out of existence.
The memory of the Klan, however, did not die off. Instead, it was romanticized, with Klansmen becoming the savior of white Southern civilization, and this was perpetuated in print in Thomas Dixon’s best selling trilogy, The Leopard’s Spots (1902), The Clansman (1905), and The Traitor (1907). The Clansman was adapted into a stage play soon after its publication and later in 1915 into a motion picture, D. W. Griffith’s blockbuster hit, The Birth of a Nation. This film became the first to be shown at the White House when it was screened for President Woodrow Wilson in February of 1915. The President reportedly said afterwards, the film was “…like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” [v] This romanticized view of the Klan, which became interwoven into post-bellum Southern culture, played a significant role in its later revival in the 1920s.[vi]
The Third Klan: This Klan, which is still with us today, arose after World War II in response to a civil rights movement that was engaged in pulling down the racial barriers of segregation, especially those in education. It reached its greatest prominence in the South during the racially turbulent 1950s and 1960s. As a hate group, its hallmark was violence and murder directed against black civil rights advocates and their supporters. With the passage of time, this Klan has faded away into insignificance and consists today of small, fragmented groups operating on the fringes of society, with the Federal government closely monitoring their activities.
The Second Klan of the 1920s: This is the body—known officially as the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan—that Presidents Warren G. Harding, 1921-23, and Calvin Coolidge, 1923-29, confronted. It differed significantly from its predecessor and successor. Most notably, it was a popular, nationally organized movement taking the form of a secret, fraternal organization and presenting itself to the public as a benevolent and patriotic society. Apart from its darker activities, which brought so much emotional anguish and even physical suffering to its victims, it is remembered primarily for its sinister costumes, its mysterious rituals and late night ceremonies, its bizarre titles for its officers, and especially for its symbol, the fiery cross.
In the 1920s, fraternal organizations were in their heyday. The Klan took its place alongside the Masons, Owls, Elks, Moose, Odd Fellows, Pythians, United Workmen, Knights of Columbus, Independent Order of B’rith Sholom, among others, and was treated as one of them.[vii] For many, this fraternal association gave the Klan a degree of respectability and acceptance.[viii]
Millions of Americans, both men and women, joined the Klan’s hooded ranks—and, always to be remembered, many millions more who did not join, sympathized with it and shared its prejudices and goals. As a consequence of this, many of the Klan’s opponents chose to center their opposition to it on its secretive nature, extralegal activities, and divisiveness, rather than on its specific beliefs.[ix]
The Klan’s national membership, as it is usually cited, reached a peak of four to five million before it began its decline at mid-decade. These figures are estimates.[x] Other sources put its membership much lower. For instance, the historian Kenneth T. Jackson puts the national total over the life of the organization at a little over two million.[xi]
In the 1920s, vast numbers of Klansmen and Klanswomen would proudly parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in their hooded costumes and with flags flying in a display designed to convey power and might and to intimidate those who would oppose them.[xii] These men and women of the Klan were found in both urban and rural areas and in all sections of the country, but primarily in America’s Heartland, with Indiana having the largest contingent of knights.
Col. William Joseph Simmons, an emotional man with a bent towards the mystical, founded the revived Klan order and served as its first Imperial Wizard.[xiii] He had summoned it into being on top of Stone Mountain, Georgia, on Thanksgiving night of 1915. Simmons, an avid fraternalist since youth, who himself belonged to several orders, had long dreamed of creating his own group. In reviving the Klan, he was inspired by stories of the original Klan told him as child by his father, who had been a Klansman, and his nanny.[xiv]
Simmons, however, got the idea for the fiery cross, which came to symbolize the Klan in the 1920s, from the writer Thomas Dixon. Dixon had conceived the fiery cross and introduced it in his novel, The Clansman.[xv] Later, the device appeared in Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. The first Klan had never used it.
In its early years, 1915-20, the second Klan grew slowly and showed little promise of success. During the Great War, it put itself to work ferreting out disloyal Americans. It did not spring to life, becoming an organizational and financial success, until June of 1920, when Simmons hired two clever marketing experts, Edward Young Clarke and Mrs. Elizabeth Tyler, to head the Klan’s Propagation Department. They became, as one student of the Klan has observed, the “real creators” of the second Klan.[xvi]
The Clarke-Tyler duo was able to exploit for the benefit of the Klan the postwar situation: a chaotic, violent, and stressful period, marked by strikes, a crime wave, and race riots; by prosperity followed by a severe slump; and by political battles over the future of the nation. They did this by developing a strategy based upon their conception of One-Hundred Percent Americanism, which consisted of a collection of religious, political, economic, and social ideas and beliefs common to the first American settlers and their descendants. It was cleverly designed to appeal to the ingrained patriotism and prejudices of the average American.
The resulting program resembled those programs of two earlier nativist movements, the Know Nothings of the 1850s and the American Protective Association of the 1890s.[xvii] There was nothing new or creative about the Klan’s program of intolerance, rather, it echoed the past.
So it was that the Klan draped itself in the flag and depicted itself as fighting for traditional American political and religious values. Each knight of the order could see himself and his compatriots as battling for God and country.
The Klan preached a message of keeping “America for Americans”—that is, white, native born, Protestants—and took as its mission securing and maintaining that birthright for them. Underlying it all was the idea that only these Americans were fit to govern America. Klan members were driven by a strong bias against Catholics, Jews, certain foreigners, and blacks. These groups were seen as incapable of meeting the Klan’s One-Hundred Percent American standard of patriotism because of their inability to assimilate fully into American life due to various impediments.[xviii]
For the Klan, its prime target was what it regarded as the unholy Roman Catholic Church, with its machinations against Protestant America, and whose congregation’s first loyalty lay with the Pope in Rome, not with their homeland. Next in line came the Jews, a people apart, avaricious by nature, and incapable of patriotism in the Klan’s eyes. Then the unmixable immigrants from Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe, who to the Klan seemed poised to flood into America following the Great War.[xix] As for blacks, they were judged to be inferior beings and were expected to know and keep their place. While not the Klan’s primary target, as they had been with the first Klan, and were to be again with the third, blacks did not escape Klan harassment and violence. Given the black community’s past history with the Klan, they were also subject to the peculiar psychological torture that the very words “Ku Klux Klan” conjured in their minds.[xx]
To build up the Klan, Clarke and Tyler hired over 1,000 energetic, young men as organizers, known as Kleagles within the Klan. They were generously compensated, based upon the number of new recruits they secured. Most of the Kleagles were Masons, and they made good use of their Masonic connections to gain a foothold in the community and solicit members. It was said that in some local units, known as Klaverns, over half their members were Masons.[xxi]
A new Klan recruit paid $10.00, the klectoken, to join and another $6.50 for his hooded uniform, the total cost being $16.50 ($213.00 in today’s dollars). The $10.00 membership fee was dispersed as follows within the organization: $4.00 went to the Kleagle; $1.00 to the King Kleagle; 50 cents to the Grand Goblin; $2.50 to Clarke and Tyler; and $2.00 to the Imperial Treasury. The uniform fee went to the Atlanta headquarters, which owned the plant that manufactured the costumes.[xxii]
At its heart, the Ku Klux Klan was a money-driven operation from top to bottom, selling hate, as it was said, at $10.00 per head. Among its leaders, it was the face of the woman on the silver dollar that was most often on their mind.[xxiii] This money-grubbing quality inspired Governor Henry J. Allen of Kansas to observe:
[The Ku Klux Klan] is the [American Protective Association] plus antipathy to negroes, plus antipathy to Jews, rolled up in the American flag and sold for $10 a throw, of which the organizers get $4 and the profiteers at Atlanta get the rest. [xxiv]
The Clarke-Tyler approach worked brilliantly and turned the Klan into a great commercial success.[xxv] Yet this focus on the inflow of dollars came at a price: the neglect of the Klan’s organizational and ideological development.
In a contemporary assessment of the second Klan, written in 1924, Nguyen Sinh Cung—later known to the world as Ho Chi Minh—concluded that the organization was “doomed to disappear.” He offered this insightful explanation as to why:
[T]he Ku Klux Klan has all the defects of clandestine and reactionary organizations without their strengths. It has the mysticism of Freemasonry, the mummeries of Catholicism, the brutality of Fascism, the illegality of its 568 various [Klaverns], but it has neither doctrine, nor program, nor vitality, nor discipline.[xxvi]
In short, with their eyes planted on the money box, the Klan leadership failed to develop the essential internal qualities needed to sustain the organization over time.
Upon entering a community, the Kleagles sought to bring its leading citizens into the new Klavern. Naturally, businessmen, professionals, ministers, politicians and government officials were choice targets.[xxvii] They also sought to identify a pressing or controversial issue to attract members, as well as give the new Klavern a focus or reason for being. In doing so, they made a point of pandering to local concerns, fears, and prejudices.[xxviii]
Lacking central direction or control, Klaverns were involved in a hodge-podge of causes. With their controversial methods, including late night visitations, tar-and-feathering, and applying a razor strap to the back, Klansmen were active in fighting crime and vice, focusing on bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, and dope dealing. Sometimes, they turned their attention to reforming with their votes corrupt local government, putting down blacks demanding social change, or backing or breaking local strikes. They also sought to protect the family against home-breakers, who were firmly warned to shape up or else, and to ensure, according to their light, a good moral tone in the community. The latter included keeping a close watch on youthful joyriders out for a good time. Klansmen occasionally employed boycotts against those they targeted and attempted to exclude them from public office and public employment, especially teaching.
