White Only: Jim Crow in America
Early Klan image
The Ku Klux Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866 to combat Reconstruction reforms and intimidate African Americans. By 1870 similar organizations such as the Knights of the White Camelia and the White Brotherhood had sprung up across the South. Through fear, brutality, and murder, these terrorist groups helped to overthrow local reform-minded governments and restore white supremacy, and then largely faded away.
KKK robe and hood
By the mid-1920s the Klan was again a powerful political force in both the South and the North, spreading hatred against African Americans, immigrants, Catholics, and Jews. Klan membership plummeted later in the decade after a series of scandals involving its leadership. But by then, the Klan had inflamed racial hatred and strengthened the political power of white supremacists in many parts of the country. This Ku Klux Klan robe and hood date from the 1920s.
KKK parade in Washington
Demonstrating their political power, Klansmen triumphantly parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., on September 13, 1926, in full regalia.
(Courtesy of Library of Congress)
Ballot—No Negro Equality
The fight over civil rights was never just a southern issue. This ballot is from the race for governor of Ohio in 1867. Allen Granbery Thurman’s campaign included the promise of barring black citizens from voting. He narrowly lost to future president Rutherford B. Hayes. Thurman was then appointed U.S. Senator for Ohio, where he worked to reverse many Reconstruction-era civil rights reforms.
Thurmond campaign poster
Race and white privilege have long been central issues in American politics. At the Democratic presidential convention in 1948, southern delegates broke with the party over civil rights and formed the State’s Rights Party.
Their nominee for president was a prominent segregationist, South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond. He received more than a million votes and carried four southern states—Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. His campaign sent a clear message to the nation that the South would not give up segregation without a fight.