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Arkansas Ku Klux Klan collection

Arkansas Ku Klux Klan collection

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Finding aid for the Arkansas Ku Klux Klan collection

BC.MSS.04.30

Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
100 Rock Street
Little Rock, Arkansas, 72201
(501) 320-5700
arkinfo@cals.org

August 26, 2011



Repository: Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Creator:Central Arkansas Library System. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. (Little Rock, Ark.)
Title: Arkansas Ku Klux Klan collection
Dates: 1868-1972
Quantity: 0.42 Linear feet
Abstract:This collection contains materials related to the Ku Klux Klan in Arkansas and across the South.
Identification: BC.MSS.04.30
Language: English

Arrangement

This collection is arranged topically and chronologically, with new materials added as they are acquired.


Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials related to the Ku Klux Klan in Arkansas and across the South. It includes correspondence and documents from A. C. Hightower (Grand Dragon of the Realm of Arkansas). Other documents related to the Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan include meeting and ceremony details, as well as pamphlets, booklets, and magazines. Two items, folder 14 and folder 50, are from the initial incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstrucation era of the 19th century.


Historical Information

The Ku Klux Klan first appeared in Arkansas in April 1868, just a month after African Americans first voted in Arkansas elections. Members of the Klan began terrorizing the state’s freedmen and their supporters, as it had in other Southern states. Following the fall 1868 election, Governor Clayton imposed martial law in the troubled areas and called out the state militia to restore order. On March 13, 1869, the Arkansas General Assembly passed a law that made the Ku Klux Klan illegal. This law required all office holders to take an oath that they had no connection to the Klan.

A resurgence in Klan activity occurred starting in 1915, and states such as Arkansas were home to newly forming Klan groups during the 1920s. By 1955, the threat of school integration ushered in a new Klan era even though independent Klan groups were a fixture on the American landscape in some way or another from the 1920s on.

One of the first official Klan acts in Arkansas was a donation to the Prescott (Nevada County) Christmas fund in December 1921. Shortly thereafter, other Klan groups formed with the goal of "cleaning up" local communities - an example set by groups in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Leaders used the Klan as a device to regulate morals and to uphold Victorian standards, especially for women. Bigotry, the Red Scare, and anti-unionism were also important issues for the 1920s Klan in Arkansas and other Southern states. Eventually, enforcement of the prohibition of alcohol became one of the Klan's leading goals. In 1922, Klansmen in Union County torched saloons that had sprung up after the oil boom, and local bootleggers became a target for Klan reprisals.

Strikes on the North Arkansas Railroad brought the Ozark region of Arkansas to the attention of early Klan organizers. They effectively targeted the communities of Paragould (Greene County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Harrison (Boone County), Heber Springs (Cleburne County), and Marshall (Searcy County) as sites for Klan activity. Local resentment toward strikers enabled the Klan to become entrenched in this part of the state. With support from concerned citizen groups, the Klan was able to gain a following in non-urban Arkansas based on restoring the local economy, severely sanctioning union strikers and their sympathizers, and running bootleggers out of town.

According to historian Charles C. Alexander, the first chartered Arkansas Klan organization was formed during the early 1920s in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The group reportedly retained 7,800 male members during its zenith. More typical of the urban Klan movement of the time, the Little Rock Klan organization was powerful enough to influence local and county politics through "elimination primaries." In 1922, a slate of Klan-endorsed candidates gained control of Pulaski County politics. Little Rock was also home to a national women's Klan order that formed in 1923 as an adjunct to the men's group. Two junior Klan groups were established in 1924 in Little Rock and Arkadelphia (Clark County) as well.

Internal battles and money troubles eventually weakened the Little Rock Klan, and it was in shambles by 1926. Economic woes brought on by the Great Depression further weakened Klan groups throughout the South, and the national Klan organization in Georgia ceased operations in 1944 due to tax problems. During the years following school integration and the end of Jim Crow, Klan groups across the South fragmented due to infiltration by law enforcement, internal conflicts, and lawsuits by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Source: Dentice, Dianne. "Ku Klux Klan (after 1900)" Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.


Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

Arkansas -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century
Ku Klux Klan.
Ku Klux Klan. Realm of Arkansas.
Little Rock (Ark.)

Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Restrictions on Use

Non-circulating, in-house use only.


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Arkansas Ku Klux Klan collection, MSS.04.30, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute

Acquisition Information

Purchased, 2004


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