Klaverns, too, were noted for their charity work and support of local churches, which, some critics would claim, were meant more to obtain favorable publicity than to do good. Without warning, hooded Klansmen liked to marched dramatically into a church during worship service and after saying a few words to the startled congregation about the virtues of the Klan, deposit a donation in the minister’s hand and then silently depart.[xxix] At Christmastime, Klaverns enjoyed staging parties for needy children, including young blacks in some instances.[xxx] As for the violence associated with the Klan, it was most prevalent during the early 1920s, easing as the decade progressed, with the most excesses taking place in the South and Southwest and the least in the Northeast.
Klansmen, of course, needed to be kept posted on the key issues facing them. This was accomplished through the Klan’s major publications, The Kourier, The Imperial Night-Hawk, and The Searchlight.[xxxi] There were also local publications, such as The Jayhawker American, published in Wichita for Kansas Klansmen.
The Klan also had a need to inform the people of its public and semi-public activities, for example, parades, lecture programs, and special events such as Klan weddings, funerals, and induction ceremonies; and to make public statements on issues of concern, like the presence of Catholic teachers in the public school system, and even advertise for members. This the Klan accomplished by designating a local newspaper to act as its voice. The Klan also made use of handbills left at the door during the hours of darkness or sometime dropped from airplanes circling above the city in the light of day. In a few places there were even Klan-friendly radio stations to keep Klansmen informed. When it wished to get out its message, the Klan could do so.[xxxii]
In November of 1922, Hiram Wesley Evans, a successful Texas dentist, deposed Simmons as Imperial Wizard. Evans, a capable manager and leader, changed the direction of the Klan. He exercised more control over local activities, he clamped down on violent acts, and he expanded the Klan’s ranks by creating a popular women’s auxiliary in 1923 and a branch for young folks in the following year.
Most notably, Evans attempted to make the Ku Klux Klan into a powerful political machine, working within the two major parties. To be at the center of power, Evans moved the Klan headquarters in late 1925 from Atlanta, Georgia, to 7th and “I” Streets in Washington, D.C., where it was to remain until 1929 when it was returned to its home base.[xxxiii]
There were some political successes: Klansmen, it is said, helped to elect nine Republicans and seven Democrats to the U.S. Senate and six Republicans and five Democrats to governorships.[xxxiv] Generally, however, the Klan did best at the local level, where Klansmen’s votes, especially in primaries, could play a decisive role.
Revealing his influence, Evans’ picture graced the cover of TIME magazine on June 23, 1924, the day prior to the opening of the Democratic National Convention. Yet, in the 1924 presidential election, following the debacle created by the Klan issue at the Democratic Convention, the Klan as a national campaign topic soon faded away and it apparently was not a significant factor in the voting that November. As for the Klan’s own involvement, Robert K. Murray, an historian of the 1924 election, has concluded, “Davis lost no state because of Klan activity nor did Coolidge win one.”[xxxv]
Ultimately, Evans and the Klan he led failed at the demanding and difficult task of politics. “…Klan politicking,” according to one assessment, “was little more than an amateurish show of strength that only rarely achieved Klan goals and never achieved Klan unity.”[xxxvi] And so it was.
Who were the Klansmen? Besides being white, native born, and Protestant, Klansmen were individuals troubled, perhaps even frightened, in these early post World War I years by what they saw going on about them at home and abroad.[xxxvii] The world, it seemed, was everywhere in revolt against accepted laws and long-held customs and standards.[xxxviii] They longed for a return to pre-war days, but that happy, well-ordered world was shattered and gone. And now, out of the chaos of war, a new age was coming into being. This age—the New Era, as some called it—would make the decade of the 1920s into a transformative period, one leading into the world we know today. In this milieu, the Klan was a backward looking body, with an organizational format that was itself a historical relic and a quilted together program recalling bygone days, attempting to stop change.
As best we can surmise, the majority of Klansmen were average citizens, much like the fellow next door: married with children, hard-working, church-going, who thought of his country—to him, “the greatest nation on God’s green earth”—as a special place with a special mission to perform. Intermixed in their ranks were individuals holding positions of standing within the community. Some were professional men; some were ministers; others were politicians and government officials; and many were white-collar employees, workers, and farmers. A good number of them were Masons, too, for, as noted, Klan organizers especially targeted that group. In some cases, persons associated with a local industry played an important role, especially oilmen in areas where oil was then booming.[xxxix] The one major group that was not included was common laborers, for the cost of being a Klansmen—around $20 to $30 a year ($250 to $350 in today’s dollars)—precluded that.[xl]
Why did they join? If you asked a Klansman what motivated him to join the Klan, he would usually offer a variety of reasons. Here are some likely responses:
- to stand foursquare for that old-fashioned, spread-eagle patriotism;
- to battle the Catholic Church in its attempt to overturn separation of church and state, and place American Protestants under the Pope’s thumb;
- to stop the clever, alien Jews from gaining control of American business;[xli]
- to defend white supremacy against the colored races;[xlii]
- to save America for Americans by stopping waves of hard to assimilate European immigrants from inundating the homeland;[xliii]
- to stand up for that old time religion against modernism;
- to support public schools, where Americans were made, against private schools, where foreign languages and foreign values were perpetuated;
- to battle rampant crime and vice;
- to insist upon the full and faithful enforcement of the Prohibition laws;
- to elect honest and honorable men to public office and bring about needed reform; and
- to protect the home and maintain high moral standards within the community.
And there were other motives which would have remained unspoken, such as wreaking vengeance upon one’s enemy, pursuing murderous crusades against African-Americans or other fellow citizens, making a few extra bucks as a Klan official, or advancing oneself or one’s business by exploiting an association with the Klan. And not to be overlooked, there was the added attraction for the rural Klansman of relieving the boredom of small town life through night-riding adventures or the thrill of participating in his full regalia in secret ceremonies.[xliv] For urban Klansmen, many of whom came from a rural background, the organization offered companionship among like-minded souls in the alien city with its large and diverse population, including many foreigners with their strange ways.
One of the great strengths of the Klan was its ability to be all things to all men.[xlv] As a consequence, however, individuals sometimes joined the Klan thinking it to be one thing, only to find later that it was something different—perhaps not to their liking. As a case in point, thinking the Klan a patriotic organization, future president Harry S. Truman, a Mason and an up-and-coming politician running for county office in the late summer of 1922, was ready to join the order. Indeed, he had given his $10.00 to an organizer and he may even have taken the Klan oath and signed a membership card. But when directed not to appoint Catholics to Jackson County jobs, Truman refused and demanded his money back. That ended his association with the hooded knights.[xlvi] Such experiences contributed to a high turnover in Klan membership.
To sum up, individuals were drawn to the Ku Klux Klan by a combination of factors. The exact mix varied from Klansman to Klansman and will never be known.
One thing, however, is clear from reading the local newspapers of the early 1920s when the Klan first made its national appearance: Rampant crime was a pressing public concern. A Kleagle, while selling the Klan, was asked, “What was the objective of the Klan?” He replied that it was “to combat lawlessness”—the only issue cited.[xlvii]
His answer was on the mark, for the nation was then suffering from a major outbreak of crime.[xlviii] Holdups, housebreaking, and other lawlessness were commonplace happenings. Indeed, crime was so bad around the campus of the University of Chicago that male students formed a Klavern to protect young co-eds and property.[xlix]
Among other lawlessness were serious problems with the illegal sales of alcohol and dope, but it seems that the worst problem of all was auto theft, which was epidemic in some parts of the country. The crime situation got so bad in some locations that the police, who as a rule were understaffed, undertrained, and underfunded, were forced to call upon American Legion volunteers for help.
For concerned citizens, like those students at the University of Chicago, and there were many of them, the Klan offered a means to address the problem of exploding crime in the community. The Klan had eyes everywhere, and Klan secrecy allowed the organization to function as an extralegal body backing up the police or itself imposing punishment on wrong doers.
The Klan reached its high point in the mid 1920s. It then commenced its rapid nationwide descent. Writing in 1926, William Allen White described Kansas “Kluxers” as being “as dejected and sad as last year’s bird’s nest….”[l] The Klan’s downfall was the result of several factors. Internally, the Klan suffered from embarrassing, well-publicized power fights among its top leadership. Charges of financial impropriety—extravagance, waste, and misappropriation of funds—were not uncommon at all levels of the organization. The quality of leadership had always varied among the Klaverns, and it clearly deteriorated as time passed and the better class of people dropped out and the hustlers and wheeler-dealers moved in. As for overall membership, its quality declined over the years, with some critics coming to place its members in the category of “hicks” and “rubes” and “drivers of second-hand Fords.”[li]
An important factor contributing to the Klan’s decline was the rejection of the Klan and all it stood for by Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Both presidents rose above the prevalent prejudices and bigotry of their day. They offered deeds, not words, to the Klan’s victims: This was manifested, for example, in their support for the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill; in their support for a homeland in Palestine for Jews and encouragement of Jewish philanthropic efforts; and in Coolidge’s granting citizenship to all Native Americans and urging his cabinet secretaries to give black employees “an even chance,” as he put it.[lii] Most importantly, they did not distance themselves from blacks, from Catholics, or from Jews—rather, both Presidents reached out to them publicly as worthy patriotic citizens contributing to the wellbeing of the republic.
