Several years ago, as I was cleaning out my mother's house, I chanced upon some interesting pulp literature - two pamphlets from the 1920's entitled The Ku Klux Klan or the Knights of Columbus Klan and Freemasonry - The Road To Damnation. They are typical of the sort of fiery propaganda published by various factions during this time, and are filled with enough distortions and demagoguery to make even Howard Dean blush.
(You can click on the picture for the full-sized version). The Ku Klux Klan or the Knights of Columbus Klan is an entertaining (to say the least) defense of the KKK as "a great fraternity, whose members have bound themselves to shield the sanctity of home and the chastity of womanhood and to conserve, protect, and maintain the distinctive institutions, rights, and privileges, principles and traditions of pure Americanism." The booklet also helpfully informs the reader that, "The Ku Klux Klan is at this time passing through a period of turmoil similar to that faced by the Masonic Fraternity some years ago." In the end, the reader is asked to choose which organization he'd like to see running our government - the patriotic KKK or the evil Knights of Columbus, with their flagrant disdain for Prohibition, convents full of female slaves, and sworn allegiance to the evil monstrous Pope.
To put everyone at ease about the purpose of the KKK, the booklet quotes from The A. B. C. of the Ku Klux Klan,
The original Ku Klux were not outlaws or moral degenerates, nor did they perpetrate outlawry. They were men of moral and social standing and their leaders were men of sterling character and unquestioned culture. They reverently bowed to the soul of real LAW and swore to enforce its principles of justice, protection, and the pursuit of happiness. Their strong arm fought valiantly for the preservation of the race against the cruelty of base, unjust, and tyrannical legislation and insufferable conditions created by a board of conscienceless, diabolical, greed and lust-crazed adventurers that swarmed down from the north to use the negro for their own damnable selfish ends.
Glad they cleared that up. Another excerpt from an official Klan statement declares,
The purpose of the modern Ku Klux Klan is to inculcate the sacred principles of chivalry, and the development of character, the protection of the home and the chastity of womanhood, the exemplification of a pure and practical patriotism towards our glorious country, the preservation of American ideals and institutions and the maintenance of white supremacy.
And another handy summary informs us:
The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan believe in the following:
The tenets of the Christian religion.
Protection of our pure womanhood.
Just laws and liberty.
The upholding of the Constitution of the United States.
The sovereignty of our state rights.
The separation of church and state.
Closer relationship of pure Americanism.
Freedom of speech and press.
Closer relationship between capital and American labor.
Preventing the cause of mob violence and lynching.
Preventing unwarranted strikes by foreign labor agitators.
Prevention of fires and destruction of property by lawless elements.
The limitation of foreign immigration.
The much-needed local reforms.
Free public schools.
Law and order.
(The underlined words were circled in my pamphlet, not doubt the work of a zealous Klansman highlighting the benefits of his organization to a prospective member.)
And those menacing white sheets and hoods?
A great noise has been made that the Klan wear robes and that it is un-American to do so, but we are informed by Klan officials that the robe worn, although similar to that worn by members of the original Klan, is only worn in honor of the old Ku Klux Klan, and is never worn to "ride in the night," but only on official parades or meetings, and is no more un-American than the red fez worn by the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
No mention or defense of cross burnings in my pamphlet, by the way.
Too bad. Right now my
mind is reeling at the thought of Klansmen in full costume trying to
ride those little Shriner cars.
You may wonder why such a clean-cut image was important to the KKK. After World War One, the Klan embarked on an ambitious national membership drive. A number of factors came together at that time to empower the Klan's message - Prohibition (which was heavily supported in the South), as well as numerous issues that were viewed as a dilution of "American values," such as women's suffrage, the League of Nations, and the continual stream of eastern and southern European and Catholic immigrants into the United States. The beginnings of open racial tension also occurred during this time, the prime example being the 1921 Tulsa race riots.
The Klan seemed to find a strong ally in Freemasonry. My pamphlet
is written specifically for "every Mason, Odd Fellow, Knight of
Pythias, Klansman, and Fraternalist of every Protestant American
organization..." There has been a long-standing association between
the KKK and Masons among conspiracy junkies. A Google search on the organizations together brings all kinds of kooks
out of the woodwork. I'm not going to speculate further on this
topic. I'll just say that both organizations - as amply evidenced by
my pamphlet - were doggedly anti-Catholic, and it is reasonable that
they would work together. It is also reasonable to assume that in the
days before radio, television, and the Internet it was possible for the
Klan to keep most of its unsavory activities under wraps. I believe
that the majority of the people who joined the Klan during this time had no idea what the organization really stood for.
