Ku Klux Klan in Georgia

Ku Klux Klan in Georgia

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Manuscripts
Title: Ku Klux Klan in Georgia
Dates: 1920s-1930s
Quantity: 0.019 Linear feet (1 folder; housed with minor collections MS 2665-MS 2695)
Abstract:The collection consists of nineteen and printed documents relating to Lithonia, Georgia and the KKK unit there. There are quarterly reports, lists of men suspended, financial reports, applications for membership (mostly from the 1920s and 1930s) and much from or to Dr. Samuel Green, Grand Dragon, Realm of Georgia.
Coll. Number: ms2667(m)

Biographical/Historical Note

A secret society dedicated to white supremacy in the United States, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has existed in various forms since it was first organized in Tennessee shortly after the end of the Civil War (1861-65). The original Klan of Reconstruction was suppressed by the federal government in the early 1870s, but in following decades its violent activities were increasingly rationalized and even romanticized, most notably in Thomas Dixon's popular novels, The Leopard's Spots (1902) and The Clansman (1905). The popularity of The Birth of a Nation, and specifically its appearance in Atlanta in December 1915, proved the major impetus for the reemergence of the Klan. Equally significant was the Leo Frank case, which culminated in his August 1915 lynching in Marietta by a group of armed men who had organized themselves as the Knights of Mary Phagan, named for the young murder victim in the case. The anti-Semitic sentiments aroused by that case (Frank was Jewish), along with the ongoing racism fueled by Griffith's film, led William J. Simmons, a local recruiter for men's fraternal societies, to establish a new KKK. Restricting the group's membership to white American-born Protestant men, Simmons designed the notorious hooded uniform, composed an elaborate ritual for the secret order, and secured an official charter from the state of Georgia. On Thanksgiving evening in 1915, Simmons and sixteen other members of the new order, several of whom also belonged to the Knights of Mary Phagan, ascended Stone Mountain, ignited a flaming cross, and proclaimed the rebirth of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The revived Klan grew slowly during the years of World War I (1917-18), but in 1920 the secret order changed its solicitation procedures and began to attract hundreds of thousands of recruits from across the nation. Much of the second Klan's appeal can be credited to its militant advocacy of white supremacy, anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism, and immigration restriction, but the organization also attracted the support of many middle-class Americans by advocating improved law enforcement, honest government, better public schools, and traditional family life. In 1922 Hiram W. Evans, a dentist from Dallas, Texas, displaced William Simmons as the leader of the Klan and attempted to turn the organization into a powerful political machine. The state governments of Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas included officials who were Klan members, and those governments were profoundly influenced by the Klan during the 1920s. In many other parts of the country, the organization scored major victories in municipal elections. By 1924 the perceived power of the Klan was such that neither major political party was willing to denounce it formally. Georgia governor Thomas Hardwick spoke out against the Klan in his reelection campaign of 1922 but was defeated by Clifford M. Walker. Walker, who served two terms as governor, from 1923 to 1927, was closely associated with the Klan, as were several members of his administration and a number of state legislators. Walker even spoke before a national convention of the Klan in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1924. Julian Harris, editor of the Columbus Enquirer-Sun and the son of writer Joel Chandler Harris, finally aroused public indignation over KKK activity within the state. Long before any other Georgia journalist did so, Harris reported regularly on Klan violence and exposed the public officials who were Klan members, winning a 1926 Pulitzer Prize for his efforts. At the very height of its political influence, however, the second Klan entered a period of steep decline caused by internal feuding, scandals, increased activism by opponents, and the fading of the group's romantic image. By 1930 the KKK, which had attracted an estimated 5 million members during the early 1920s, was reduced to about 30,000 supporters. Georgia's KKK membership declined from approximately 156,000 members in 1925 to 1,400 in 1930. The organization limped along for fourteen more years before formally disbanding in 1944, after being successfully prosecuted for failure to pay federal taxes. Ku Klux Klan in the Twentieth Century - New Georgia Encyclopedia http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org (Retrieved July 17, 2009)


Arranged by record type.

Index Terms

Green, Samuel -- Correspondence
Ku Klux Klan (1915-). Realm of Georgia. -- Membership
Ku Klux Klan (1915-). Realm of Georgia. -- Records and correspondence
Quarterly reports.
White supremacy movements--Georgia--Lithonia.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Ku Klux Klan in Georgia, 1920s-1930s. MS 2667(M). Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Related Material

For related materials located in the Hargrett Library, see also the following collections: MS 582(m) Ku Klux Klan collection; MS 712 Ku Klux Klan- Athens Klan #5 records; MS 1491 Lyman W. Denton-The Ku Klux Klan and the days of reconstruction; MS 1694 The revival of the Ku Klux Klan; MS 2214 Ku Klux Klan papers; MS2955(m) Ku Klux Klan ephemera collection; MS 3685 Knights of the Ku Klux Klan pamphlet; MS 3686 Women of the Ku Klux Klan; MS 3690 Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Charter for Bowden, Georgia.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

1Ku Klux Klan in Georgia