The United States was indeed fortunate to have at the helm of state two men of tolerance in this time of intolerance. Of them, there is no question but they stood foursquare for the principle of “one nation with liberty and justice for all” as embodied in the Great Charters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. It could have been otherwise.
For instance, what if the popular Henry Ford, who was considered as a possible presidential candidate in 1924, had run and won? He was publicly sympathetic to the Klan, expressing his feelings this way:
If the truth were known about the Ku Klux Klan, it would be looked upon as a patriotic body, concerned with nothing but further development of the country in which it was born and the preservation of supremacy of the true American in his own land.[liii]
Ford, it should be recalled, was noted for his anti-Semitic writings, which sullied the pages of his Dearborn Independent.[liv]
While not denouncing the Klan by name, Harding and Coolidge through inference clearly spelled out their opposition to the hooded knights. Harding (who had been sworn into office by Chief Justice Edward D. White, purportedly a member of the first Klan and a Catholic) did so most clearly in a speech denouncing the corruption of fraternalism, which he delivered before the Imperial Council of the Shrine in Washington, D.C., on June 5, 1923. In it, the President, who himself was an ardent fraternalist, spoke out against “menacing organizations”—by which those present, according to the New York Times, understood he meant the Ku Klux Klan—engaged in “mischief,” “misguided zeal,” and “unreasoning malice,” and seeking to “undermine our institutions.” “This isn’t fraternity,” he exclaimed, “this is conspiracy.”[lv]
Not long after President Harding’s death in August of 1923, a Klan spokesman claimed that the former president had been a Klansman, having been inducted into the organization in the dining room of the Executive Mansion. This was nothing more than a brazen falsehood directed at the first 20th Century President to speak out publicly for African American civil rights and support anti-lynching legislation. The Coolidge White House immediately issued a statement, which received national dissemination, declaring the claim was “too ridiculous to discuss”—strong presidential words, indeed, for that day and time.[lvi]
“We don’t live in America,” it is said; rather, “America lives in us.”[lvii] This was Calvin Coolidge’s mature thinking, too. For him, being an American was a state of mind in which one accepted the American way of life and conducted oneself accordingly. One’s birthplace, one’s race, or one’s religion had nothing to do with being a patriotic American; rather, it called for believing in American ideals and values as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and in respecting and supporting American civil and political institutions. In doing so, as he saw it, any of God’s children could rejoice in the title of American.[lviii] It was in this spirit that speaking at the dedication of the John Ericsson statue on May 29, 1926, the President stated his belief that–
…[W]hen once our feet have touched this soil, when once we have made this land our home [that is, become Americanized], wherever our place of birth, whatever our race, we are all blended in one common country. All artificial distinctions of lineage and rank are cast aside. We all rejoice in the title of Americans.[lix]
As President, Coolidge expressed his antipathy to the Klan by reaching out in a positive, public way directly to its victims: Blacks, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants, with whom he had good relations—especially so for Irish Catholics—going back long before the rise of the Invisible Empire.[lx] Coolidge sought to highlight their positive achievements and contributions to American life.[lxi] This approach suited him well as it reflected his thinking and personality.[lxii] Here are examples: [lxiii]
- “The Progress of a People,” an address given during the graduation ceremony at Howard University, Washington, DC, June 6, 1924[lxiv] (Emmet Scott, Howard’s Secretary-Treasurer, wrote the President, “This address brought great encouragement to thoughtful representatives of the twelve million colored people of the United States”[lxv]);
- “Equality Of Rights,” a letter written in response to a statement questioning the propriety of a black man seeking nomination as a Republican for a Congress, dated August 9, 1924 (The Chicago Defender, a major black newspaper, praised the President for this rebuke with the front-page headline, “Cal Coolidge Tells Kluxers When to Stop”[lxvi]);
- “The Spiritual Unification of America,” an address given at the laying of the cornerstone of the Jewish Community Center, Washington, DC, May 3, 1925;
- “Authority And Religious Liberty,” an address delivered before the Holy Name Society, Washington, DC, September 21, 1924 (Pope Pius XI later praised this address in a speech to Cardinals[lxvii])
- “The Genius Of America,” an address given to a delegates of foreign-born citizens at the White House, October 16, 1924;[lxviii] and most notably,
- “Tolerance And Liberalism,” a major presidential statement on tolerance delivered before the American Legion Convention at Omaha, Nebraska, October 6, 1925.
President Coolidge summed up his approach as follows:
The only way I know to drive out evil from the country is by the constructive method of filling it with good.[lxix]
In the same vein, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would later observe:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.[lxx]
There were, of course, other factors behind the President’s approach: He was probably fearful that a direct attack on the Klan by name would detract from addressing the pressing issues of postwar reconstruction then demanding the attention of the American people, as well as sow the seeds of discord among them at the very moment when national unity was essential for moving forward. In addition, such an attack would provide the Klan with a goldmine of publicity and likely bring it renewed vigor.[lxxi] In fact, this is what occurred after the Congressional investigation into the Klan in 1921, when Klan membership skyrocketed 20%. Imperial Wizard Simmons was fond of saying, “…Congress made us.”[lxxii] Moreover, the President undoubtedly realized from his study of history that hate groups like the Klan had historically come and gone, and that this Klan would be no different. Thus, it was best to let the Klan burn itself out, which, indeed, it did.
The President’s approach of focusing on those affected by Klan’s hatred, rather than on the Klan itself, did not satisfy all. Indeed, for some individuals—notably the victims of the Klan’s intolerance, especially blacks—nothing less than a public denunciation from him would suffice. When such was not forthcoming, they were not silent in their criticism of him.[lxxiii]
Among these critics was Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York. He took to task the President during the 1924 presidential campaign, saying that Coolidge had “a special commission to speak for the heart and conscience of the American people” against the evil of the Klan but had failed to do so; nor had he encouraged those who did speak out against it.[lxxiv] Others echoed these sentiments. One political consequence was that black leaders, especially the younger ones, began to question their historic relationship with the Republican Party, and urban Democrat politicians like Smith moved to take advantage of this.
Coolidge’s most important statement on tolerance—by which he meant “a liberality of mind” with its “respect for different kinds of good”—was given in a speech in October of 1925 before the American Legion, an organization with a broad and representative membership of Americans of all stripes.[lxxv] In it, the President famously said,
Whether one traces his Americanism back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years to the steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of to-day is real and genuine. No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat.
He went on to observe,
If we are to have that harmony and tranquility, that union of spirit which is the foundation of real national genius and national progress, we must all realize that there are true Americans who did not happen to be born in our section of the country, who do not attend our place of religious worship, who are not of our racial stock, or who are not proficient in our language. If we are to create on this continent a free Republic and an enlightened civilization that will be capable of reflecting the true greatness and glory of mankind, it will be necessary to regard these differences as accidental and unessential. We shall have to look beyond the outward manifestations of race and creed.
And to cap it off, the President declared:
Divine Providence has not bestowed upon any race a monopoly of patriotism and character.
This Coolidge’s addressed received much attention and much praise.[lxxvi]
Another factor in the Klan’s fall was the opposition of those groups who were the object of the Klan’s abuse: 18.6 million American Catholics, 3.6 million Jews, 14 million foreign-born, and 10.5 million African-Americans. They all mobilized to make known the true nature of the Invisible Empire and to counter its attacks, sometimes even taking the attack directly to the hooded knights. In several instances, in a sign of support, state and local officials, along with private organizations, joined in denouncing the Klan, as well as in working for measures aimed against it.[lxxvii]
By the mid 1920s, there came about a lessening of social tensions. America was in the midst of the Coolidge boom, and with money in their pockets, there was much for folks to do in the way of activities in this new and exciting world. Many of the issues that had driven individuals into the Klan had disappeared or faded in importance or urgency. For instance, Congress had passed immigration legislation in 1921 and again in 1924 reducing significantly the flow of new immigrants, primarily from Southern and Eastern Europe, into the country. This had been one of the Klan’s principal goals. (This legislation, by the way, did not apply to the citizens of Canada, Mexico, Cuba, or Latin America.) The crime wave had receded somewhat. At least it was safe again to park one’s auto on Main Street. And in 1924, the Klan had succeeded in denying the Catholic Governor of New York, Alfred E. Smith, the Democratic presidential nomination, although it failed to install its favorite, William Gibbs McAdoo, a former Secretary of the Treasury and son-in-law of former President Woodrow Wilson.[lxxviii]
Probably the most decisive factor in the Klan’s downfall took place in 1925, when a major scandal broke involving one of the Klan’s most celebrated leaders: David C. Stephenson, the powerful Grand Cyclops of Indiana, whose power extended beyond Indiana to several other Midwestern States. Stephenson abducted, raped, and murdered a young woman, for which, after a sensational trial, he was sent to prison. His fall into disgrace was a major blow to the Ku Klux Klan, doing it untold damage, especially among its faithful.[lxxix]
Finally, as the Klan came to resemble more and more a traditional fraternal order, with no more secret nighttime activities, it lost its aura of excitement and adventure. Going through Klan rituals week after week got to be a bore, and it was costly, too. Educational lectures on this and that danger to the republic eventually lost their appeal as well. Many Klansmen simply decided to seek their entertainment elsewhere, mostly in family-centered ways, such as listening nightly to the new medium of the radio, taking in the new talking movies, or just going for an outing in a new Model A on the newly paved highways and byways.
