White sheets in Washington, D.C.
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White sheets in Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1915 and inspired by the Reconstruction-era organization of the same name, the second Ku Klux Klan shared with its nineteenth-century namesake a deep racism, a fascination with mystical regalia, and a willingness to use violence to silence its foes. It also professed anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism as strongly as it affirmed racism. The “secret” society had 3 million members during its heyday in the early 1920s; roughly half its members lived in metropolitan areas, and although it enjoyed considerable support in the South, the Klan was strongest in the Midwest and Southwest. In this photograph, forty thousand members of the Klan march down Pennsylvania Avenue on August 8, 1925. Organized to counter reports of faltering enrollment, this “konklave“ succeeded in attracting national attention but marked the peak of Klan power in the 1920s.

Source: Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.