My Grandfather and the Ku Klux Klan in Retrospect 1924

Evidence of membership into the Klan.

Evidence of membership into the Klan.

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.”













A Family Homecoming: Down on the Farm



It was a  quiet, cloudy evening with the moon shining behind the clouds like a silver oyster in 1945.  The darkness of the night settled over the barnyard of animals like a blanket of stillness only disturbed by the occasional hooting of an owl.  In the rolling, green hills of Distant, Pennsylvania sat the unpretentious  Shelton\Moore family farm.  The farm  with its old barn and house creaked from random gusts and  billows of wind that  swept over and through its aging foundation .The farm provided food, clothing, and shelter during the good times and the bad times. Tonight was a time for a family homecoming.  James and Mary Alice welcomed family with homemade hospitality.  Everything eaten that evening came from the farm, especially the jams and apple butter that was served with coffee as desert.

As the daylight hours dimmed, oil lamps were lighted and placed at the ends of a long, family table.  The smell of fresh coffee filled the air mixed with the aroma of homemade apple pie.   The flame from the lamps glimmered and  flickered while painting glowing reflections against the silverware and china.   As everyone  passed, and tasted  the desert; there was a mood of solemn reverence, a peaceful sharing, and an unspoken love between and among the family as they bonded.  As a prayer was recited that gave thanks for their daily bread; the children began to understand the importance of saying the right words, thinking the right thoughts, and living the right way.  These understandings were implied by the words and actions of James and Mary Alice.

Now it was time for storytelling, everyone was dismissed to the living room, where they sat collectively around the wood burning fireplace that glowed with red and blue embers.  The fired filled the room with warm caresses and dream filled thoughts of sleepiness.  The men walked over to the fire and lighted cigars before falling into a comfortable chair.  Grandpa brought an oil lamp into the room and placed it on the table next to his chair where the grand children sat around and listened to his tales.  The children sat on a planked floor that was  covered with cowhides and a bear skinned  rug.  It was the bear skinned rug that caught the inquisitiveness of Roger that evening.  “Grandpa, how did you get such a thing?”   He snickered and smiled, grandpa knew it was his cue to begin the evening of storytelling.  As the hours passed, the warm fire and the effects of a wholesome dinner had everyone in the mood for bedtime.  As Roger slept that night, he remembered that grandpa loved storytelling and loved his family.

As I hung up the phone for the evening, I paused to thank my cousin, Roger, for the story  of  his family memory.


Salty Apple Pie: Pre-World War II


Aunt Jeanette's HouseAs I stood on the banks of the Allegheny River watching the waterfowl swimming and flying over and around the docked pontoon boats across the way; I recollected a childhood story told to me by my grandmother.  It was a story about my father and uncle growing up in the small town of Kittanning, Pennsylvania.  Here I stand in 2012, I had made a road trip with my wife, Susan, to revisit my father’s birthplace, retelling her the story of “Salty Apple Pie.”    It was about 1939, a warm summer’s day, when young boys would swim in the river while cooling down from the hot days sun.  On such a day, my father, Reynolds, dressed and headed down the steep, ridged Johnston Avenue going home.  On his way he would pass the house of Aunt Jeanette, who was known for her great apple pie.  As he walked by her house on Wilson Avenue, just across from the Fourth Ward School, he smelled the aroma of freshly baked apple pie.  It was unmistakable!  The warm summer breeze was blowing the scent of the pie through the neighborhood.  Reynolds caught the scent and began to run towards her house, as he had done each day after school to catch  a chance at a delicious treat.  He would always knock first before entering the unlocked screen door.  “Aunt Jeanette, its me.”  The aroma of cinnamon and apples created images in his mind of a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over slice of  warm pie. Aunt Jeanette answered the door,  “Rennie, where’s your brother?”  I left him at the river, he’ll be along sooner or later.”  She apologized, ” I’m sorry about the apple pie, but there’s been a small misstep on my part, I mixed in salt thinking it was sugar.”  Disheartened, he replied, “Sucks, I really was looking forward to a piece of your special pie.”  She ordered, ” Rennie, you better throw out the pie, excuse for a minute, I have to run an errand.”  There was a moment of silence, as she left slamming the screen door.  Rennie’s thoughts began to entertain the idea of playing a practical joke on his brother,Jack, who was 4 years his senior.

Rennie ran out of the house, down the steps, and across the street to the school yard, looking for Jack.  “Hey Jackie, Aunt Jeanette made us some apple pie.”  Jack’s eyes opened wider with each thought, he turned without a word and raced across the street and into Aunt Jeanette’s house. Jack found no one home, so he decided to help himself to a piece of pie by pouring some cold milk over a slice.  There were few comforts living in a small mining town, but eating homemade pie was at the top of the list.  Jack’s expectations of pleasure turned into a mouth full of disgust, as he spat out the pie into the sink.  He was duped, he was mad, and he was going to get even with his younger brother.

Later that same afternoon, Jack returned home in a crabby mood and with a  surly mouth. He had been fooled by his younger brother and was humiliated.  As Jack walked in the door, he could hear his brother telling their mom about the tomfoolery.

As I finished telling the story to Susan, we decided to visit the schoolyard and Aunt Jeanette’s house on Wilson Avenue, laughing about a tale of two brothers that has been handed down over the generations. All parties to the story have left this earth, but their spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of those who loved them.  To this day, I love apple pie.