This collection consists of the records of the Klavern of the Knights of Ku Klux Klan, Mt. Rainier Klan No. 51, which was founded in 1915. Documents include minutes and correspondence of Klan No. 51, publications concerning the Ku Klux Klan in Maryland and the United States, and a movie poster advertising "The Burning Cross."
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1.50 Linear Feet
The records of Klan No. 51, Mt. Rainier, Maryland, date from 1924 to 1965. They consist of minutes and correspondence of the Klan, as well as a movie poster and publications by or about the Ku Klux Klan in general. Topics documented in the minutes, which comprise the bulk of the collection, include support of political candidates, including one of their members who ran for mayor, the possibility of merging with the Hyattsville Klan, investigations of suspected wife abuse, and disgruntlement that the fire department extinguished their cross at a cross burning.
The original Ku Klux Klan was created by six former Confederate soldiers and officers after the Civil War. Their goals were the restoration of the agriculturally-based and slavery-reliant economy of the pre-Civil War South, the elimination of Northerners who came to the South after the Civil War to profit from Reconstruction, and the suppression of Black people through violence and threatening actions. The original Klan was formed in 1865 and gradually lost influence after it officially disbanded in 1869. The Klan revival was the work of one-time minister William J. Simmons in 1915. The environment created in part by D. W. Griffith's movie "Birth of a Nation" fueled already present racist sentiments in many people. Incorporated as a fraternal order, the new Knights of the Ku Klux Klan believed in white supremacy and the superiority of native-born Americans over immigrants, and held Black people, Jewish people, and Catholic people in disdain. At different times they also rallied for the elimination of private schools and supported Prohibition. Due to the secretive nature of the Klan, accurate information is difficult to obtain. However, membership increased as the Klan spread, and by 1922 an estimated 200,000 men were Klan members nationwide, with 33,000 claimed in Maryland alone, in 72 chapters. In 1926, the Maryland Grand Dragon, Frank H. Beall, resigned, claiming that some of those at the national headquarters in Atlanta were "shamefully crooked" and "shockingly immoral." However, the Klan continued to exist in Maryland, though with reduced membership.
Klan activity was particularly strong in Prince George's County, where Mt. Rainier Klan No. 51 was based. The number of members of Klan No. 51, as listed in their records, varied from between forty and eighty. The group met regularly in rented meeting halls and held numerous outdoor "naturalization" ceremonies. The Mt. Rainier Klan was administered by such elected officers as the Exalted Cyclops, Klaliff, Klokard, Kludd, Kligriapp, Klabee, Kladd, Klarogo, Klexter, and Night Hawk. The members also formed a number of committees to consider issues and events such as schools, Klan Day, court room procedures, July 4th celebrations, bylaws, and cross burnings. And as a body, Klan No. 51 dealt with a variety of questions and concerns, including organization of a Junior Klan or a Ladies' Klan, amalgamation with the Hyattsville Klan, support of political candidates, cross burnings, efforts to increase membership, and planning for social events.
The Klan's anti-Catholic rhetoric of the 1920's faded somewhat and by the 1960's the Klan focused on resistance to integration and rallying against the Civil Rights Movement with threats, harassment, and occasional violence. In 1967, a bill was introduced in the Maryland State Legislature to make public wearing of masks illegal in many cases. This bill was aimed specifically at the hooded Klan members and their public rallies, but it did not become law. Eventually, disputes between the Klans caused splitting into at least three large factions, the United Klans of America, the Confederation of Independent Klans, and David Duke's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan remains active in Maryland today.
The records of Klan No. 51, Mt. Rainier, Maryland, Ku Klux Klan, were purchased from Charles Apfelbaum, Rare Books and Collections, in 1988.
The material has been divided into four series. Fragile items have been encapsulated and all materials have been placed in acid-free folders and in an acid-free box. The move poster, Series II, has been transferred to oversize storage.