Clinton Barlet Moore, my grandfather, of Kittanning, Pa joined the KKK in September of 1924. He lived in a small town with a population of about 2500, his highest year of education was elementary school. He joined the Klan as did 250,000 others in Pennsylvania in the name of American patriotism, white supremacy, and his faith in God.
The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920’s became a powerful political force backing prohibition and immigration reform. They were a powerful political force that supported new laws and legislation in the name of social justice. The Klan, in robes and hats, visited churches on Sunday as they recruited pastors, and visited schools bringing American flags to classrooms to gain the support of children and teachers.The Klan’s propaganda was based on white supremacy which created and produced biased attitudes of racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice against minorities; such as, Jews, Catholics, African-Americans, and Eastern Europeans.
The blue-collar membership of the Klan feared a loss of their jobs and their way of life as minorities moved into their communities. The Klan was conservative and wanted the status quo calling for their version of family values to continue for its members. The Klan cloaked the truth behind its white robes while scripting propaganda with its pen. Clinton was one of many unsuspecting Americans convinced that he was following the gospel truth. The Protestant ministers spoke from the pulpit using religion and Bible verses to justify the need for supporting patriotism, family values, and political action.
Clinton was a young man with a small town perspective, conforming to the wave of propaganda that was fueled by Klan views on religion and patriotism.
In defense of his choice to join the Klan, Clinton did not have a modern day view of the world and the nation, and he was living without a Civil Rights Act that would have protected the constitutional rights of minorities. Another factor that contributed to his choice was the Klan’s appeal to the working class. The working man of the day was seeking a voice in politics. Women were seeking equality with their constitutional right to vote. The Klan appealed to both groups. The Klan accepted women and their political opinions into the culture of the Klan, and supported blue collar worker’s rights. In short, the 1920’s was a time for the Klan to seek and find a voice in American social change.
In later years, the Klan would self destruct and fall .It was during the depression of the 1930’s that the Klan went underground only to re-surface again later in the Southern states in the name of JIm Crow Laws. The Klan was disappearing, but social, religious, and political bias continued to plague the country into the twenty first century, as the majority of citizens of the country sought to protect the human rights of all Americans.
My grandfather will be remembered for his love of family, life, and God. He was a gentle, thoughtful, dedicated man who always wanted to do the right thing. Clinton’s joining the Klan in 1924 was influenced by a perceived righteousness and was wrong. What can be learned? Discrimination was cloaked in patriotism, religion, and family values to give the members a perceived permission to violate the rights of other Americans.
In America today protecting human rights is important to the equality and freedom of all Americans.
An acclaimed author, Eric Fonner wrote in his book, The Story of American Freedom, “Over the course of our history, freedom has been a living truth for some Americans and a cruel mockery for others.”