The Year of the Whip
Klan revival brought fresh mob violence to the state--an epidemic even by Alabama's distinctive standards. Yet even on those occasions when Klansmen were identified by their regalia, police failed to arrest and juries failed to convict. Because of widespread approval, sympathy, and fear, Alabamians almost never punished Klan lawlessness. Perhaps more troubling, much of the violence was planned by Klan leaders in advance.1 Curiously, the patricians who spoke out so passionately against hooded violence later in the 1920s were nowhere to be found during the early years of the decade. Until their devastating electoral defeat at Klan hands in August 1926, the oligarchy saw little wrong with the occasional Klan flogging--or even regular ones. Thereafter, the oligarchy's outlook changed considerably.
While hooded violence had been occurring at alarming levels since the Klan's 1915 revival, all hell broke loose in 1927. State, local, regional, and finally national press attention became riveted on the scandalous state of affairs in Alabama. Law and order, the world was told, had taken a holiday in the Deep South state ever since a Klan-elected and Klan-controlled slate of candidates had swept the state's elections in November 1926. Now, insulated by friendly political officials, the Klan ran wild. What resulted was variously termed an "epidemic," an "explosion," and an uncontrolled "rash" of lawlessness and violence. Men, women, blacks, whites, natives, foreigners, city dwellers, and country folk alike, whether young, old, poor, or prosperous, were whipped, flogged, scourged, and terrorized. The litany of reasons stretched from racism and nativism to a raw and unmitigated religious intolerance. Yet the vigilantism was dominated by acts aimed at the regulation of local morality and mores. What ensued shamed a state, shocked a region, and mesmerized a nation.