Ku Klux Klan outfit
Coat with cape, cotton
Port Jervis, Orange County, New York, 1920
Accession number ISM.2007.5.1-2
The Ku Klux Klan
The Ku Klux Klan is an overtly racist group. Although there have always been different branches, all have a common goal: to maintain the supremacy of the white race over Black people. While membership in the Klan has fluctuated during its history, the scope of its hatred has expanded to add Jews, Catholics, homosexuals and immigrants.
The Ku Klux Klan came into existence at the end of the American Civil War in the mid 1860s and lasted until the 1870s. It was organised by ex-confederate soldiers opposed to Reconstruction policies.
The second Klan was founded in 1915 by William J Simmons. The first Klan had been Democratic and southern; the new Klan was more Republican and was influential throughout the United States.
At its height in the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for lynching innocent Black men, women and children; even going so far as to murder uniformed Black soldiers returning from World War One.
Since the 1920s the Klan has gone through several revivals, particularly in the 1960s against the Civil Rights Movement, but it has never regained the support it once had.
This Ku Klux Klan outfit
This Ku Klux Klan outfit is from the 1920s. It was donated by a gentleman who has relatives in Orange County, New York, and was the property of the step-father of a family friend.
The outfit has been displayed in the International Slavery Museum to challenge misconceptions about the nature of racism in the United States. The fact that the outfit was worn by a Ku Klux Klan member from Orange County in New York state highlights the fact that this overtly racist organisation was nationwide in the USA and not restricted to the southern states.
Very few objects of this kind are on display outside the United States.