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The history of the second Ku Klux Klan discussed in this article can be further explored via the "Mapping the Second Ku Klux Klan, 1919-1940" Project.

The full dataset from the project is also available for download and use:

Date of Submission

November 2015


In September 1921 the New York World published a series of articles exposing the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc., which had just started recruiting members across the country. Nearly two-dozen other newspapers carried the series, and the Klan became national news. Historians have argued that the World’s series had the ironic effect of publicizing the Klan to the nation, leading directly to the Klan’s millions of members a few years later. This article proposes that the World actually aroused opposition to the Klan, put forward arguments against the Klan that others would also use, and caused the Klan to shift its appeal away from vigilantism to politics. The World’s exposure of the Klan was more successful than the Klan’s later numbers seem to indicate.


Copyright © 2015 John Kneebone

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VCU History Publications