A. Plan of Investigation
The focus of this investigation was to understand and determine to what extent D.C. Stephenson affected the fall of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s. During the 1920s the Klan had an all time high of membership across the United States and was a large part of American society. The Klan was prevalent in everyday society and in politics, and was a positive presence for many Americans. However, the Klan was pushed into a negative light due to Stephenson kidnapping and raping Madge Oberholtzer. Membership in the Klan dropped shortly after, and many blame Stephenson. In order to decide whether or not Stephenson was responsible, the Klan was examined during Stephenson’s involvement, and the aftermath of his involvement. D.C. Stephenson was also examined to better understand how he could have changed the course of the KKK. Sources that discussed the Klan and Stephenson were looked at, like They Called Themselves the KKK, and. Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. Those sources, among others, helped give a better understanding of D.C. Stephenson and how he affected the KKK.
B. Summary of Evidence
The Ku Klux Klan began in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1865 (Martin). It started out as a group of men creating a social club, mainly for confederate soldiers who had fought in the war. Its name is derived from kuklos, meaning circle of friends (Martin). It was a secret society with rules and codes, and men were given special titles (Bartoletti,25). The nature of the Klan was not originally to be destructive, but as it began to grow and more white men and confederate soldiers joined, the purpose changed. Tension grew across the country as Reconstruction went under way and white southerners were unhappy. The Klansmen began to ride around at night trying to scare the freedmen, but then things became more serious. The men would patrol roads and force the blacks to stay in their homes at night. (Bartolleti 31). The Klan ran amuck and stayed very powerful for a time but Congress passed anti-Klan laws in 1870 that temporarily put an end to the KKK (Martin).
However, in 1915 the Klan was reborn. William Joseph Simmons resurrected the Klan, and this rebirth led to the largest Klan following in history (Martin). The movie The Birth of a Nation, released in 1915, also helped increase the Klan’s popularity at this time (Ku Klux Klan). This second KKK was still against African Americans but now “Catholics, Jews, Immigrants, liberals, welfare recipients, and labor unions” were added as well (Bartoletti 31). This was partly due to World War 1, but also other factors, including the Klan feeling endangered due to all the immigrants. At this time Klan ideals became “State, School, Home, and Church” (McDonnell). The Klan’s membership began to grow throughout the 20s, exceeding 4 million at one point (Ku Klux Klan). In Indiana, where Stephenson was Grand Dragon, 30 percent of the white men were Klansmen (Lutholtz).
As this increase in...