THE KU KLUX KLAN IN OREGON

100 years ago the Ku Klux Klan infiltrated Oregon on the promise to preserve the white Protestant dream of an Oregon utopia.Join ORP in bringing this history of the Oregon Ku Klux Klan to light. The Portland Tribune is running a five-part series on the Klan in Oregon written by ORP partner and retired journalist, Steve Law. Law explores the history of the Klan, their influence in Oregon, and the relevant ramifications for us today. We are in a centennial mark for when the Klan was active in Oregon, and it is incumbent upon our pursuit of justice to remember and repair this history, lest the Klan will ride again.

PART 1: OREGON'S HISTORY WITH THE KKK RUNS DEEP

Written by Steve Law

How much do you know about the Klan's activities in Oregon? Did you know that Portland was the central operating hub of the Klan in Oregon and the the main victims of their ire were Catholics?

While the Klan's presence has diminished over the last 100 years, their rhetoric and beliefs are alive and well in popular culture. Political candidates across the country are attempting to ride to power on America First ideology, anti-immigrant sentiment, and Christian nationalism. Our failure to remember and repair the legacy of systemic white supremacy is what has allowed that legacy to continue.

Portland Tribune_KKK-Graphic.JPG

PART 2: THEY WERE A POLITICAL POWER IN OREGON. THEY ALSO WERE THE KLAN.

Written by Steve Law

In the early 1920's, the Klan overwhelmed Oregon politics. In fact, the Klan may have been the single greatest influencer in Oregon's 1922 election cycle. The Klan used their growing influence to install Klansman into local government, the judiciary,  and state legislature while also helping sway the governor's race and the seat of Portland's U.S. Congressional district. The Klan became synonymous with Oregon politics.

The Klan of the 1920's was not the violent Klan of the late nineteenth century that largely terrorized the African American community. Revived in large part thanks to D.W. Griffith's film, Birth of a Nation, which painted the Klan as defenders of American identity, the Klan of the 1920's represented a respectable white supremacy in the American political discourse. In the South, this respectable white supremacy largely evolved into the White Citizens Council. Later on in the 1970's, David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, shifted the nation's Klansman toward integrating the mainstream. Today, the hood on horseback has been replaced by a bow tie on cable news.

IMG_2656.JPG

PART 3: A PUSH TO END CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

Written by Steve Law

The Ku Klux Klan was passionate about public school education. More specifically, they were passionate about making sure their vision of 100% Americanism was instilled in the nation's school children. They believed public education was essential to Americanizing "Un-American" foreigners, many of whom were Catholic. America was to be taught as the world's most exemplary country, founded on the supreme principles of white Christian Protestantism. The Klan believed private schools, and especially private Catholic schools, threatened the indoctrination of a singular American narrative. According to the Klan, Catholics could never reflect 100% Americanism because of heir dual loyalty to a foreign entity. The Klan sought to eliminate private schools in Oregon in order to maintain the purity of the American education system.

"The Compulsory Education Act," which eliminated private schools in Oregon, was passed by voters in 1922, a major show of force for the Klan in Oregon. However, the law was eventually found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1926. Thus, the Oregon Klan's largest victory was rendered mute just a few years later.

IMG_2682.JPG