The Ku Klux Klan: Different Viewpoints, Similar Arguments
By: Forrest Gowen


In the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan emerged for the second time in America’s history, this
time they focused more on immigrants and non-protestants instead of strictly African Americans.
The Klan was a point of much controversy across the country and among every social class.
People would often share their opinions over radio, newspapers and magazines. I will share a
few newspaper and magazine articles and political cartoons written in the 1920s, from both men
and women, some of which were a part of the Klan and others who were against it. In this
debate, we see people who take different stances on the Ku Klux Klan. Some people treat the
Klan as if it is the root of all evil. Others try defending it and will stand up for their beliefs. We
also see people who treat the Klan almost as if it was a piece of art or an object that could be
analyzed and studied while not taking sides one way or the other. The motives and means of
accomplishing the goal of the Klan wasn’t disputed, it was widely known and understood among
society for the most part. The point of dispute was whether or not such an extreme form of
Americanization was necessary, and this is what people argued about. People from both sides of
the debate used similar tactics and drew from the same sources to make their argument.
Some of the arguments were based more on facts, and others based on fictionalized
prejudice. People would often share their personal experiences with the Klan in an effort to draw
others closer to or farther from the Klan and its purposes. Depending on the social class,
background and audience of the person who was speaking, that person would share very
different things. Someone in the upper class who may be expressing their opinion through a
newspaper or magazine that will be read by many people will draw from history and facts to
make their case. Conversely, a person from the middle class would be more apt to share personal
experiences and focus less on trying to persuade their audience one way or the other.


In a magazine called The Forum, published in New York City, Hiram Wesley Evans who
was an Imperial Wizard for the Klan in 1925 shared the following: “We believe, too, that the
mission of America under Almighty God is to perpetuate and develop just the kind of nation and
just the kind of civilization which our forefathers created.”
Evans knew that our founding
fathers were in high regard, and stating that the Ku Klux Klan was in harmony with what our
founding fathers wanted was his hook to draw people closer to the Klan and become less
Only four months earlier, in the same magazine was published an article written by
William Robinson Pattangall, a former legislator and attorney general. Pattangall also draws
from the early history of our country, when he states the following about the Ku Klux Klan: “The
whole idea is not only opposed to our traditional national spirit, but to the whole spirit of true
Christianity. It is a reversion to the old, cruel, religious hatreds.”
He also asks the reader to test
what the KKK teaches with what was taught by famous political leaders, such as George
Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Both of these upper class, political men were using similar
tactics to share their position. Neither of them actually used specific quotes or expounded on
teachings from our founding fathers. They simply referred to those names and positions to
provide validity to their argument.
Pattangall in taking the offensive, states “The Klan seeks a secret hold on legislators,
judges, and other officials. It uses that hold to enforce its own demands, abandoning completely
the American principle of rule by and for all.”
He again relates his article back to how the Ku
Klux Klan is having a negative effect on the government. While anti-Klan members were taking

Evans, Hiram Wesley. “The Klan: Defender of Americanism” The Forum. (December 1925).
Pattangall, William Robinson. “Is the Ku Klux Un-American?” The Forum. (September 1925).
Pattangal, “Is the Ku Klux Un-American?” The Forum.


the offensive, Klan advocates did what they could to plead their case before America. Drawing
from the same article by Evans, he talks simply about what members of the KKK believe. He
mentions that “the pioneers who built America bequeathed to their own children a priority right
to it, the control of it and of its future…”
He continues by stating other simple beliefs of the
Klan and ends his argument with a disclaimer that “We make many mistakes, but we are doing
this one thing, and no one else is even trying to do it.”
He understands that at this point, the
name Ku Klux Klan has a negative connotation and he accepts that the Klan may have made
mistakes just as everyone does but they are making an effort to fix a problem which no one else
is even attempting to handle.
The two articles discussed so far are targeted towards the upper and middle class. We
know this since they were published in a magazine instead of a newspaper, and because both
articles were written by people belonging to those classes. However, the debate about the pros
and cons of the Ku Klux Klan did not only affect the upper or middle class of people; lower class
people also got involved. One of the best ways to see what was being broadcast to people in the
lower class is to look at political cartoons. The purpose of political cartoons being that even if
someone can’t read they can quickly see and understand what the cartoon is trying to say. The
lower class didn’t need specific proofs and cited sources in order to be swayed one way or the
other. Tactics used for these people focused more on being aesthetically pleasing. This is why
political cartoons were so frequently utilized.
The Los Angeles Times newspaper in 1921 produced an anti Ku Klux Klan cartoon
showing a foot titled “True Americanism” kicking a member of the KKK out of America. The

Evans, “Defender of Americanism” The Forum.


member of the KKK holds in one hand what looks like a Bible that says Bigotry on it and in the
other hand a whip and a can of paint labeled “terrorism”.
Anyone who sees this political
cartoon would be able to instantly tell it is anti-Klan material. In this picture, the foot that is
doing the kicking isn’t pictured past the knee. This indicates that it isn’t a certain person or group
of people who need to help get rid of the Ku Klux Klan, but it is people in favor of “True
Americanism.” It implies the need to band together as citizens in order to get rid of this racist
terrorist group and it doesn’t matter if we get rid of them by violent means, they just need to be
kicked out as soon as possible.
The fact that the cartoon was published in a Los Angeles newspaper is significant. The
Klan was not just a group in the South, but it was all over America, gaining power in government
as it increased in membership. At the time the cartoon was published, the numbers of the Klan
were still rising. “By the fall of 1921 the Klan had established itself firmly in the South and
Southwest and was reaching into every other part of the country.”
In the space of sixteen
months, between 1920 and 1921, the numbers of the Klan jumped up by almost 100,000.
It was
gaining power, causing Americans to fear what might happen.