The Klan—now renamed the Knights of the Great Forest—did experience a brief revival in 1928 with the Democratic presidential campaign of Alfred E. Smith. Smith, an Irish Catholic, a member of the hated Tammany Hall, and a vigorous opponent of Prohibition, personified everything the Klan opposed. Yet, whatever revival there was soon passed, and by mid 1929, the Klan was running ads beseeching delinquent Klansmen to re-enlist. By 1930, it is estimated that Klan membership had dropped from its peak of four to five million at mid decade to 45,000, which was concentrated primarily in the South.[lxxx]
The second Ku Klux Klan was heading down the westward slope to its demise. The Great Depression of the 1930s finished it off as a meaningful presence in American life. Its later association with Nazi elements further blackened its reputation. The Klan managed to limp along until 1944, when it was dissolved by bankruptcy and passed into history.
o o o O o o o
Jerry L. Wallace is a Coolidge scholar, whose interest in Calvin Coolidge and the 1920s dates back over half a century. He has been a member of the Coolidge Foundation since 1972 and has served as a Trustee and is now a member of the National Advisory Board. He has written extensively on Coolidge, including Calvin Coolidge: Our First Radio President (2008). By profession, he is an historian and archivist, formerly with the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC. Now retired, he spends his time researching and writing on Coolidge and local history.
[i] The author’s primary sources of information in preparing this essay are the various publications listed in the accompanying bibliography. All were important in their own way—but the author must call special attention to his paper, “The Ku Klux Klan Comes to Kowley Kounty, Kansas: Its Public Face, 1921-1922.” Certain sections from this paper have been modified and incorporated into this essay. More importantly, however, the preparation of this paper brought with it insights into the operations of the Klan at the local level that were invaluable in the preparation of this work.
[ii] A Scalawag was a white Southerner who, during the Reconstruction period, supported the Republican Party and black emancipation. A Carpetbagger was a Northerner who went into the South during Reconstruction for political or financial advantage.
[iv] The Klan was seen as engaged in a conspiracy against the Federal government. Grant used his powers freely under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 (also known as the Civil Rights Act) to suppress and dismantled the organization. For further information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1871
[v] Gerald R. Butters, Banned in Kansas: Motion Picture Censorship, 1915-1966 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007). Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation made its debut on March 3, 1915. It is considered the first blockbuster hit, and it went on to become one of the most admired and profitable films ever produced by Hollywood. Showing its long-lasting appeal, the film was re-released in 1924, 1931, and 1938. As late as 1950, there were suggestions in Hollywood of remaking the picture.
[vi] An interesting account of how the first Klan differed from the second is found in a letter of Nannie Nutt Holt to the New York Times (June 10, 1923, Sec. X, p. 5). The letter is entitled, “Two Ku Klux Klans: Daughter of One of the Founders of the Original Denounces Appropriation of Its Name and Its Traditions.” Mrs. Holt’s father was Captain L. M. Nutt.
[vii] The up-and-coming man was urged to associate himself with a fraternal organization. “Joining of a good fraternal society,” it was said, “is with many men a first step toward better citizenship…When they associate themselves with industrious and substantial men they set a standard for themselves to live up to”; see Winfield (KS) Daily Courier, Nov. 12, 1920.…Note: The Catholic Church prohibited its members from joining secret societies. In 1882, Father Michael McGivney established the Knights of Columbus as an acceptable fraternal organization for them. It closely paralleled the structure of other fraternal groups, having rituals, degrees, and passwords, and offering the all-important life insurance. Its motto was “Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.” See “Many Fraternal Groups Grew from Masonic Seed,” retrieved Dec. 5, 2011, from http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/many_fraternal_groups_grew_from_masonic_seed_part_2.htm
[viii] An example of this acceptance is seen in The Americana Annual: An Encyclopedia of Current Events – 1923 (New York: The Encyclopedia Americana Corp., 1923), which covered the happenings for 1922. This volume, which was published as a supplement to the Americana Encyclopedia, included a section on the Ku Klux Klan (pp. 467-468) written by the Klan Emperor, William J. Simmons himself. The Americana editors may have had some misgiving about doing so; nevertheless, since, as a rule, they included information on fraternal orders, they felt obliged to include the Klan as well. In future years, however, they would not do so….One approach to dealing with the Klansmen, it should be remembered, was simply to ignore their existence. This represented the refusal of doing the Klansmen the honor of paying attention to them.
[ix] One of the first and most aggressive foes of the Ku Klux Klan was Governor Henry J. Allen of Kansas. His opposition to hooded knights was based not on their intolerant creed but on the disturbing manner in which they operated. Many of his contemporaries shared this view. In mid December of 1922, in an address to the Governors’ Conference on the Ku Klux Klan, Allen offered this revealing statement:
The essence of our opposition to this organization is not in the fact that it fights the Catholic Church, or expresses it antipathy to the Jew or to the negro, but in the fact that it does this under the protection of a mask and through the process of terrorism and violence.
Earlier, at an election rally at Great Bend, Kansas, Allen remarked to his audience, which included Klansmen:
Now, as a fellow American having the same impulses that you have, I am opposed to the Klan because it suggests terrorism and outlawry. I am not against your organization because you do not like the Catholic Church.
In this speech, Allen actually attacked both Klansmen and Catholics for rousing religious hatred. “You are both to blame,” he asserted.
See “Governors Discuss Curbing Of Ku Klux,” New York Times, Dec. 17, 1922, p. 3; and “Allen Hits Klans And Bigots,” Times, Nov. 1, 1922, p. 17.
[x] Without solid documentation, Klan membership numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt. The author believes both the Klan and its opponents exaggerated them to the high side to suit their interests….It should be noted here that the second Klan’s headquarters and local Klavern records were destroyed, with certain exceptions, when it closed down operations in 1944.
[xi] “Ku Klux Klan,” retrieved, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan; and Kenneth T. Jackson, The Ku Klux Klan In The City, 1915-1930 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 237.
[xii] The Klan staged its first gathering in Washington, D.C., in late September of 1922. The Searchlight, the paper of Klan, reported, “The first open air ceremonial of the Ku Klux Klan in Washington…brought consternation to hundreds of Catholics who had made the boast that the Klan dare not hold one in the District of Columbia.” The meeting was held in the Northeast section of Washington in a wooded grove, “loaned for the occasion by a friendly Mason.” Fifty new Klansmen were initiated. Prior to this, the Klan had held open-air meetings nearby in Virginia and Maryland. See “Klan Holds Open Air Meeting in Washington,” The Searchlight, Oct. 7, 1922….The first massive Klan parade took place on August 8, 1925. Between 30,000-35,000 white robed men and women and children (Washington police estimate) marched unmasked down Pennsylvania Avenue. The parade reflected the Klan new interest in politics under Grand Wizard Evans. Such parades would continue over the next few years….One can only wonder why the Klan would have chosen the month of August for its Washington gatherings. Not only was it one of the hottest months of the year but the President and other high government officials were absent from the city on vacation.
[xiii] A good, if brief, sketch of Simmons’ life, by Charles C. Alexander, a Klan historian, is found in the Dictionary of American Biography – Supplement Three, 1941-1945 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1941-1945), pp. 708-709.
[xiv] David M. Chalmers, Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan (New York: New Viewpoints, 1976), p. 28.
[xvi] John Moffatt Mecklin, The Ku Klux Klan: A Study of the American Mind (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1924), p. 41.
[xvii] Robert L. Duffus discussed the ancestry of the Klan in his article, “Ancestry and End of the Ku Klux Klan,” in The World’s Work, Vol. 46 (Sept. 1923), pp. 527-536. Duffus concluded (p. 533):
…[T]he modern Ku Klux Klan is directly descended, not from the post-bellum organization of the same name, but from the A.P.A., the Know Nothings, the Wide Awakes (a ‘junior order’ which terrorized New York city in the ‘fifties), and the Native Americans. Its differences are inconsiderable, its likenesses all important. If it has added the Jews to its objects of hatred, it has done so in the spirit of the earlier movements.
Dr. John Moffatt Mecklin also offered a very interesting discussion of the Klan’s predecessors in his book, The Ku Klux Klan, pp. 132-140. Among other things, he noted that the Klan even revived for its use some of the A.P.A.’s old, anti-Catholic literature. He also described two fake anti-Catholic documents used over the years that were again employed by the Klan: a pseudo-encyclical of Pope Leo XIII and bogus “blood-curdling oath” of the Knights of Columbus.
Abraham Lincoln had the following to say about the Know-Nothings in 1855. You can imagine what he would have had to say about the second Klan.
I am not a Know-Nothing, that is certain. How could I be? How can any man who abhors oppression of negroes be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it, “All men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read, “All men are created equal except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty.
See George Seldes, The Vatican: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (New York: Harpers, 1934), p. 314.
[xviii] Hiram W. Evans, Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, discussed the problem of assimilation at length in a speech delivered before 10,000 Klansmen in Dallas, Texas, on October 24, 1923. The key parts of this address are quoted in “75,000 Klansmen Gather In Dallas To Impress Nation,” Times, Oct. 25, 1923.
