Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949

By Glenn Feldman | Go to book overview
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The Racist and Nativist Klan

The second Klan's attempt to regulate Alabama's societal morality derived much of its impetus from the order's exclusively Protestant orientation and a decidedly xenophobic impulse. It was a xenophobia broadly understood: a fear of things foreign that included people who were different racially, religiously, and ethnically as well as morally. The revised Klan thus shared something basic with its Reconstruction predecessor. Although World War I and 1919 clearly exacerbated xenophobic fears and thereby created a new situation and new imperatives for the second Klan, the basic urge to quash things foreign had roots at least as far back as the Reconstruction KKK and its campaign against freed blacks and Republicans of both colors. Much of the Reconstruction period in Alabama, and in the other southern states, involved efforts to recover political and social control from what were perceived as foreign and outside elements.


By the turn of the century, race relations had sunk to new lows throughout the country. Atlanta experienced a race riot in 1906; two years later one occurred in the northern town of Springfield, Illinois. After 1900, lynching was reserved almost exclusively for blacks (during the 1890s in Alabama, one in every three lynch victims had been white).1 "Scientific racism" was generally accepted as wisdom. It acted as a positivist buttress that both reinforced and engendered racist attitudes and behaviors across the United States. Doctors, scientists, criminologists, statisticians, and psychologists north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line agreed that blacks were biologically "weaker," a burden to themselves and society because of their


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Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949


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