(The U.S. to the CRASH of 1929 – continued)
Joining the move against big-city immorality was the Ku Klux Klan. In 1920, it had fewer than 5,000 members. In 1922, its membership reached 100,000. The Klan believed that it was on its way to cleaning up and saving America, and by 1925, its membership reached its all time high, perhaps as many as 5 million. In 1925, an estimated 40,000 Klanspeople marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.
The Klan claimed that the Bible, the United States flag and the Constitution were their keystone principles. They believed that to be one hundred percent American one had to be white and Protestant. Klan-persons were hostile to Catholicism, blacks, Jews and foreigners-in-general. The Klan had its greatest appeal among the less educated and the poor, and largely people in small towns, the Midwest, the Southwest and the Far West – less in the deep South, where, in previous decades, enthusiasm for the Klan had diminished.
The Klan succeeded in dominating politics in Texas and Colorado, the Texas Klan led by a dentist, Hiram W. Evans. Oregon elected a Klan governor, Walter Pierce. The Klan in Oklahoma controlled the state legislature, and it succeeded in impeaching the state's anti-Klan governor, J.C. Walton. The Klan reached its greatest power in Indiana, where its leader, David Stephenson, won control over the state's Republican Party and made one of his henchmen, Ed Jackson, governor. Stephenson commanded the Klan in the Midwest, and he spoke against petting parties and other forms of what he called vice.
The power of the Klan appeared as transitory as the patriotic intoxications of 1917-20. In Birmingham, Alabama, a Klansman murdered a Catholic priest – but was acquitted. The Klan's image was tarnished by this act, by blame for other murders, for church burnings, blame for dynamited homes, for beatings and lynchings. These were activities that only a small minority could support -- not a mass movement.
The Klan began to loose a substantial portion of its support as it became involved in more scandal. David Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Klan in Indiana from 1923, fell into ill repute after he brutally assaulted a 28 year-old female secretary. She took poison. His henchmen held her incommunicado in a hotel without medical attention, and she died. In 1925, Stephenson was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. His former friend, Ed Jackson, the governor of Indiana, refused to pardon him, and, in retaliation, Stephenson made public information that sent a congressman, the mayor of Indianapolis and other officials to jail and that resulted in an indictment against Governor Jackson for bribery.
Bigotries remained. Many in the U.S. were opposed to the "melting pot" and saw interbreeding as weakening their race. Chinese were still being referred to as heathens. Many still viewed the Jews as collectively guilty of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Anti-Semitism had flared with the Red Scare in 1919, Jews seen as having been prominent in the Bolshevik revolution and Jews having been at the forefront in labor struggles in the United States. White Protestants had dominated the entertainment industry before the decade, but, in the twenties Jews had become prominent, giving entertainment a new variety and vitality – among them the popular singer, Al Jolson. And Jews had started the studio system in motion pictures in Hollywood, with some people complaining the Jewish money in the movie industry was subverting Christian family morality.
Henry Ford ran for U.S. Senator in Michigan and lost, and he blamed his loss on the intrigues of Jews and Jewish capitalism. He blamed the failure of his peace mission during the war on Jews. In 1919, he had bought the Dearborn Independent and had begun slandering Jews and publishing the notoriously anti-Semitic distortions called the "Protocols of Zion."
Jews were advancing into the middleclass. More Jews were becoming doctors, dentists and entering other professions that required an education. Jews protested against the rising tide of anti-Semitism, especially the admissions quotas at universities. Enrollment by Jews at universities had been disproportionately high, and in the twenties hostility toward Jews was widespread at some of the nation's best universities. The president of Harvard University, A. Lawrence Lowell, suggested limiting Jewish enrollment. The Board of Governors of Harvard's alumni shared his view. They were opposed to socializing with Jews. So too were many Harvard students, who declined an invitation to a speech by a Harvard law school professor, Felix Frankfurter, because he was a Jew. Harvard limited enrollment of Jewish students, which inspired other universities to do the same. Among them were Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Duke, Rutgers, Barnard, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern Pennsylvania State and Ohio State University. At Syracuse University, Jews were excluded from most social organizations. At Ohio State University, female dormitories segregated Jewish and gentile students. At universities in Michigan and Nebraska, gentile students were advised against associating with male Jewish students.
Copyright © 1998-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.