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The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest

The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest

Charles C. Alexander
Copyright Date: 1965
Pages: 304
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    The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest
    Book Description:

    This is a study of a disturbing phenomenon in American society -- the Ku Klux Klan -- and that eruption of nativism, racism and moral authoritarianism during the 1920s in the four states of the Southwest -- Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas -- in which the Klan became especially powerful. The hooded order is viewed here as a move by frustrated Americans, through anonymous acts of terror and violence, and later through politics), to halt a changing social order and restore familiar orthodox traditions of morality. Entering the Southwest during the post-World War I period of discontent and disillusion, the Klan spread rapidly over the region and by 1922 its tens of thousands of members had made it a potent force in politics.

    Charles C. Alexander finds that the Klan in the Southwest, however, functioned more as vigilantes in meting extra-legal punishment to those it deemed moral offenders than as advocates of race and religious prejudice. But the vigilante hysteria vanished almost as suddenly as it had appeared; opposition to its terrorist excesses and its secret politics led to its decline after 1924, when the Klan failed abysmally in most of its political efforts. Especially significant here are the analysis of attitudes which led to this revival of the Klan and the close examination of its internal machinations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6197-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Ku Klux Klan Terminology Used in This Book
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1. Brainchild of a Dreamer
    (pp. 1-19)

    In early december of 1915,The Birth of a Nation,David Wark Griffith’s epochal motion picture, came to Atlanta, Georgia, for the first time. The picture was supposed to be a patriotic portrayal of the division and reunion of the United States during and after the Civil War. It also represented a remarkable advancement in the technological development of motion pictures.¹ But the most conspicuous feature of the film for nostalgic Southerners was its depiction of white-robed Ku Klux Klansmen riding here and th. ere to save the beleaguered South from the evils of Yankee and Negro domination during the...

  6. 2. “A Passion for Reform”
    (pp. 20-35)

    During the 1920s many writers tried to explain the phenomenon of the Klan movement. Most of them, like H. L. Mencken and his staff on theAmerican Mercury,remained in their eastern offices and penned caustic prose about grown men in white robes and hoods burning crosses on hillsides and trying to scare their neighbors. Others ventured into the hinterlands, to places like Birmingham, Tulsa, Dallas, Indianapolis, Denver, or even Augusta, Maine, to observe the Klan in action. They were the interpreters who came closest to fathoming “the mind of the Klan.” Stanley Frost, a journalist who had followed Klan...

  7. 3. The Klan Moves into the Southwest
    (pp. 36-54)

    One day in late September 1920, Klansman Z. R. Upchurch stepped from a train at the Southern Pacific depot in Houston. Upchurch was the chief agent for Edward Y. Clarke and Mrs. Elizabeth Tyler in the Propagation Department of the Klan’s Atlanta headquarters, where he was considered one of the order’s top Kleagles. Upchurch had a twofold purpose in coming to Texas: to represent the Klan at the annual reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, to be held in Houston October 6 to 9; and to survey prospects for making Texas part of the Invisible Empire, ruled over nominally by...

  8. 4. The Klan’s Drive for Law and Order
    (pp. 55-82)

    In the summer of 1922 a wave of Klan terrorism was sweeping Oklahoma. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, the crusty “Sage of Tishimingo,” surveyed conditions in the state from the vantage point of a temporarily retired politician and con cluded: “It is a sad commentary that just now the hope of good morals and restraint against criminality is found in a body of men whose organized method is not sanctioned by law.”¹ Although Murray did not care for the Klan, his comment carries a sentiment shared not only by his fellow Oklahomans, but by numerous other Americans in the 1920s. Alarmed and...

