PHOENIX CRUCE: A study of the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan (1915-1940), by demographic analysis

By Timothy J. Mowers, Undergraduate Student of History at Michigan State University

Columbia’s Pox, 1940.

Purpose of Study

     The purpose of this study is twofold: both to understand the relationship between the 2nd Ku Klux Klan and contemporary racial demographics, and to cultivate research questions based on anomalous findings. The 2nd Ku Klux Klan is anomalous itself, when compared to its first and third iterations. Its religiosity, nativism, and progressive interests all differentiate it from the racially motivated first and third Klans. It is the opinion of The Author that the 2nd Ku Klux Klan is poorly understood by the American Public: chiefly, popular history strips the 2nd Klan of its distinguishing features and reduced to its racist components. By viewing the 2nd Klan chiefly as a white supremacist organization, Americans view only a minor aspect of the Klan, and see it as the whole. In order to properly address the relationship between the 2nd Klan and race, this study considers racial change in the United States, 1910-1940, and the expansion of the 2nd Klan. Racial demographics were provided at the courtesy of the Census Bureau, accessed through IPUMS USA’s data extraction system. The emergence of the Klan was observed using VCU’s mapping the Second Klan dataset, available at https://labs.library.vcu.edu/klan/. Mapping the Second Klan tracks the emergence of the 2nd Klan by geo-coding mentions of klaverns (Klan fraternal lodges) in Klan-produced or Klan sympathetic media. These two datasets were then examined using kepler.gl and Microsoft Excel.

Notes on Data Used

     Working with census data is a field in itself, fraught with problems and problem-solving. I am not an expert in census data, nor am I a human geographer. He may only call demography an acquaintance, and is unsure which methods are best suited to the study of racial change. For this reason, he chose a shotgun approach. All imagined variables were considered, even if the majority of them proved to be extraneous. It was my hope that in being thorough, nothing could escape my amateur eyes. I decided that the non-white population as a percentage of the total population would be the most appropriate way of viewing racial change throughout the period of study. Initially, the total non-white population was analyzed separately from the black population of a region. In all but the anomalous cases of regions 8 and 9, the black population constituted the overwhelming majority of the non-white population; therefore, I view the black populations of regions 1-7 to be, for the purposes of this study, representative of the total non-white population.

     I rate a region’s participation in the 2nd Ku Klux Klan by its number of klaverns per inhabitants, ca. 1929. This number was determined by dividing the number of klaverns established in a region by 1929 by the total population, ca. 1920. I reasoned that any new inhabitants born between 1920 and 1930 would be too young to participate in the building of new klaverns during the decade, and thus considered the total population of 1920 to be a more appropriate number.

     I have, for the purposes of this study, made the following assumptions about the data: that all klaverns were perfectly recorded by VCU’s Mapping the 2nd Klan project, that all klaverns held the same, or similar numbers of members, that no klaverns closed their doors during the duration of this study, and that numbers reported by the census bureau are accurate.