[xix] Italians, Poles, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Russians, Czechs, Slavs, Serbs, and Greeks were the principal groups, and they consisted mainly of Catholics and Jews. See Jackson, The Ku Klux Klan In The City, 1915-1930, p. 21.
[xx] It must be noted that there were instances where the Klan attempted to demonstrate—not very convincingly, one suspects—through its charity work that it harbored no ill will against law-abiding, black citizens. This was usually done by making financial donations to black churches or to individual blacks that had fallen on hard times.
[xxi] Wade, The Fiery Cross, p. 155; and Jackson, The Ku Klux Klan In The City, 1915-1930, p. 259. When the Masons’ national leadership became aware of this use of their membership by the Klan, they condemned it along with the Klan itself, but by then, it was too late to undo what had been done, and besides, the local chapters apparently continued to do as they pleased….On July 3, 1922, the Wichita (KS) Beacon ran an article entitled “Masonry Denies Any Connection With Klansmen: Grand Masters Unite to Purge This Country of White Robed Terror.” The article noted that “Klan promoters have engaged in a nationwide fraud by claiming Masonic sympathy and support for the masked empire” and that the Klan “is an anti-American and un-Masonic organization.”
[xxv]. Total Klan assets grew from $403,171.18 ($5,197,472.00) as of July of 1922 to $1,553,761.07 ($19,676,115.00) as of December of 1923. See Jackson, The Ku Klux Klan In The City, 1915-1930, p. 17.
[xxvi] Wyn Craig Wade, The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan In America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), pp. 203-204. Ho Chi Minh’s assessment, written in French, appeared in the 1924 edition of Correspondance Internationale.
[xxvii] For public officials wishing their participation in the Klan to remain secret, there was a special category of membership designated for them only.
[xxix] Governor Henry J. Allan of Kansas did not have a high opinion of the Klan’s charity giving. The New York Times reported this observation of his, “When lawlessness developed, the Klan would disavow it and then give $50 to a ‘loose mouth preacher, who would thank God for the Klan.’ ” See “Governors Discuss Curbing Of Ku Klux,” Times, Dec. 17, 1922, p. 3.
[xxxii] Most communities at this time had more than one newspaper, and it was not difficult for the Klan to find a publisher willing to print its material. Enticingly, the Klan association promised an increase in circulation. Because of a problem with fake submissions, the Klan cautioned publishers to accept only genuine Klan correspondence identified as such by use of official stationery with seal….Among Klan radio stations was WTRC located in Brooklyn, New York. WTRC was brought on the air in 1926 by a pro-Klan faction of the Republican Party in connection with its battle with mainstream Republicans for control of the party. In 1927, the station was moved to Mt. Vernon Hills, Virginia, nearby to George Washington’s estate and not far from the nation’s capital. WTRC’s call letters were changed to WTFF and later to WJSV. The “TFF” stood for “The Fellowship Forum,” a weekly pro-Klan newspaper, and the “JSV” for James S. Vance, publisher of The Fellowship Forum and a high Klan official in Virginia. The station soon became associated with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), which eventually took over the station in the early 1930s. It is now known to Washingtonians as WTOP. See WJSV History at http://dcmemories.com/wjsv/WJSVHistory.html..
[xxxv] Robert K. Murray, The 103rd Ballot: Democrats And The Disaster In Madison Square Garden (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), p. 254; and Arnold S. Rice, The Ku Klux Klan In American Politics (New York: Haskell House Publishers, 1972), p. 83….It is worth nothing that neither the Republican nor Democratic official 1924 campaign handbook contained direct mention of the Klan issue.
[xxxvi] Wade, The Fiery Cross, p. 196…At the local level, the Klan favored economy in government and strict law enforcement; at the State level, it focused on eliminating private schools and strengthening law enforcement; and at the national level, it supported a Federal department of education along with Federal aid to schools, immigration restriction, and with its isolationist outlook, it opposed the World Court initiative of Presidents Harding and Coolidge. See Charles C. Alexander, The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), p. 111.
[xxxvii] See W. E. B. Du Bois’s “The Shape Of Fear,” The North American Review, Vol. CCXXII (March-April-May, 1926), 292-305. Du Bois wrote (p. 294), “There can be little doubt but that the Klan…is a legacy of the World War…The civilized world today and the world half-civilized and uncivilized are desperately afraid. The Shape of Fear looms over them.”
[xxxviii] The remarks of James M. Beck, U.S. Solicitor General, before the annual meeting of the American Bar Association expressed this mood. Beck’s talk focused on “the spirit of lawlessness.” He spelled out the revolt against authority and tradition was not limited to the political state but also was directed at music, art, poetry, and commerce. “The age has become”, as he saw it, “one of shams and counterfeit.” See “Lawlessness Is Prevailing Vice,” Courier, Aug. 31, 1921. Note: Beck had become U.S. Solicitor General in June of 1921 and served through 1925. He was author of The Constitution of the United States (1924), which included an introduction by President Calvin Coolidge.
[xxxix] Oil towns were populated by a rough class of men who posed a special problem of control, given ineffective law enforcement. The Klan could be an effective tool for keeping them in line.
[xli] During the 1920s, the Klan in New Orleans focus on anti-Semitism, rather than on Catholics or Blacks.
[xlii] Folks were race conscious….In connection with eugenic and birth control, it worth mentioning that Margaret Sanger spoke to Klanswomen in Silver Lake, New Jersey. See Margaret Sanger’s Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography (New York: Dover Publications, 1971), pp. 366-367; and John Zeran, “Rank-and-File Radicalism within the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s,” Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, 37 (Summer, 1993).
The following article, “Filipino’s Life Worthless,” is taken from the Courier of April 15, 1903. It shows the extreme racist attitudes prevalent in the military at that beginning of the new Century.
“One of my reasons for liking the Filipino as a solider is the same that gives me a preference for the negro in the same capacity in a fight, I am not worried about his safety as it doesn’t make any difference whether he gets killed or not.” So said Gen. Frank T. [sic] Baldwin, commander of the department of Colorado, on taking charge in Denver, fresh from the Philippines. “There is nothing more to it,” he added in explanation of this. “If a person owned a thoroughbred or full-blooded dog and also a cur, is it not natural that he would prefer to have the cur killed before the other?”
Note: Frank D. Baldwin (1842-1923) had been appointed commander of the Department of Colorado in February 1903, about two months before this article appeared. A brave soldier he was, twice being awarded the Medal of Honor, once during the Civil War and again in the Indian Wars. He had a long and distinguished military career. Death came for him not from a bullet or arrow but by cirrhosis of the liver. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Further information on Gen. Baldwin is available at: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fba43
[xliii] Other countries, of course, had discriminatory immigration laws. For instance, Mexico’s immigration law in 1920s restricted the number of blacks who could enter the country. Indeed, President Coolidge was asked by the National Equal Rights League to withhold complete recognition of the Mexican government until this restriction was rescinded. See “Negroes Ask Coolidge Aid,” New York Times, Oct. 7, 1923.
[xliv] Those who have read the literature on life in small town America in 1920s, with Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street (published October 1920) being the prime example, can also appreciate the ennui of life in “Gophers Prairie.”
[xlv] Preston William Slosson, The Great Crusade And After, 1914-1928 (New York: Macmillan Co., 1930), p. 308.
[xlvi] Margaret Truman, Harry S. Truman (William Marrow, 1973), p. 66; Robert H. Ferrell, Harry S. Truman: A Life (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1994), pp. 96-97; David McCullough, Truman (New York: Touchstone Book, 1992), pp. 164-165; and Alonzo L. Hamby, Man Of The People: A Life Of Harry S. Truman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 114. Readers are encouraged to check out McCullough’s critical comments on this incident on page 165 of his book.
[xlviii] There was an increase in the crime rate of 24% between 1920 and 1921 in urban areas. Retrieved Oct. 18, 2011, from: http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/00492/Crime_Rate.htm. Robberies of registered letters and packages aboard railway mail cars became so prevalent that U.S. Marine guards were assigned to protect the mails. Later in the decade, the robberies of post offices became such a problem in Kansas and Nebraska that postage stamps in these States were overprinted with “KANS.” and “NEBR.” to discourage their theft. Retrieved Oct. 18, 2011, from: http://www.angelfire.com/ca/dickg/mailguards.html
[xlix] “Ku Klux Klan: Chicago U. Forms Organization to Fight Bandits,” Courier, Dec. 20, 1920. Chicago would eventually have estimated an 50,000 Klansmen, the largest number of any American city….There was also a Klan at Harvard University, founded in 1921, although its activities were subdued. See Lauren E. Baer, “The Ku Klux Klan at Harvard,” The Harvard Crimson, Feb. 18, 1999; retrieved, Nov. 26, 2012: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1999/2/18/the-ku-klux-klan-at-harvard/….Here is another example of the Klan in academia: Dr. Edwin C. DeBarr, Vice President of the University of Oklahoma, was active in Klan affairs and served as grand dragon of the Oklahoma Klan. He was eventually removed from his position at the University because of his Klan association. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2012, from http://www.zoominfo.com/#!search/profile/person?personId=1286393560&targetid=profile.
