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The most popular Ku Klux Klan movement is the one emphasized in the Southern states of the United States and was focused on white men expressing racism towards black men and acting upon it in violent ways. It may not be as well-known as the KKK’s of the South, but the Pacific Northwest went through a phase aroyund the 1920’s that was based off of the main principals of the typical KKK intentions, but included a broader combination of minorities to hate against. “Together with the war-time mood of distrust and apprehension and the economic chaos caused by stances in which the Ku Klux Klan flourished. Discontent in the South after the Civil War gave rise to the original Klan, which faded away after a decade or two. A second Klan arose in 1915 and borrowed ritual and doctrine from its predecessor. But its targets now included not just the blacks singled out for persecution by the original Klan, but also Catholics, Jews, and immigrant groups” (Schwantes, 375).
“The Klan entered Oregon from California in 1921 by capitalizing on the fears generated by the First World War. Spreading rapidly, it established branches in Portland and a number of outlying communities. By the mid-1920s, its membership was estimated to be between fourteen and twenty thousand, with numerous sympathizers adding to its influence” (Schwantes, 375).
Early in Schwantes’ book he talked about all the different immigrant groups that had come over to experience the new land for work or curiosity or escape. These groups of peoples included Hawaiians, Japanese, Chinese, Spaniards, African Americans, etc. There were several groups of people occupying the Pacific Northwest which made it easy for racism and hate acts to occur towards one another. And as you can see, not only skin color was the main focus here, but also things like religion and belief. Catholics and Jews were being persecuted too, due to the dominance of Republicans at this time politically. “The Republican party dominated politics in all three Pacific Northwest states throughout the decade. Republicans held every elected state and congressional office in Idaho. They also controlled Washington, where Roland H. Hartley, a mean-spirited, antilabor timber baron from Everett, served as governor from 1924 to 1932 and gave the period a rancorous political tone” (Scwantes, 374). At this time period there were several political leaders in the Pacific Northwest states that supported the KKK and their movements. This included Kaspar K. Kubli, the speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, Walter M. Pierce, Oregon’s governor, and Washington state’s lawmaker Homer T. Bone. This definitely helped the movement gain momentum and more followers during this time (Schwantes, 374-377).
Another reason that the KKK gained support is because of the ideas they proposed and got support from by people in powerful positions regarding the states. “In 1922, together with Freemasons, Klansmen spearheaded a drive to outlaw private and parochial schools, which they viewed as the primary obstacle in their drive for ‘Americanism’ and national conformity. Such schools were operated by a number of groups, most notably the Roman Catholics. The Klan’s weapon was an initiative that if passed by Oregon voters would require all children between the ages of eight and eighteen to attend public schools. The rallying cry of its sponsors was ‘One Flag! One School! One Language!’ Opponents invoked the American tradition of free choice, but that apparently help little appeal; at the polls that fall, Oregonians by a margin of eleven thousand votes made their state the first in America to mandate a monolithic school system” (Schwantes, 375). These movements pushed by large amounts of people made changes by joining together and expressing what they thought “Americanism” represented and gained supporters from residents of the states who chose to either believe or be convinced of the racial fallacies. White men of the Pacific Northwest completely believed that diversity did not represent what they wanted to be a part of the United States. They believed that whites were the dominant race and their beliefs were the correct ones and nobody else could believe anything else. This is somewhat comical remembering that whites invaded the land called North America that originally belonged to Native Americans, who were now looked at as the minority and ‘non-American’. Much of the reasoning of the KKK was based off of pure racism and didn’t have much else to back up their claims on why their way was the right one, besides their clouded idea that they were the only way to live right in the Unites States and Pacific Northwest.
Another political movement that was started up by the energy and passion of the KKK was the Alien Property Act. “Oregon voters as a whole manifested similarly contradictory tendencies. Their legislators in 1923 passed the Alien Property Act, which in effect prohibited the state’s growing number of Japanese residents from owning and leasing land. Corresponding measures had already been passed by California and Washington and upheld by federal courts. Yet Oregon voters in 1926 finally repealed the constitutional provision barring blacks from the state, and the following year they eliminated restrictions that discriminated against black and Chinese voters. In 1922 the Klan stirred up prejudice against Jews (who constituted approximately 1 percent of the state’s population) in an unsuccessful effort to prevent Julius Meier from serving on a Portland commission to study whether to hold a special exposition” (Schwantes, 377). It’s clearly evident that the KKK held power in the political world from outside of the offices and buildings. The groups spread out across the Pacific Northwest made changes by having numbers and passion towards their movement that effected many, mainly ethnicities and Catholics and Jews. The KKK took every opportunity they had to pick on the weaker link and boost their confidence that they were the dominating race.
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