As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the KKK was often able to portray the organization as a benevolent group, say like the Eagles or Lions club. This allowed them to attract some supporters who might have been initially unaware, or pretended to be unaware of the truer posture of the Klan. I have been re-reading issues of the KKK newspaper, The Fiery Cross, and am still amazed at how sophisticated their “spin” could be.
They were adroit at portraying themselves as “100 Percent American” and a Protestant Christian organization, which supported teaching the bible in schoos (which attracted many to the cause) and helping out those in need. The editors were especially adept at soft pedaling their anti-Negro feelings (and articles sometimes appeared in which they noted the Klan giving money to Black churches). For the most part the most open attacks were on Catholics, Jews, and “aliens.” But much space was devoted to the Klan as “friend to the community.”
A prime example was Klan attendance at funerals. Many issues carried a photograph of solemn Klan members honoring the dead. One such photo entitled “Funeral at West Terre Haute” appeared in the August 10, 1923 edition. The caption read “Above are the Women of the Ku Klux Klan[their women’s group also donned the white robe] at the grave of Mrs. Katie Simms, where they conducted a most solemn and impressive ceremony at the funeral recently. Love tokens of evergreens were dropped by each one as they knelt while the reader read a silent chapter from then Bible A large cross of red roses was left just before they moved silently away. The ceremony took place at Bethesda Cemetery at West Terre Haute.”
In December of that same year an article told of West Terre Haute Klansmen giving the minister of the Vermillion United Brethren Church a $100.00 to help rebuild his burned church.
(Above image of a Klan funeral vistit in Daviess County, Indiana courtesy of Wabash Valley Visions and Voices)