Many people would be shocked to know that at least five U.S. Presidents were members of the Ku Klux Klan.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center,”the KKK started in the summer of 1866 when six ex-Confederate officers decided to organize a social club.  They decided to use the term “kuklos,” which means circle.  After adding the word klan, the name Ku Klux Klan was born.

In his book, “Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White,” David Barton details the political history of the KKK, noting that the original targets of the Klan were Republicans, both black and white, and that between 1882 and 1964, 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites were lynched by the Klan.

Barton goes on to point out that the Klan has its roots in the Democratic Party and that the first grand wizard of the KKK, Nathan Bedford Forrest, was honored for his leadership at the 1868 Democratic National Convention.  For those who do not believe that the roots of the Democratic Party are racist, one only needs to note that not a single Democrat voted for the 14th Amendment which granted citizenship to former slaves.

Barton states, “Although it is relatively unreported today, historical documents are unequivocal that the Klan was established by the Democrats and that the Klan played a prominent role in the Democratic Party.  In fact, a 13-volume set of congressional investigations from 1872 conclusively and irrefutably document that fact.”

President William McKinley
President William McKinley

The first U.S. President who was a KKK member was William McKinley, who was a former Union officer, according to kkk.org.  Not much is known about his involvement with the Klan, but many union men joined the KKK during its First Era during the Radical Republican’s anti-white Reconstruction Era.

President Woodrow Wilson
President Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson was the second U.S. President to be a KKK member.  According to Nick Ragone’s book, “Presidents’ Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Extraordinary Executives, Colorful Campaigns, and White House Oddities,” Wilson was known as a virulent racist and actually helped Klan membership skyrocket by providing screenings of The Clansman and Birth of a Nation for members of his Cabinet, Congress, and the Supreme Court.  Wilson’s ideology helped pave the intellectual foundation of the campaigns of racist Dixiecrats Strom Thurmond and George Wallace.  Wilson is also credited with allowing Washington D.C. to become Jim Crow territory.  He also never shied away from speaking publicly about the ‘benefits’ of segregation.

President Warren G. Harding
President Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding was the next president who was a KKK member.  According to kkk.org and the book The Fiery Cross, Harding was actually sworn in at a KKK ceremony that was held at the White House by Imperial Wizard Colonel Simmons.  Harding was not the only president to allow Klan activities to be held on White House grounds.  Calvin Coolidge was a well known and active Klan member who allowed cross lightings on the Capital steps and also reviewed the giant Klan parades of 1925 and 1926 that were held in Washington D.C..

President Harry S. Truman
President Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman is the final U.S. President to have ties to the KKK that are known and documented.  While he was not a prominent member, he did pay dues to the organization between 1920 and 1922.  He eventually parted ways with the Klan due to their disapproval of his appointment of Roman Catholics to key political positions.

During the time that these Presidents were in office between 1882 and 1964, David Barton reports that 4,743 people were lynched.  It was Republicans who led an effort to pass federal anti-lynching legislation, but Democrats were able to successfully ban those bills.  History of the Democratic Party on their website conveniently leaves out party history from 1848 to 1900, avoiding publication of information related to the party’s racist roots.  Understanding the past is a vital part of not repeating mistakes in the future, and black people deserve to know that the party that many of them affiliate with actually has it roots in one of America’s most noted hate groups.

This article originally appeared on I Love Black People.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Please do not let the article mislead you..the Republicans of their time were current day Democrats and Democrats were current day Republicans as reflected by party platforms and ideologies. The parties switched around the 1940s..yet the gist remains the same. Even our Presidents were racists. From the time they stepped forth on this land.. It was ingrained in the times so its not hard to believe just as much as it is not hard to believe that even recent ones held their own racist underpinnings.

