Fighting Fraternities: The Ku Klux Klan and Freemasonry in 1920s America
Date: 11 September 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in History
Throughout the 1920s, America was marked by a series of fundamental political, social and economic shifts that defined the decade. The rise of the Second Ku Klux Klan was just one of the many results of the underlying tensions produced by the radical changes of the period. This fervently patriotic and nativist organization has ...
Throughout the 1920s, America was marked by a series of fundamental political, social and economic shifts that defined the decade. The rise of the Second Ku Klux Klan was just one of the many results of the underlying tensions produced by the radical changes of the period. This fervently patriotic and nativist organization has captivated onlookers and academics because of its peculiar customs and its mysterious resurgence following the First World War. Historians have thoroughly analysed this group’s ideology, and have presented detailed case studies of the growth and decline of individual chapters of this vast organization. The 1920s Klan has been studied from practically every possible angle. However, researchers have neglected to study the order’s fraternal traditions and their relationship with other fraternities. This thesis hopes to address this oversight by offering a critical evaluation of the Ku Klux Klan’s role as a fraternity. This thesis will analyse how this order functioned as a fraternity, and how these traditions helped recruit followers to the movement. This study will also discuss how the Klan interacted with other fraternities, particularly the Freemasons. These two fraternities shared a complex relationship with elements of both cooperation and conflict, and their interactions will help us comprehend how the Ku Klux Klan managed to become the foremost fraternal movement of the 1920s. This thesis will analyse a number of different aspects about the Ku Klux Klan, from their ideology and rituals to their sales methods and public relations campaign. This study hopes to re-evaluate a number of key assumptions about this group by critically assessing the Klan from a different perspective. By investigating the response of fraternities like the Freemasons to an intrusive and aggressive order like the Klan, we can gain a better understanding of how the nation as a whole perceived and reacted to this peculiar organization.
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