A Visible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan and American Culture, 1915-1930 Open Access
Downloadable ContentDownload PDF
This dissertation is the first comprehensive examination of the nativist andbigoted organization's cultural endeavors. Klan members were not simply extremists on the fringe of society. The Klan of the 1920s had a far more complex relationship with mainstream America than many have acknowledged. Studies of the organization have increasingly agreed that the interwar Klan is best understood as part of the long history of locally oriented political and social movements in the United States, albeit in unusual garb. The Klan's place in American culture, however, remains largely overlooked. An understanding of Klansmen as enthusiastic and active participants in American culture reinforces the growing consensus that its membership was a reflection of the white Protestant population of the United States. The often sympathetic treatment of the Klan in numerous non-Klan cultural works – in adventure novels, on the stage and screen, and in song – offers an important indicator of the heterogeneous spectrum of opinion on the organization. That members of the so-called Invisible Empire were also cultural creators able to reach a wide audience demonstrates the organization's prominent (if not always acceptable) place in interwar society. With a national newspaper syndicate, one of the nation's most powerful radio transmitters, and sports teams that peaceably engaged in games against a variety of non-Klan teams, the supposedly secret organization had a very public presence in American life in the 1920s.