[l] Charles William Sloan, Jr., “Kansas Battles the Invisible Empire,” Kansas Historical Quarterly, 40 (Fall, 1974).
[li] Wade, The Fiery Cross, p. 252….Some Klaverns, however, had intelligent, enthusiastic, forceful leaders. An example was Dr. C. A. “Archie” Ogg, a dentist and Mason, of Douglass, Butler County, Kansas. Whatever this man did in life, he did it with passion and did it well. In the 1920s, Ogg was leader of Klavern No. 60 in Douglass. Under his leadership, the Douglass Klan put forward an active program of public events, including a Klan Christmas celebration. His equally enthusiastic wife, Mattie, was a member of the Women’s Klan auxiliary. Ogg was quite popular (as was his wife) and held, apart from his Klan role, several public offices in Douglass. It is said that while he was mayor, all the city employees were Klansmen. In his later years, he served a term as State Fire Marshal. He died in 1963. His obituaries are silent on his Klan affiliation but praised him highly for his good works and being a good citizen: “Dr. Ogg was a strong, useful man of much ability and influence.” Ogg was certainly one of the more interesting Klan leaders. See Jerry L. Wallace, The Ku Klux Klan Comes to Kowley Kounty, Kansas: Its Public Face, 1921-1922 (Winfield, KS: Cowley County Historical Society, 2012), p. 53.
[lii] At a cabinet meeting, a discussion came up regarding the refusal of white government employees to work with their blacks counterparts. This, of course, was at a time when there was no legal framework that could be called upon to support an integrated workforce and no prospects for such whatsoever. This led President Coolidge to remark to his associates:
“Well, I don’t know what you can do, or how you will solve the question, but to me it seems a terrible thing for persons of intelligence, of education, of real character—as we know many colored people are—to be deprived of a chance to work because they happen to be born with a different colored skin. I think you ought to find a way to give them an even chance.”
See John S. Sargent, “Championing The Negro,” in “The Real Calvin Coolidge,” edited and with commentary by Grace Coolidge, Good Housekeeping (June 1935).
See also Robert E. Weems, Jr., and Lewis A. Randolph’s “ ‘The Right Man’: James A Jackson and the Origins of U.S. Government Interest in Black Business,” Enterprise & Society, 6 (June 2005), 254-277. The article is an account of Secretary Herbert Hoover’s hiring of James A. Jackson, an African-American, for a professional position within the Commerce Department in 1927.
On behalf of Native Americans, who had served so loyally in the Great War, and with the approval of the Congress, the Coolidge Administration commissioned a study, the Meriam Report (also known as The Problem of Indian Administration), that would bring profound, beneficial changes to the administration of Indian affairs. In 1926, Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work chose Lewis Meriam to do this thorough and comprehensive study. To ensure its unbiased nature, the work was done under the aegis of the private Brookings Institution with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. The finished report was submitted to Secretary Work in February of 1928. This 847-page document was the first general study of Indian affairs since the 1850s. In the years ahead, its findings would be used in reforming policies relating land allotment, education, and health care. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was based in part on it. See “Meriam Report,” retrieved 12-12-12: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meriam_Report .
[liii] “Ford Praises Ku Klux Klan In Interview,” Winfield Free Press, Aug. 27, 1924….Not to be forgotten, it was President Wilson and his officials, notably, Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, and Albert S. Burleson, Postmaster General, who brought segregation to the nation’s capital and imposed it on the Federal workforce; see George Brown Tindall’s The Emergence of the New South, 1913-1945 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999), pp. 143-145.
[liv] Other powerful men shared Ford’s opinion about Jews but were more circumspect in expressing them. An example is Joseph P. Kennedy, who had among his goals in the 1920s rescuing the motion picture industry from the hands of Jewish moguls, his motto being “American Films for Americans”! See David Nasaw, The Patriarch (New York: Penguin Press, 2012).
[lv] “Harding Rebukes Menacing Groups; Hit At Klan Seen,” Times, June 6, 1923. Besides this article in the Times, the AP distributed the President’s remarks across the nation. See “Shrine Nobles Overrun Capital,” Courier, June 5, 1923. Most knowledgeable folks understood where Harding stood on the issue of the Klan….It should be noted that Harding had a few days earlier, May 17, attacked the Klan indirectly in an address at the dedication of the Alexander Hamilton statue at the Treasury Department in Washington. The full text of this speech can be found in “Harding Deplores Growth Of Factions And Strikes At Klan,” Times, May 18, 1923, p. 1. In this address, the President observed:
“Can any student of our times in America, or the world, doubt for a moment that factionalism is developing as never before? We have our factions which seek to promote this or that interest, without regard to the relationship to others and without regard for the common weal. We have the factions of hatred and prejudice and violence. We have coalitions which would invade the Constitutional itself. We have our factions challenging both civil and religious liberty, and without them both made everlastingly secure there can be no real human liberty. We have the fatal factionalism which contemplates obstruction to the execution of the laws.
No nation will survive where this factionalism is endured. Hamilton warned us that however such combinations or associations may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely themselves to usurp the reins of government, destroying afterward the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
[lvi] See “Klan Boast Derided,” Times, September 23, 1923, Sect. II, p. 1; and “Deny Klan Met In White House,” Courier, Sept. 22, 1923. In this same article, it was further claimed that five unnamed members of Coolidge’s cabinet were hooded knights. Klansmen were notorious for making such false and malicious statements about their opponents, so the claim that both Harding and Coolidge were brother knights should come as no surprise. (N.B.—These tales have taken in a few historians.) For examples of such Klansmen’s stories, see Wade, The Fiery Cross, p. 217 and 229. See also “Ku Klux Klan members in United States politics,” retrieved, Dec. 4, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan_members_in_United_States_politics . Even today on the Internet one can view a picture supposedly showing President Coolidge—it is obviously not the 30th President!—marching down Pennsylvania Avenue next to the Imperial Wizard himself. See http://www.kkklan.com/tokens.htm . During the 1920, the Klan circulated a picture of the Washington National Cathedral (Episcopalian), then under construction, with the claim that it was to be the new Vatican. See Wade, The Fiery Cross, p. 180.
[lvii] Carol Negro, “The Secret of America,” American Thinker, Sept. 4, 2012; retrieved Nov. 18, 2012: http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/06/the_secret_of_america.html. Historian Gordon S. Woods put it this way in his book, The American Idea: Reflections on the Birth of the United States (2011), “To be an American is not to be someone, but to believe in something.” President Bill Clinton once stated, “America is an idea.” In short, America is within us.
[lviii] This liberal outlook had not always been Coolidge’s point of view. While awaiting his inauguration as Vice President, Coolidge penned an article, “Whose Country is This?,” that appeared in the February 1921 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine (pp. 13-14, 106-107). In it, he urged a restrictive and selective immigration policy, designed to exclude those who could not be assimilated into American life. As he saw it, in the past, America had been used as Europe’s “dumping ground.” He wanted to insure that in the future the “right kind” of immigrant would be accepted. That meant individuals who genuinely wanted to be Americans in the fullest sense, who could blend in with the existing stock, and who could contribute in a positive way to society. Coolidge’s point of view was not unusual or radical for that day; indeed, it can be argued that his position, with its dash of eugenics, was representative of the general postwar thinking on immigration….This article was undoubtedly intended to gain support for immigration legislation then being debated in Congress. It would soon be easily passed with bipartisan support as the Emergency Quota Act and signed into law by President Harding on May 19, 1921….Because of its tone and wordings, some have questioned whether this article was written by Coolidge; however, your author thinks it was and even if it were not, Coolidge put his name to it, meaning he agreed with its content. The notable thing is that by the time President Coolidge appeared before the American Legion in October of 1925, his views on the issue of who could bear the title of American had matured into the more thoughtful and certainly more liberal outlook expounded in this address….It is well to note that the President’s words were a philosophical statement on pluralism. Their aim was to move the public towards a tolerant and liberal attitude: “Let us cast off our hatreds,” he urged. His words were well received and undoubtedly did have a positive effect. Yet they produced no dramatic shift in the thinking of the average American as to who should be an American or resulted in calls for changes in nation’s immigration laws. Indeed, the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924, the successor to the Emergency Act, would remain in place, with only minor changes for over 40-years, until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
Note: A few months before President Coolidge spoke to the Legionnaires at Omaha, the future president Franklin D. Roosevelt was writing this racial slur in an editorial in the Macon (GA) Telegraph (April 30, 1925):
Let us first examine that nightmare to many Americans, especially our friends in California, the growing population of Japanese on the Pacific slope. It is undoubtedly true that in the past many thousands of Japanese have legally or otherwise got into the United States, settled here and raised up children who became American citizens. Californians have properly objected on the sound basic ground that Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population…. Anyone who has traveled in the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results.
No sign of tolerance or a liberal outlook here.
See GeorgiaInfo, Retrieved, 11/29/2012: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/FDRedito.htm.
[lix] Calvin Coolidge, Foundations Of The Republic: Speeches and Addresses by Calvin Coolidge (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926), p. 415.
[lx] It was an Irish Democrat shoemaker, a native of County Kerry, by the name of James “Jim” Lucey who helped Coolidge get his start in politics in Northampton, Massachusetts. Upon becoming President, Coolidge’s first letter from the White House was to Lucey, thanking him for his help and noting that he would not be president but for him. For more on Coolidge and the Irish, see Richard C. Garvey’s “Coolidge and the Northampton Irish: A Strange Alliance,” The New England Journal Of History, 55 (Fall 1998), pp. 71-72.
