Primary Source: Klan Pamphlet – American’s Take Head
Note: This resource was selected for educators to use to teach about the relationship between the Ku Klux Klan’s white supremacist ideas on immigration and the Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act). To use these resources responsibly, please view our teaching ideas, some of which are included in our teaching suggestions for this resource.
This primary source was culled from the Indiana State Library by historian Jill Weiss Simins.
The resources on this website can be used to:
- Build an understanding of public messages about migration through U.S. history.
- Inquire about the way public messages about migration influence how people think and act.
- Identify patterns of prejudice and prepares students to assess whether available public stories about migration are reliable and representative.
In an early KKK handbook, called the Kloran, the national organization suggested ten questions that must be answered satisfactorily before “naturalizing” a new member. Most of them asked about the potential member’s allegiance to the U.S. government and Christian principles with questions such as:
Do you esteem the United States of America and its institutions above any other government, civil, political or ecclesiastical, in the whole world?
The word “ecclesiastical” in this context referenced the Roman Catholic Church. The Klan claimed that Catholic immigrants to the U.S. served the Pope who headed a conspiracy to undermine American values. Thus they were not loyal American citizens. This anti-Catholic sentiment and rhetoric was especially strong in the Midwestern Klan, as seen in the pages of the Fiery Cross. However, not all of the membership questions veiled their hateful message. One question asked potential members bluntly:
Do you believe in and will you faithfully strive for the eternal maintenance of white supremacy?
In their minds, the white supremacy the Klan valued so dearly was presently under attack. Like the earlier Reconstruction Klan, the 1920s Klan viewed African Americans as members of an inferior race. In Indiana, members worried about the mixing of white and black races, especially as young Hoosiers gained access to cars, jazz clubs, and Hollywood movies. In 1922, the Fiery Cross blamed jazz for “inflaming the animal passions of romance-seeking youth.” And in 1924, the newspaper declared, “At this time the whole civilized structure is being threatened by the mixing of the white and black races.” It continued:
It is God’s purpose that the white man should preserve purity of blood and white supremacy in this country. Those who would have it otherwise or show leniency toward the mixing of white and colored races do not deserve the respect of anyone, much less of those who are trying to preserve American institutions, ideals and principles. A mongrel race and a mongrel civilization mean decay and ruin.
Thus, throughout Klan literature, any reference to Christian virtue or Protestant values should be understood as being imbued with white supremacist ideas. The Klan believed that God valued people of Anglo-Saxon, German, and Scandinavian descent more than people of other backgrounds. And they believed that it was their sacred duty to protect white domination of the U.S. For the Midwestern Klan, the main obstacle to this goal was not African Americans. Many Indiana towns had small numbers of Black residents, and there were plenty of institutionalized practices and laws in place by the 1920s to suppress African Americans. The Klan helped to keep these as standard practice. However, they saw immigrants, mainly Catholics but also Jews, as the main threat to a white, hegemonic, Protestant America.
This Klan pamphlet contains a reprinting of the following article:
Scum O’ The Melting-Pot
By Herbert Kaufman
Signed editorial feature, April 1920, issue “McClure’s Magazine.”
Transcription of article:
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, The Constitution and the Gettysburg Address are descendants of the Magna Carta – supreme symbols of Anglo-Saxon souls striving for freedom, justice and humanity. Anglo-Saxons established this nation, wrote its code and sent their sons into the wilderness to gather fresh stars for the flag.
Anglo-Saxon purpose cowed the intervening wastes, discovered world granaries beneath the prairies, scaled the grim western hills and unmasked El Dorado, questioned sullen deserts until they answered with gardens, and finished on the Pacific the great adventure begun at Plymouth Rock.
Then, when the last taunting horizon had been met and vanquished, when axe and rifle had won an empire, when scattered settlements were beaded on threads of steel, and a safe highway through opportunity had been paved in their generous blood, the pioneers, the risk-takers, tossed their port-keys into the ocean and invited all creation to come at leisure and share a “sure thing.”
The making of America is fundamentally an Anglo-Saxon achievement. Anglo-Saxon brains have guided the course of the republic. Our ideals are Anglo-Saxon, our social traditions, our standards of honor, our quality of imagination and our indomitability.
But Anglo-Saxon opinion is a fast diminishing force in national determinations. Strange shoddy has lately crept in the loom on which we weave our destiny; intermarriage is steadily diluting the foundation strain, and if we continue to hold gates and veins wide open, Anglo-Saxon conscience will soon cease to captain our genius.
It would slander a vast body of loyal citizens not to admit the devoted service of all who fought for us, wrought with us, valiantly supported the country in every crisis. Yet, a review of the past fifty years discloses that each successive tide of immigrants has displayed less and less sympathy with our institutions, is more confirmed in its racial solidarity, more resistant to environment and assimilation.
Ominous statistics proclaim the persistent development of a parasite mass within our domain – our political system is clogged with foreign bodies which stubbornly refuse to be absorbed, and means must be found to meet the menace. We have taken unto ourselves a Trojan horse crowded with ignorance, illiteracy and envy. We have Hessionized our essential enterprise until alien workers predominate the basic industries of the country and hold further progress at their regardless mercy.
Provocateurs of revenge and anarchy – opportunists and demagogues – are already forging their strength into a weapon that bodes democracy ill.
Reckless state laws admit them to local elections without process of naturalization, and inadequate naturalization tests put votes into their hands before we fairly get English into their heads.
The will of America is not calling land over for strikes – the fist of America is not brandishing I.W.W. bombs – the choice of America is not sophisticating Congress and legislatures with snide statesmanship.
Nay, the voice of America is being slowly drowned in jargon voices crying hate between labor and capital – hate between blindness and vision – hate between culture and coarseness – hate between law and license – even hate between the Anglo-Saxon peoples.
ON TO THE MELTING-POT AND CLEAN IT O’ THIS SCUM!
Reflection Questions and Teaching Suggestions
It is essential that students recognize that Americans, Take Heed! was not intended as objective journalism. It was published as a tool to disseminate the Klan’s perspective and promote their racist and xenophobic vision. The questions and activities below are intended to build an understanding of the role the Klan played in the 1920s in shaping attitudes about immigration, encourage reflection on the way that Klan sought to promote their ideas as well as consider why so many people found their racist ideas appealing.
Consider using the following thinking routines to frame a close read of the document itself:
- Seel-Feel-Think-Wonder: A thinking routine for nurturing close observation, curiosity, and self awareness
- By Whom, About Whom, For Whom?: A thinking routine to make power and positions visible
Consider using the following thinking routines to encourage reflection and communication about the resource including the perspectives and insights that students bring to the document and take away from their close read. Recognizing that not all of us bring the same perspective and experiences to a study of anti-immigrant racism and its influence on policy, it is extremely important to encourage thoughtful communication across differences. You might begin by either reinforcing any contract you have set up for communication or creating one now. The following routines might be helpful for creating respectful dialogue and reflection:
- Chalk Talk: A thinking routine for considering ideas, questions, or problems by silently responding in writing both to the prompt and the thoughts of others
- Who Benefits?A thinking routine to gauge and respond to inequities
- What Makes You Say That?: A thinking routine for building explanations
Source Citation: Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Americans, Take Heed! (Atlanta, December 15, 1920), accessed United Klans of America, Newsletters and Correspondence, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, Indiana State Library.