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How Prohibition Fueled the Rise of the Ku Klux Klan

January 15, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

If you only read . “Prohibition became a way in which that could be enforced in local communities.”

The two major organizations that lobbied for national Prohibition—the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and men’s Anti-Saloon League—blamed Catholic immigrants in the 1910s for the “saloon culture” they felt was plaguing the nation. The League even argued that the U.S. needed to pass a national ban before its demographics changed too much.

READ MORE: ‘Ku Klux Kiddies’: The KKK’s Little-Known Youth Movement

“They believed that if they didn’t push for a constitutional prohibition before the 1920 census, and before congressional districts were reapportioned based on population increase, that they wouldn’t be able to get prohibition because there’d be too many acculturated new citizens who had been immigrants in the previous two decades who would prevent that,” Pegram says.

And indeed, the U.S. did pass it before then. The states ratified the 18th Amendment on January 16th, 1919, and it took effect in 1920. During that decade, the criminal justice system expanded as police disproportionately arrested people who were immigrants, black, poor and working-class. But there were also plenty of Prohibition-supporting white Protestants who thought the law wasn’t doing enough to stop the bootleggers they read about in the tabloids.

That’s where the KKK stepped in. It sold itself to those people as a law enforcement organization that could do what the government couldn’t—put a stop to the Catholic immigrants supposedly violating the law.

Nelson Burroughs, a Bishop, was kidnapped by the KKK in 1924 and help captive for 17 days where he was branded on his chest and forehead while the kidnappers attempted to force Burroughs to renounce the Catholic Church.

“The reason that the Klan was able to basically bring millions of Protestant white evangelical Americans to its ranks in the 1920s is definitely related to the passage of Prohibition and the 18th Amendment,” says Lisa McGirr, a history professor at Harvard University and author of The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State.

“Prohibition provided the Klan essentially a kind of new mandate for its anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, white Protestant nationalist mission,” says says. “The Klan often gained a foothold in local communities in the 1920s by arguing that it would clean up communities, it would get rid of bootleggers and moonshiners.”

READ MORE: How Prohibition Put the ‘Organized’ in Organized Crime

The Klan began raiding Catholic immigrants’ …read more

Source: HISTORY

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