As for Coolidge and the Jews, throughout his long public career, he maintained a close and agreeable relationship with the Jewish community. For the presidential years, The New York Times Index contains many entries for Coolidge’s contacts with individual Jews and Jewish organizations. He did his best to accommodate Jewish concerns. (Coolidge, by the way, in 1924, was the last Republican presidential candidate to carry New York City.) This is one of the author’s favorite story as told by Representative Sol Bloom, a good friend of Coolidge:
“With my wife and daughter, I once had the pleasure of taking David Belasco to the White House to meet the President. The great producer, then past seventy, was as shy and nervous as a schoolboy, and when I presented him he almost whispered as he said, ‘Mr. President, I am deeply honored…’
‘No, Mr. Belasco,’ interrupted Calvin Coolidge. ‘I am deeply honored. There have been many Presidents of the United States, but there is only one David Belasco.’.”
See Sol Bloom, The Autobiography of Sol Bloom (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1948), pp. 212-213. Bloom’s daughter, Vera, was very close to Mrs. Grace Coolidge and wrote very warmly of the First Lady in her book, There’s No Place Like Washington (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1944). It should also be mentioned here that in 1939, Mrs. Coolidge was active in raising funds to bring child refugees from Germany to the United States; see Cynthia D. Bittinger’s Grace Coolidge: Sudden Star (New York: Nova History Publications, 2005), p. 113.
[lxi] It also worth noting here that one of President Coolidge’s last acts as President was to approve a Congressional authorization (PL 107) for a National Memorial Commission to oversee the erection of memorial museum building in the Nation’s Capital “as a tribute to the Negro’s contributions to the achievements of America.” The legislation had been passed after a long battle over the strong opposition of Southern Democrat legislators. The Federal government was to provide a site for the structure, and there was to be a mix of public and private funding. Unfortunately, with coming of the Great Depression and World War II, the project was put aside. It was not until 2003 that a National Museum of African American History and Culture was finally established. See “House Votes, 248 to 86, For Negro Memorial,” Times, March 3, 1929; and “The Time Has Come,” Smithsonian Institution Archives, retrieved, Dec. 14, 2012 http://nmaahceis.com/documents/The_Time_Has_Come.pdf.
[lxii] As a politician, Coolidge never ran what is known today as a negative campaign. His focus was on the positive: what he had accomplished and what he planned to do, not on his opponent’s failings.
[lxiii] The following items can be found in Foundations Of The Republic: Speeches and Addresses by Calvin Coolidge (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926), on pages 31-36, 71-72, 209-218, 103-112, 159-165, and 287-301, respectively. Some of them can also be found at this website: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/calvin_coolidge.php.
[lxiv] Readers are also urged to examine Coolidge’s address at the dedication of a government rehabilitation hospital for black veterans of the World War at Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 12, 1923. Coolidge, then Vice President, in a laudatory speech, observed, “The negroes’ record at home and abroad during the war won them the everlasting gratitude of the American people. They have justified the faith of Abraham Lincoln.” He also spoke at length on the progress of black Americans in the 70 years since emancipation. See “Coolidge Lauds Negroes,” Times, Feb. 13, 1923.
[lxv] Alvin S. Felzenberg, “Calvin Coolidge and Race: His Record in Dealing with the Racial Tensions of the 1920,” The New England Journal Of History 55 (Fall, 1998), 94….It is worth recalling here that it was during the Coolidge Administration that Mordecai Wyatt Johnson became Howard University first African-American President. Also, in 1926, Carter G. Woodson, a pioneer student of African-American history, started the concept of “Negro History Week.”
[lxviii] See also the opening section of Calvin Coolidge’s address on “John Ericsson” (Foundations Of The Republic, pp. 415-416).
[lxix] Calvin Coolidge, The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corp., 1929), p. 185. As early as 1923, Coolidge’s first biographer had noted, “[Coolidge’s] creed is that progress is best made by emphasizing good policies and ignoring evil ones.” See R. M. Washburn, Calvin Coolidge: His First Biography (Boston: Small, Maynard & Co, 1923), p. 71.
[lxx] Martin Luther King, Jr., quote from A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writing and Speeches (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), retrieved August 14, 2012: http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/23924.Martin_Luther_King_Jr_
[lxxi] See Donald R. McCoy’s Calvin Coolidge: The Quiet President (New York: Macmillan Co., 1967), p. 257. “…[Coolidge] viewed the Klan as an organization that would shrivel and die if it were not fed publicity.” Echoing this view, William Jennings Bryan, speaking at the Democratic Convention in 1924, saw no need to re-invigorate a declining Klan by spreading its divisive message throughout the nation; moreover, as he saw it, the party had more pressing and vital work at hand:
“My friends”, Bryan said, “one objection that I have to making this issue [the Ku Klux Klan] the paramount issue of this campaign is that I am not willing to lift up the dying embers and start a prairie fire and carry this Klan into every congressional district of the United States….Anybody can fight the Ku Klux Klan, but only the Democratic party can stand between the common people and their oppressors in this land.”
See William Allen White, Politics: The Citizen’s Business (New York: Macmillan Co., 1924), pp. 292-293.
[lxxii] Wade, The Fiery Cross, p. 166…. The New York World’s exposé of the Klan also produced a spurt of popular interest in the organization.
[lxxiii] Wade, The Fiery Cross, p. 199….A few politicians—notably, 1924 presidential candidates John W. Davis and Robert M. La Follette—denounced the Klan. Most, however, were reluctant to do so, for it meant denouncing many admittedly misguided, but otherwise satisfactory, citizens—and voters. Governor Henry J. Allen of Kansas was one of the first to vigorously attack the Klan and denounce it by name. But his attacks were awkward at best. He opened by observing that the Klan included “many excellent men” who had legitimate concerns but were addressing them in the wrong way. He also revealed himself to have his own share of prejudices…. Vice Presidential candidate Charles Gates Dawes’s attack on the Klan in Maine on August 23, 1924, was similar to Allen’s and equally as awkward and equivocal. The New York Times headline of August 24, 1924, tells all: “GENERAL ‘OPPOSED TO’ KLAN…But Dawes Says Many Join It in Interest of Law and Order…Confounds Party in Maine…. Audience Unresponsive.” The result, it seems, was an anti-Klan speech that satisfied no one. After visiting with Coolidge at Plymouth Notch, candidate Dawes abandoned further direct attacks on the Klan by name…According to Donald R. McCoy, Dawes concluded that the Klan was not an issue to garner votes. He later wrote that tranquility “was the subconscious issue in the elections of 1924,” a reaction “from the excesses of war.” See McCoy, The Quiet President, p. 257.
[lxxiv] “To What The President’s Silence Gives Consent,” Times, Oct. 20, 1924, p. 16. This is an editorial piece in which Governor Smith is quoted. Smith believed like others that the Klan would not endure and that it was then weakening. Interestingly, the New York Times editorial writer saw Coolidge’s position as analogous to that of Charles Evans Hughes in the 1916 campaign, when Hughes felt compelled to say nothing offensive to German-American voters.
[lxxv] Coolidge always thought highly of the American Legion as a patriotic and unifying force. His warm feelings for the organization would remain with him all his life. He attended and spoke to Legion gatherings on several occasions over the years and was generous in his praise of its work. What particularly attracted him to the Legion was its unifying, all-inclusive nature, made up as it was of all classes of men from all regions of the country who represented the nation’s various religious, racial, and ethnic groups. He said of these World War I veterans, “There was never reposed in any other military force the proud distinction of so completely representing the whole nation.” As Vice President, Coolidge spelled this out in his address to the Legion Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, in late October of 1921; see “The Title of American,” The Price of Freedom (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons: 1924), pp. 85-97….It is worth nothing that the Legion at its 1923 convention in San Francisco has passed a resolution—after some debate—declaring the Klan “to be un-American, a menace to our liberties and destructive of our fundamental law”; see The Americana Annual: An Encyclopedia of Current Events – 1924 (New York: The Encyclopedia Americana Corp., 1923), p. 36.
[lxxvi] Coolidge’s complete “Toleration and Liberalism” is found in Foundations Of The Republic, pp. 287-301; and is also available at the American Presidency Project: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=438#axzz1fENhMFY4
[lxxvii] For a discussion of how various States reacted to the Klan, see Chalmers, Hooded Americanism. States of particular interest are Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. See also Wade’s The Fiery Cross, pp. 201-202, for groups opposing the Klan
[lxxviii] Wade, The Fiery Cross, p. 197. The Klan denounced Smith as the “Jew, jug [boozer], and Jesuit candidate.” McAdoo did not fully accept the Klan’s position but, nevertheless, took their support as he lacked it elsewhere…. In the general election, Evans told Klansmen that they were free to vote for John W. Davis, Democrat, or Calvin Coolidge, Republican. See “Advises Klan On Voting,” Times, Sept. 2, 1924.
[lxxix] A good account of Stephenson’s rise and fall is found in Wade’s The Fiery Cross. Wade concluded by noting that “[Madge Oberholtzer’s] death finished the Protestant Ku Klux Klan crusade of the 1920s more than any single factor” (p. 247)….Disappointed that his political associates granted him no clemency, Stephenson later released the names of several public officials who had been or were on the Klan’s payroll, further blackening the Klan’s reputation.
