Date of Award
Recent works illustrate the significance of understanding the nuances of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s in the context of demographic and geographic differences. Using archival documents, newspaper records, and published works, this analysis dissects the differences in the Klan's ideology manifested within Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. Categorizing the Klan as a violent, extremist group with great political influence does not accurately describe any one of the Klans in these three states. While the Klan in Oregon and Idaho demonstrated varying levels of political power throughout their respective states, Utah's unique mostly homogenous religious, and therefore political, environment rendered the state relatively immune to Klan political influence. Utah, however, was no more immune to anti-Catholic sentiments than the other two, revealing an underlying theme throughout the three states. Utah's Mormon dominated culture is the reason behind its differences in Klan activity; Idaho and Oregon differ primarily in the strength with which their respective Klan's demonstrated. While similar in ideological emphasis and political infiltration, Oregon's Klan was much larger and more powerful politically than Idaho's. Understanding each state's Klan individually is foundational in adequately comparing the three states' experience in Klanism. It is equally important to note that anti-Catholicism as a part of the national Klan's platform presented itself in each of the three states. The differences in which these discriminatory sentiments surfaced in each of the states, burning crosses and parading in Utah and Idaho and codifying anti-Catholicism through exclusionary school legislation in Oregon, illustrates the understanding lost when making blanket statements about the 1920s Klan. Providing a state-wide comparison of the Klan in three western states reveals the differing significant characteristics evident in each state. The second wave Klan, while consistent in its anti-Catholic sentiments across Utah, Idaho, and Oregon, is incompletely characterized as a stratified, cohesive organization. The differences between the states reflect the importance of analyzing the Klan on a local level in order to understand the nuances of the Klan by geographic location, revealing a more rich and detailed understanding of the mechanisms and motivations of the Klan.
Larsen, Justine S. I., "Rise of the KKK: Political Rhetoric of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan in the West" (2018). Undergraduate Honors Capstone Projects. 430.
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