Aug. 8, 1925

Klan March Credit: Library of Congress

In a show of force, thousands of Klan members marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. 

“Phantom-like hosts of the Ku Klux Klan spread their white robes over the nation’s most historic thoroughfare yesterday in one of the greatest demonstrations this city has ever known,” The Washington Post reported. “Police estimated that there were 30,000-35,000 in the weird procession — men, women and children of the Klan.” 

The white supremacist group came back to life after the release of the 1915 racist blockbuster, “Birth of a Nation”, which turned Klansmen into heroes. 

The newly revived organization, which reached 4 million members, tapped into White Anglo-Saxon Protestant fears surrounding immigration and wrapped itself in the slogan, “100% Americanism.” This time, the KKK expanded its list of enemies beyond Black Americans to include “Catholics, Jews, immigrants, organized labor, and the sins of gambling, drinking, and sexual liberty.” 

According to The Ku Klux Klan in the City 1915-1930, the states with the most members were Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma and New York. Klansmen served in state legislatures and even as governor in states such as Alabama, California, Indiana, Mississippi and Oregon. 

In Indiana, where the organization was strongest, Grand Dragon David C. Stephenson engineered a KKK takeover of the state’s Republican Party, but his political career came crashing down after he was found guilty of rape, kidnapping and second-degree murder. After that scandal, the Klan imploded. That scandal is captured in Timothy Egan’s new book, “A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, And The Woman Who Stopped Them.”

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.