A full examination of the Ku Klux Klan phenomenon in Alabama generally confirms most of the Populist--Civic School theses that have been advanced in studies of other states and regions. Alabama's 1920s KKK was both a rural and an urban phenomenon. Its tremendous and diverse membership supported a political machine that articulated a progressive program on behalf of many average Alabamians who had traditionally been ignored by the state's entrenched Democrats. Although we have no detailed membership list for Alabama, the 1920s Klan was clearly an umbrella organization that appealed to a wide variety of whites, many of them average persons of middle-class origin. The prejudices of Alabama's hooded Knights clearly resonated with ordinary Alabamians who never joined the order and even with the Klan's more patrician adversaries.
It is also evident, though, that Alabama's 1920s Klan was significantly more violent than the versions of the hooded order that have been studied thus far--most of them in nonsouthern regions of the country. Violence was as integral a part of the order in Alabama as its thirst for political power. It was as central as the society's Americanism, civic activity, and diverse complexion. The violence stemmed from deep-seated anxieties about differences--racial, religious, ethnic, and moral. Moreover, the Alabama case makes it plain that much of the violence, while perpetrated by a handful of Knights, was premeditated and endorsed, or at least tolerated, by many others within the organization and, later, beyond it.
The opposition of Alabama's powerful Big Mule/Black Belt oligarchy ended a distinct 1920s era of the Klan by about 1929. Initially nostalgic for the old order and receptive to the new Klan's principles, the patricians in 1926 awakened to the political threat that the Klan represented when can-