Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Thomas Brown

Abstract

Although not widely known by the modern public, during the height of the Ku Klux Klan's second rise to power in the 1920's, a women's auxiliary was formed – The WKKK, or Women of the Ku Klux Klan. The WKKK was a crucial component in the normalization of the Klan in this era, as they organized public events such as picnics, parades, and ceremonies to draw in the masses. It is imperative however, to move beyond the typical historiographical depiction of Klanswomen’s impact as public event planning because it downplays and ignores their foundational role in creating modern racism. One of the most insidious and lasting means the WKK used to establish white supremacy was through indoctrination and education. By examining the educational impact of the WKKK, we can illuminate how Klanswomen helped to secure white supremacy and played a role in establishing American systemic racism.

The WKKK particularly enacted this agenda through educational methods such as an internal focus on indoctrination of members and external support of public schools. Individual women were both instructed in Klan ideology and Klan positions on issues of the era and were held responsible for teaching such ideological foundations to children and the wider society. Children’s auxiliaries shaped and formed impressionable young minds to grow into white supremacists, if not Klanswomen themselves. The public school system grew to prominence in large part because of the support these supremacists lent it and the policies they impressed upon it, which were dependent on inherent valuations of racial inequality and powerful white modes of operation. Understanding how white women insidiously and powerfully used education to assist in creating systemic racism matters in the present, because it is key to acknowledging and beginning to dismantle a code of racism that Americans still operate by today.

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