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

By Glenn Feldman | Go to book overview

9
Race over Rum, Romans, and Republicans

Despite the obvious vitality the Alabama Klan demonstrated in 1927, and the apparent inability of its opponents to persuade petit juries, the order's enemies pronounced it dead yet again in early 1928. The announcement, not unlike its predecessors, was largely the function of wishful thinking. Alabama's Klan was to have, perhaps, its finest hour in 1928.

The year witnessed one of the most ferocious clashes in modern political history. The KKK--combating a rapidly thinning membership, declining revenues, diminishing influence, and an anemic moral stature--plunged headlong into the political fray that would finally rip apart the Democratic Party. The party had been seriously divided since at least 1924, when a northern, "wet," urban, ethnic, and prolabor wing collided with its rural, farm, Anglo-Saxon counterpart in the South. After a record number of ballots, the national convention had passed over the principal figures representing the two factions--New York governorAlfred E. Smith and the "Great Commoner," William Jennings Bryan--in favor of an obscure compromise candidate.

In 1928, Alabama's hooded political strategists used a caustically divisive campaign to resuscitate the order, at least politically. In fact, the open splitting of the Democratic Party over Al Smith's nomination gave the KKK the perfect tool with which to stage a comeback in the Deep South. Smith's 1928 nomination at Houston exposed some of America's darkest prejudices in bold relief. His Catholicism, Tammany Hall connection, immigrant background, and political wetness promised the most divisive campaign since the Populist wars of the 1890s. Rum, Romanism, nativism, and Tammany became critical national issues in 1928. Still, in Alabama, and in much of the rest of the South, the race question eclipsed all of these.

The issue of race had always been of paramount importance for the

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Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Origins of the Revised Klan 11
  • 2 - The Civic, Educational, and Progressive Klan 21
  • 3 - The Moral and Religious Klan 37
  • 4 - The Racist and Nativist Klan 51
  • 5 - The Political Klan 63
  • 6 - The Year of the Whip 92
  • 7 - Elite War on the Klan 116
  • 8 - Limits of the Oligarchy's Campaign 137
  • 9 - Race Over Rum, Romans, and Republicans 160
  • 10 - Disloyalty, Revenge, and the End of an Era 193
  • 11 - 1930s Causes Celebres Scottsboro and Hugo Black 219
  • 12 - The Threat of Urban Radicalism 238
  • 13 - Farm, Factory, and Hooded Persistence 259
  • 14 - World War II and Postwar Alabama 285
  • 15 - Federal-State Interaction in the 1940s 305
  • Epilogue "To Wither Away" 325
  • Abbreviations 329
  • Notes 335
  • Bibliography 399
  • Index 427
  • About the Author 458
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