Smithsonian: Washington British Loyalist

The KKK on Parade

Susan Lawrence Davis’s 1924 Authentic History, Ku Klux Klan, 1865-1877, repeats the pattern Fleming created in 1905, revealing Pike’s KKK role but treating him and the Klan sympathetically. The Davis book was written to celebrate the new, 20th-century KKK, which was just then staging full-dress mass marches in Washington and northern cities such as Detroit. In her chapter on General Pike’s leadership of the Klan, Miss Davis applauds Pike’s clever stewardship of the KKK secret organization. She reproduces in her KKK history an oil portrait of Albert Pike given to her for the KKK book by Pike’s son. The same is true of other book-length histories of the Klan and numerous published biographies of Albert Pike: Pike’s role as Klan leader or KKK boss of Arkansas is discussed, but treated as if KKK terrorist murder of African-Americans was “regrettable” but “only natural” and “understandable.” In his book, The Tragic Era, Claude Bowers describes the KKK as patriotic southerners defending their way of life from out-of-control blacks and northerners. Bowers, who served many years as the U.S. ambassador to Spain and to Chile, described Albert Pike as one of the handful of distinguished, respectable founders of the KKK and the Klan’s leader in Arkansas.

Bowers wrote that much of the KKK’s alleged violence was actually perpetrated by Negroes disguised in Klan robes to wreak vengeance on other Negroes! Rather than quake in fear when the white southern masons or the ADL puts the muscle on, a citizen or his political representative ought to put this question to General Pike’s defenders: “Do you say that Professor Fleming, Miss Davis, Mr. Bowers, and all the other pro-Confederate historians were liars when they wrote of Pike’s marvelous deeds as KKK founder and leader?” They want to have it both ways: first to issue propaganda justifying Klan terrorism as the work of “respectable” men like Pike; later, when their hero is under attack, to claim that their own propaganda slanders their man!

John Covici

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