Ku Klux Klan on parade - in the 1920s the racist organization experienced something of a revival and held rallies, parades and marches around the country
By equating white Anglo-Saxon Protestantism with "true Americanism," the post-war revival of the Klan was not only anti-black but also took a stand against Roman Catholics, Jews, foreigners and organized labor. It was fueled by growing hostility to the surge in immigration that America experienced in the early 20th century along with fears of communist revolution akin to the Bolshevik triumph in Russia in 1917.
In the guise of protecting community morals, it expanded its victims of vigilante justice to those it deemed lawbreakers, bootleggers, unfaithful spouses, corrupt politicians, etc.—all with no judge or jury beyond the local secret "klavern." Whippings, tar-and-featherings, threats of violence, and for black victims, lynching, became common practice in some regions of the South, Southwest, and Midwest.
The organization took as its symbol a burning cross and held rallies, parades, marches and even public picnics around the country. At its peak in the 1920s, Klan membership exceeded 4 million people nationwide. As the Klan marketed its message nationwide membership climbed into the millions. Many groups came to resemble community fraternal organizations rather than bands of masked nightriders. and they promoted Klan sympathizers for political office. While some eschewed violence, they nonetheless fostered suspicion and prejudice toward local minority groups (e.g., French Canadians in Maine, Japanese in California, Native Americans in the southwest).
"Such blending of the extreme and the ordinary was common in the Klan of the 1920s," writes historian Nancy MacLean; "indeed the blurring proved a source of strength." The resulting "overlap with the mainstream" led to several years of explosive growth and relative acceptability for the Klan, visible in its widespread political influence. After its heyday in the mid-1920s, the Klan fueled its rapid demise through internal feuding, financial scandal, and the sensational 1925 murder trial of Grand Dragon D. C. Stephenson. By 1930 the Klan had virtually disappeared from the American political landscape, its membership less than 50,000. The Fiery Cross had self-immolated.