The Ugly Truth: Remembering Ithaca's Klan Years
The image is a striking one.
The day is October 3, 1925 – a rainy but otherwise fair-weathered day in the City of Ithaca – Cornell had just completed a rousing 26-0 defeat of Niagara University on the gridiron and, marching two by two toward Circus Flats (the site of the present day Ithaca Skate Park), more than 500 people march in time to a spirited band and a float of children, depicting a Bible study. At the head of the procession, a Klansman on a white horse strides through the ground, flag raised in the name of “the American government, pure homes and the Bible in the schools,” as posters distributed throughout the event read. That evening, they burned a cross – the third such recorded incident in the city in three years: an event the Ithaca Journal characterized the following day as “an attractive spectacle.”
In 1925 the, Ku Klux Klan was at the height of its influence, one which wasn’t just relegated to the areas of the country most offended by threats to the hold of white supremacy; an association with upwards of 6 million members (though it has been lowballed at 2 million by some) and an annual income of $75 million. It was a fraternal organization then where membership could be had for only $10 and, for many, was perceived as an organization committed not to the persecution of Jews, Catholics, blacks and other groups, but as one dedicated to the maintenance of white supremacy and the illusion of a glory now tarnished and diluted by a new wave of immigrants: the Klan of the 1920s, in literature distributed at the Circus Flats that day, claimed not to be opposed to any race, religion or creed, but rather stood for the principle of “pure Americanism.”By Nick Reynolds Aug 30, 2017