The Klan left the old South and began driving north and east, eventually reaching Minnesota and Maine and establishing a strong presence in unlikely-seeming places like Indiana and Ohio. Their efforts included pamphlets (like mine), music, and phonograph records. Their results were highly successful, reportedly culminating in a nationwide membership of over five million.
But when reports of organizational corruption and the participation of ranking Klan members in numerous violent acts of vigilantism were printed in leading
newspapers, the national membership rolls immediately shrank.
This past weekend, there was an unusual article in the Washington Post about Senator Robert C. Byrd and his struggles to escape his past as a member of the KKK. The article states that, "Byrd says he viewed the Klan as a useful platform from which to launch his political career. He described it essentially as a fraternal group of elites -- doctors, lawyers, clergy, judges and other "upstanding people" who at no time engaged in or preached violence against blacks, Jews or Catholics, who historically were targets of the Klan."
Read his statement again. Byrd regurgitates virtually the exact same Klan party line contained in my pamphlet! And the Washington Post writer makes no attempt to reason how Byrd, who was a butcher at the time, could be accepted into a group of doctors, lawyers, and judges.
Of course Byrd was not just a mere bystander in the organization. He was a recruiter who personally inducted hundreds into the organization and, as his personal correspondences and writings during that time amply illustrate, was one of the Klan's staunchest defenders and a true white supremacist. Byrd cannot realistically claim to have been duped by the Klan, because he joined a decade and a half after numerous connections to lynchings and violence had been conclusively proven. I also believe that calling Byrd a "former" Klansman is dishonest because his attitudes reflect a way of life. It's who he is.
I wonder, did Senator Byrd take a Klan oath similar to the one in my pamphlet, and oath described therein as, "an oath that any loyal red-blooded American would be proud to take," which reads in part:
I swear that I will most zealously and valiently (sic) shield and preserve by any and all justifiable means and methods the sacred constitutional rights and privileges of free public schools, free speech, free press, separation of church and state, liberty, white supremacy, just laws, and the pursuit of happiness, against any encroachment of any nature by any person or persons, political party or parties, religious sect or people, native, naturalized, or foreign, of any race, color, creed, lineage, or tongue whatsoever. (emphasis added)
Whether Byrd's KKK chapter was more interested in ice cream socials than in cross burnings - and no researcher has been able to absolutely prove anything either way - is completely unimportant. What is important is the fact that the KKK, an organization whose self-inflating propaganda is still truthful with Robert Byrd, was committed to the supremacy of the white race and to the defeat of their enemies by any "justifiable means," a pretty malleable (and therefore useless) criterion. Robert Byrd's KKK was the anthesis of everything that the modern Democrat party stands for.
To his credit, Byrd has managed to bring billions of Federal dollars to his home state and to lend his own name to virtually every non-moving object in West Virginia, but his record also includes staunch opposition to virtually all of the landmark 1960's civil rights legislation. In my opinion, neither one of these accomplishments has made America a better place.
Another political figure with ties to the Klan briefly surfaced in the 1980's and early 1990's. But no one in today's press would ever dream of allowing Republican David Duke to write off his white-supremacist past as youthful indiscretion. You don't see Duke excused as a "former" white supremacist. And yet Robert Byrd, who took the equivalent of a modern-day oath to be a racist, is sympathetically profiled by one of the nation's largest newspapers as a champion of the people whose life's work is threatened by an unfortunate "stain" from the past.
Apparently that explanation is sufficient - if you are a good Democrat.
(Confession - Yes, those items - including the receipt for a $10 contribution - belonged to a great, great uncle. He was a professional engineer, a gentle Episcopalian deacon who was not coordinated enough to operate the clutch and gas pedal of an automobile at the same time, and a 33rd degree Mason and a Grand High Priest for his lodge in the state of Texas. Surviving family members who knew him were shocked when they found the KKK items among his effects. I would guess that his membership in the Klan lasted about as long as Chevy Chase's career as a talk show host.)
Also, if I get enough requests I will scan and post a PDF file of the entire KKK booklet for readers' edification.
Tracked back to WizBang. Welcome WizBang readers!
Also, anyone wanting to use these images to make dummy Robert Byrd senate campaign literature (I think the KKK donation slip would make a great Byrd donation receipt) please feel free to do so, but kindly credit my blog. Thanks!