The klan arrives
led by the fiery cross
The Ku Klux Klan was formed in 1865 in the aftermath of the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery. During the post-war Reconstruction period, the Fourteenth Amendment and other laws guaranteed equal protection under the law for all people and enabled those formerly enslaved to vote, hold elected office, and live as full citizens. The KKK grew in the South in response to the increased rights of Black people, and used many tactics, including intimidation, violence and murder, to prevent the exercise of those rights. Amid growing backlash against the KKK in the form of Enforcement Acts passed in the 1870s designed to prohibit discrimination and acts of violence based on race, the KKK’s activities subsided. The organization was revived in 1915, inspired by the blockbuster film Birth of A Nation, which glorified the original Klan.
The Klan of the 1920s advocated for a “pure Americanism.” Hiram Evans became the national leader, or Imperial Wizard, of the Ku Klux Klan in 1922. He wrote of their motto, which encapsulates “pure Americanism,” as “‘Native, white, Protestant supremacy.’”
“Silhouetted against the black of night, ghostly, hooded figures emerging from the unknown and led by the mystic symbol of the fiery cross, will appear suddenly on the streets of Glendale . . .
Rumor has it that the initial appearance of the Ku Klux Klan here will be marked by some such ceremony to exemplify the undying spirit of Americanism . . . ”
In 1921, the Ku Klux Klan was first announced in the Glendale Daily Press:
Glendale’s “Klavern,” or local chapter of the KKK, recruited by sending “picked men” an application of inquiry with directed questions. The responses decided fitness for membership based on the respondents’ commitment to white supremacy, faith, and commitment to “PURE Americanism.”
The announcement of the KKK in Glendale was likely intended to gain membership interest in the suburb through rebranding. To counter their image of promoting terror and violence, the KKK’s new professed goal was to “uphold the highest ideals of Americanism,” which they narrowly defined as white Protestantism. The KKK promised to be proponents of “law and order” and “ardent supporters” of government, which included recruiting government officials. In the 1920s, the KKK’s suburban activities involved rallies, hate crimes and cross burnings, but also more palatable meetings, family picnics, and open recruitment.
Copyright notice: Any materials under copyright in this exhibit are covered by the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act. Permission and preferred attribution were requested of all copyright holders.
"Ku Klux Klan Will be Seen on Glendale Streets." Glendale Daily Press, 30 June 1921. Microform. Glendale Central Library. Glendale Library, Arts & Culture. Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Times.
“Application: Ku Klux Klan.” Application, Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection, Special Collections and Archives, University Library, California State University, Northridge.
Booklet Containing the Laws and Constitution of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Atlanta, Georgia, 1922. Ephemera. British Museum, London, Museum Number Am,EPH-AOA,B2.12.
Evans, Hiram. “The Klan’s Fight for Americanism.” North American Review, March-April-May 1926, p. 20. Internet Archive.