While many people were worried about the massive KKK following, others viewed their
ceremonies and gatherings as a thing of beauty. The Watcher on the Tower, a newspaper
published by the Klan in Washington State contains an article by a woman named Noreen Mary
Guinevere. Guinevere shared some of her personal experiences as she watched 1900 people get
initiated into the Ku Klux Klan. She expressed that “the hill starred with white-robed figures

Sykes, Charles Henry. “The Answer” Los Angeles Times. (October 9 1921).
Alexander, Charles C. “Kleagles and Cash: The Ku Klux Klan as a Business Organization. 1915-1930” The Business History
Review. Vol. 39, No. 3 (Autumn 1965) Pp. 353.


presented an unforgettable experience.”
She continued to talk about this ceremony as a beautiful
experience and a work of art. In the article, Guenivere doesn’t provide evidence or make any sort
of argument for why people should join the Klan; she simply shared her thoughts and feelings as
she watched this ceremony unfold. Although this was in the magazine published by Klansmen,
for Klansmen, it was another tactic used for recruitment. In a subtle way, Guinevere was
showing her devotion to the Klan. Through sharing her personal feelings, she hoped to convince
others that these ceremonies were not something to be afraid of, but that they were something to
be admired. Towards the end of her article, she says that as the gathering was coming to an end
and people were starting to disassemble, “We feel that we have witnessed the most significant,
the most magnificent and beautiful event of a century.”
Seemingly from the middle class, this
article eludes to the fact that Guinevere was not alone as she came to these Klan gatherings. She
mentions multiple times that men, women and children were present at the ceremony, implying
that membership in the Klan was more of an innocent pastime rather than “a vigilante body
which used both violent and non-violent techniques of coercion to foster white supremacy.”

While the Klan as a whole was admired by thousands, numerous people have personal
stories which don’t show the Klan in such a positive light. William Clayton Wilkinson was a ten
year old and part of a white Catholic family when the Klan performed acts of aggression and
terror in his small Indiana town that scarred Wilkinson for many years. These actions hurt him
enough to keep his experiences completely hidden from the public eye for decades. Similar to
Guinevere, Wilkinson didn’t use facts or any type of persuasion in his personal history. He
simply shared his experience with the Klan during his childhood in 1924. “The Klan exercised a

Guinevere, Noreen. “Our page for the women of the Ku Klux Klan; The Ceremony Through the Eyes of a Woman” The
watcher on the Tower, (July 21, 1923). Pp. 5.
Alexander, “Kleagles and Cash” Pp. 348.


direct impact on our family and, although I was not much more than a child, I knew about it.”

Just as being a part of the Klan was a family commitment, it would negatively affect entire
families as well. In this article we see that it didn’t matter if you were the ones being targeted by
the Klan or not, everyone knew about it and it caused a sense of fear to come across everyone, no
matter their background.
This debate of whether or not the Ku Klux Klan was using proper methods to achieve
100% Americanization was a popular subject of discussion for over ten years. As these
arguments drew on, we see that people from every social class was involved. What changed the
style of the argument was not location, gender or even stance on the debate; the major
determining factor was social class. No matter which side was being advocated, higher class
people would write in a more formal style, basing their arguments on facts. Although it may
seem insignificant, political cartoons also played an important role in the debate about the Ku
Klux Klan. Published mostly for the lower class, everyone would see them and be able to
interpret them. People from the middle and lower classes shared more from the heart, and
focused on sharing personal experiences rather than convincing the reader to join one side or the
other. This can be attributed to higher education. As people received more education their ability
to reason and use critical thinking increased. These attributes allowed them to move up in society
and therefore being the cause for the stark contrast between articles written by upper class people
versus middle and lower class people.

Wilkinson, William Clayton Jr. “Memories of the Ku Klux Klan in One Indiana Town” Indiana Magazine of History, Vol.
102, No. 4 (December 2006). Pp. 342.



Primary Sources
Evans, Hiram Wesley. “The Klan: Defender of Americanism” The Forum. (December 1925).
Accessed 2/27/14.
Guinevere, Noreen. “Our page for the women of the Ku Klux Klan; The Ceremony Through the
Eyes of a Woman” The watcher on the Tower, (July 21, 1923). Pp. 5. Accessed 2/26/14.
Pattangall, William Robinson. “Is the Ku Klux Un-American?” The Forum. (September 1925).
Accessed 2/27/14.
Sykes, Charles Henry. “The Answer” Los Angeles Times. (October 9 1921).
Wilkinson, William Clayton Jr. “Memories of the Ku Klux Klan in One Indiana Town” Indiana
Magazine of History, Vol. 102, No. 4 (December 2006). Pp. 339-354. Accessed 2/25/14.

Secondary Source
Alexander, Charles C. “Kleagles and Cash: The Ku Klux Klan as a Business Organization. 1915-
1930” The Business History Review. Vol. 39, No. 3 (Autumn 1965) Pp. 348-367.
Accessed 2/28/14.