In the 1920s, a reborn Ku Klux Klan focused not on racial matters but on social behavior, with a peculiar, not-so-subtle intervention in family affairs.
In the social unease that followed World War I in the United States, some groups sought to preserve the right kind of Americanism. Often that amounted to an affirmation of white Protestant morality, now challenged by violations of prohibition, a new sexual freedom, and a general loosening of traditional strictures.
It was a ripe situation for the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, born in the South during Reconstruction but out of business since the early 1870s. Like the earlier Klan, the new version saw itself as a sort of private police force, able to accomplish things that government agencies could not. But its focus now was not on racial matters but on social behavior.
Thomas R. Pegram, an authority on the hooded order, here looks at one of the most peculiar aspects of the new Klan’s activity—its not-so-subtle intervention in family affairs. His story reveals another instance in American history when compromise became a dirty word, when proponents of certain ideas wanted not only to declare them but to make sure that everyone complied.