  9. 5. Gestures of Peace
    (pp. 83-106)

    Noel p. gist, a student of American fraternalism, has offered as many as twelve categories for modern secret societies. Although Gist classified the Klan as a “patriotic” society, the sheeted fraternity might also fit into at least four other divisions for secret organizations—“benevolent and philanthropic,” “insurance,” “religious,” and “convivial.”¹ Initially in the southern and southwestern states the Klan was a vigilante organization, an instrument of masked terrorism that threatened and punished people suspected of “objectionable” behavior. For most of its leaders under the Simmons-Clarke regime the Klan was also a moneymaking scheme, and the opportunity for financial gain remained...

  10. 6. A Taste of Victory
    (pp. 107-128)

    At the beginning of 1922 the Atlanta officialdom, Kleagles, and ordinary Klansmen had plenty of reason to be happy. The Klan had spread over the South and Southwest, had crossed the Mason-Dixon line and the Ohio River and had inaugurated a promising kluxing campaign in the northern states, and had taken in about 500,000 members over the nation. In the Southwest the induction of new Klansmen and the chartering of local Klans proceeded at a feverish pace. Funds from initiation fees and the sale of Klan regalia poured into Atlanta from the South, Southwest, East, Midwest, and Pacific Coast. These...

  11. 7. “Neither Klan nor King”
    (pp. 129-158)

    In the early 1920s Oklahoma was in only the second decade of statehood. The Sooner State presented what one writer called “a curious mixture of the Old South, the pioneer West, and hustling modern Rotary Club Babittism.”¹ On one hand there was rampant business prosperity based mainly on the state’s expanding oil industry; on the other, widespread agricultural distress had given rise to a strong agrarian radical movement. On the liquor question most Oklahomans not only voted dry, but they were willing, as members of the Klan, to take a horsewhip or a razorstrop to suspected bootleggers. By 1922 Oklahoma...

  12. 8. A Sortie at Presidential Politics
    (pp. 159-175)

    By 1924 the klan was, more than anything else, a political organization. However much its leaders, including Hiram W. Evans, might protest that the Klan was not “in politics,” the fact remained that in state after state the order was the most powerful single element at work. Evans, as Imperial Wizard, was the unchallenged ruler over three to five million Klansmen, citizens of an Invisible Empire that, while no longer invisible, was certainly imperial.¹ During 1922 and 1923 the Klan helped to elect governors in Oregon and Georgia, a United States Senator in Texas, Representatives in several states, and local...

  13. 9. Uncertain Victories, Bitter Defeats
    (pp. 176-208)

    The year 1924 marked the climax of the Klan movement, and the beginning of the end. In that year the whiterobed order reached the peak of its power, numerically and politically, in practically every state. It was a year of victory for the Klan in such widely scattered states as Maine, Indiana, Georgia, and Colorado. The secret society strode into the arena of national politics and, at the Democratic national convention, raised its head for all to see. The Klan electioneered more openly than it ever had, or ever would again, in the Southwest, where its political enterprises gave a...

  14. 10. The Road to Obscurity
    (pp. 209-232)

    During the last half of the 1920s the Klan fell apart in the states of the Southwest, and nearly everywhere else. There were many reasons for this collapse, some of which will be noted in the succeeding chapter. One of the greatest maladies was dissension. Inner strife, beginning in 1924 on a critical scale and continuing for several more years, sapped the order in each of the southwestern states. Only in Oklahoma did the Klan retain anything like its old vigor, and even there the organization speedily fell into disrepute. By 1926 each political party in Oklahoma was trying to...

  15. 11. The End of the Road
    (pp. 233-256)

    In the last half of the twenties, Hiram W. Evans and the men who ran the Klan tried in various ways to keep the order afloat. In the fall of 1925 Evans announced that the Klan was moving its main offices from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., where the organization supposedly could carry out its new “educational” program in more effective fashion. The Klan established propaganda headquarters in a building at Seventh and I streets in Washington and set to work at its new task of “Americanizing America.” The character of the order now changed somewhat. Whereas earlier the Klan had...

  16. Bibliographical Notes
    (pp. 257-270)
  17. Index
    (pp. 271-289)