The author’s primary sources of information in preparing this essay are listed below. All those on the Klan were important and revealing in their own way, although occasionally found wanting, especially in their treatment of, or lack thereof, of Presidents Harding and Coolidge.
The author wishes to thank Robert P. Kirby, Trustee of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, for having suggested this paper and having encouraged him on to its completion, as well as all the many other individuals who have assisted in various ways in its preparation. Of course, this essay is the author’s product for which he alone stands responsible.
The painting reproduced at the beginning of this paper is titled A Kansas Klansman and comes courtesy of the Kansas State Historical Society.
Allen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday: An Informal History Of The Nineteen-Twenties. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1931.
Alexander, Charles C. The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
—————————– “Simmons, William Joseph.” Dictionary Of American Biography. Supplement Three: 1941-1945. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973.
Blee, Kathleen M. Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
Butters, Gerald R. Banned in Kansas: Motion Picture Censorship, 1915-1966. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007.
Chalmers, David M. Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan. New York: New Viewpoints, 1976.
Coolidge, Calvin. The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corp., 1929.
———————. Foundations Of The Republic: Speeches and Addresses. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926.
———————. Have Faith In Massachusetts: A Collection of Speeches and Messages. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1919.
———————. The Price of Freedom. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1924.
Dumenil, Lynn. The Modern Temper: American Culture And Society In The 1920s. New York: Hill and Wang, 1995.
Goldberg, Robert A. “Invisible Empire: The Knights Of The Ku Klux Klan” in Grassroots Resistance: Social Movements in Twentieth Century America. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1991.
Higham, John. Strangers In The Land: Patterns Of American Nativism 1860-1925. New York: Atheneum, 1965.
Jackson, Kenneth T. The Ku Klux Klan In The City, 1915-1930. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Lay, Shawn, ed. The Invisible Empire in the West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992.
Leuchtenburg, William E. The Perils of Prosperity, 1914-32. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958.
MacLean, Nancy. Behind The Mask Of Chivalry: The Making Of The Second Ku Klux Klan. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Perrett, Geoffrey. America In The Twenties: A History. New York: Touchstone Book, 1982.
Mecklin, John Moffatt. The Ku Klux Klan: A Study of the American Mind. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1924.
Rice, Arnold S. The Ku Klux Klan in American Politics. Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1962.
Shannon, David A. Between the Wars: America, 1919-1941. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1965.
Siegfried, Andre. America Comes Of Age: A French Analysis. London: Jonathan Cape, 1927.
Slosson, Preston William. The Great Crusade and After, 1914-1928. New York: Macmillan Co., 1930.
Sullivan, Mark. Our Times, 1900-1925: Vol. VI, The Twenties. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936.
Wade, Wyn Craig. The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Wallace, Jerry L. The Ku Klux Klan Comes to Kowley Kounty, Kansas: Its Public Face, 1921-1922. Winfield, KS: Cowley County Historical Society, 2012.
Magazines and Journals
Allerfeldt, Kristofer Mark. “Masons, Klansmen and Kansas in the 1920s: What Can They Tell Us About Fraternity?,” Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, 2 (2011), 109-122. Retrieved on September 19, 2011, from http://www.equinoxjournals.com/JRFF/issue/current .
Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt. “The Shape Of Fear,” The North American Review, CXCXXIII (March-April-May, 1926), 292-305.
Duffus, Robert L. “Salesmen of Hate: The Ku Klux Klan,” The World’s Work, 46 (May 1923), 31-38.
———————– “How the Ku Klux Klan Sells Hate,” The World’s Work, 46 (June 1923), 174-183.
———————– “Counter-Mining the Ku Klux Klan,” The World’s Work, 46 (July 1923), 275-284.
———————– “The Ku Klux Klan in the Middle West,” The World’s Work, 46 (Aug. 1923), 363-372.
———————– “Ancestry and End of the Ku Klux Klan,” The World’s Work, 46 (Sept. 1923), 527-536.
Evans, Hiram Wesley. “The Klan’s Fight For Americanism,” The North American Review, CCXXIII (March-April-May, 1926), 3-63.
Felzenberg, Alvin S. “Calvin Coolidge and Race: His Record in Dealing with the Racial Tensions of the 1920.” The New England Journal Of History 55 (Fall, 1998), 83-96.
Garvey, Richard C. “Coolidge and the Northampton Irish: A Strange Alliance.” The New England Journal Of History 55 (Fall, 1998), 71-76.
Greene, Ward. “Notes For A History Of The Klan,” The American Mercury, V (May-Aug. 1925), 240-243.
Myers, William Starr. “The Ku Klux Klan Of Today,” The North American Review, CCXXIII (March-April-May, 1926), 305-31090.
O’Brien, Patrick G. “ ‘I Want Everyone to Know the Shame of the State’: Henry J. Allen Confronts the Ku Klux Klan, 1921-1923,” Kansas History, 19 (Summer, 1996), 98-111.
Scott, Martin J. “Catholics And The Ku Klux Klan,” The North American Review, CCXXIII (March-April-May, 1926), 269-282.
Silverman, Joseph. “The Ku Klux Klan A Paradox,” The North American Review, CCXXIII (March-April-May, 1926), 283-292.
Sloan, Charles William, Jr. “Kansas Battles the Invisible Empire: The Legal Ouster of the KKK From Kansas, 1922-1927,” Kansas Historical Quarterly, 40 (Fall, 1974), 393-409.
Stockbridge, Frank Parker. “The Ku Klux Klan Revival,” Current History (April 1921), 19-25.
Tannenbaum, Frank. “The Ku Klux Klan: Its Social Origin in the South,” The Century Magazine, 105 (April 1923), 873-882
Traylor, Jack Wayne. “William Allen White’s 1924 Gubernatorial Campaign,” Kansas Historical Quarterly, 42 (Summer, 1976), 180-191.
Zerzan, John. “Rank-and-File Radicalism within the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s,” Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, 37 (Summer, 1993). Retrieved on April 21, 2011, from http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/John_Zerzan__Rank-and-File_Radicalism_within_the_Ku_Klux_Klan_of_the_1920s.html
The New York Times, 1920-29
The Wichita Beacon, 1921-23
The Wichita Eagle, 1921-23
Winfield (KS) Daily Courier, 1920-29
The Winfield Daily Free Press, 1920-23
Excellent essay on the Ku Klux Klan “Nightie Knights” I would argue that the so-called “2nd Klan” (THANK YOU for delineating the SEPARATE NATURE of the revisionist 20th century group) ended in 1949 with the death of Samuel Green, who I discovered had a relative on the abortive Lanier University faculty of 1921. The essay is relatively free of anti-Southern nonsense, which propaganda Americans are unfortunately infected with. It is our duty to emulate the statesmen of our Founding and great men such as Coolidge who propounded universal American principles, not sectional or factional ones. I have found this essay to be helpful as I continue to make something of a Facebook page in order to better reach a wider audience. Thank you to Mr. Wallace and the Coolidge Foundation in your work. The Truth is out there for those who shall care enough about themselves and their country to place it first and foremost.
Just wanted to thank you for this excellent article. I am writing a book that requires a short history of the KKK. None of the other materials I found on the web talked about Harding and Coolidge as part of the reason for the demise of the 2nd Klan. I used some extracts, edited into my words, gave credit to your original source and to this blog page. Very informative. Thanks.
Do you have any audio or paperwork regarding his speech to the American legion of Omaha Nebraska in 1925 about the Klan? Thanks.
If you are interested in seeing a copy of Coolidge’s Omaha speech, it is available at this link: https://coolidgefoundation.org/resources/speeches-as-president-1923-1929-4/
The website able2know.org states that Harding, McKinley, and Coolidge were KKK. Sounds suspicious to me, would appreciate your research proving/disputing it. Thanx, JH
Mr. Hardison, The website you cite states that “President Calvin Coolidge was a noted Klansman and was well known to be an active member of the Ku Klux Klan. He allowed cross lightings on the Capitol steps and reviewed the giant Klan parades of 1925 and 1926 in Washington D.C.” This is just nonsense. Coolidge was not involved whatever with the KKK. Indeed, he was clearly opposed to it by word and deed. I should note that the Capitol Building is the home of the Legislative Branch of the Government. President Coolidge as head of the Executive Branch had no say about its operation; that is, he could not have “allowed” a cross burning at the Capitol. When the KKK big parades took place in Washington in the summer of 1925 and 1926, President and Mrs. Coolidge were happily on vacation out West. Finally, I am unaware of any reliable evidence providing that Presidents McKinley, Harding, and Wilson were Klan members, although Wilson did have racist ideas.
To “spread the fiery cross” is an old Scottish symbol. A burning cross on a hilltop could be seen and not confused with a campfire. It was a warning that the English were coming. The Klan perverted the “warning” into a threat.
To see an American use of “spreading the fiery cross” in its original form, it was used symbolically to warn Texas civilians of the invasion by Mexican armies during the Runaway Scrape of 1836.
The Klan does still exist, so something is missing here. Are we in a fourth wave? How does Coolidge’s disdain for the Klan square with his eugenics sympathies?