    • This never happened as a simple search on “republican platform” from various decades shows no such ideological change. Republicans consistently pushed for equal rights and generally opposed laws favoring one group over another (Jim Crow, segregation and lynching as well as affirmative action and welfare). More republicans supported the Civil Rights acts of the 60’s than Democrats. Martin Luther King was Republican. Klansman Senator Robert Byrd is still a Democrat lauded by Clinton, Gore, and Obama. Democrats have always kept the black man down either through slavery, voting restrictions, and segregation or though economic dependance via welfare (Slavery was another form of forced dependency). Poor blacks get crap for education because Dems run the inner city public school system and oppose vouchers or school choice.

    • Your comment regarding the flip flop of Democrats and Republicans is an egregious and purposeful error perpetuated by Democrats to paint themselves in a soft and compassionate light. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have been duped by the Progressive / liberal / socialist / Democrat collective group think.

      • No, he’s essentially correct. When the Republican Party began it was the home of Liberals — they were after all the Abolitionists. The Democratic Party at the time was the home of “States Rights” and smaller government. Around the turn of the 19th-to-20th century the RP took on the interests of the rich and the corporations while the DP absorbed the Populist movement, which essentially reversed the two.

      • If you don’t think the parties switched ideologies. Ask your yourself this question and answer honestly. Who do you think the KKK a white supremacy racist group that claims to be Christian would vote for now in 2016?
        KKK hates gays, muslims, illegal immigrants, and liberals as much as the GOP does. Of course the KKK is going to vote republican.

    • Supreme Court Justice
      Ruth Bader Ginsburg< DEMOCRAT appointed by Bill Clinton
      New York Times interview July, 2009
      "Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion."

    • Bull Woodrow Wilson is the father of modern liberal statism. The modern day Democratic Party is made in his image. The Republican Party NEVER at any point supported slavery or segregation. The Democratic Party championed both.

  2. Anonymous is perpetrating a widely believed lie. The Socialist Democrat party has always been and will always be associated with the Klan. Their hate of real personal freedom and responsibility combined with their quest for political power drives their actions yesterday and today. The Marxists in control of the Socialist Democrat party today and their drones are quick to brand anyone they disagree with “Nazis.” Yet, the truth is clear, Nazi stood for: National Socialist German Workers Party. No matter how much they try to rewrite history, the Klan and the Socialist Democrat party are inseparable.

    • David Duke who is a well known KKK member is and was registered as a Democrat when he ran for Governor of Louisiana.

      • From Wiki:

        1991 campaign for Governor of Louisiana
        Main article: Louisiana gubernatorial election, 1991
        Despite repudiation by the Republican Party,[64] Duke ran for governor of Louisiana in 1991. In the primary, Duke finished second to former governor Edwin W. Edwards in votes; thus, he faced Edwards in a runoff. In the initial round, Duke received 32 percent of the vote. Incumbent Governor Buddy Roemer, who had switched from the Democratic to Republican parties during his term, came in third with 27 percent of the vote. Duke effectively killed Roemer’s bid for re-election. While Duke had a sizable core constituency of devoted supporters, many voted for him as a “protest vote” to register dissatisfaction with Louisiana’s establishment politicians. During the campaign, Duke said he was the spokesman for the “white majority”[65] and, according to the New York Times, “equated the extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany with affirmative action programs in the United States.”[66]

        The Christian Coalition of America, which exerted considerable impact on the Republican State Central Committee, was led in Louisiana by its national director and vice president, Billy McCormack, then the pastor of University Worship Center in Shreveport. The coalition was accused of having failed to investigate Duke in the early part of his political resurgence. By the time of the 1991 gubernatorial election, however, its leadership had withdrawn support from Duke.[67] Despite Duke’s status as the only Republican in the runoff, sitting Republican President George H.W. Bush opposed his candidacy and denounced him as charlatan and a racist.[66] White House Chief of Staff John Sununu stated that “The President is absolutely opposed to the kind of racist statements that have come out of David Duke now and in the past.”[68]

        The Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism rallied against the election of Duke as governor. Beth Rickey, a moderate member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee and a PhD student at Tulane University, began to follow Duke to record his speeches and expose what she saw as instances of racist and neo-Nazi remarks. For a time, Duke took Rickey to lunch, introduced her to his daughters, telephoned her late at night, and tried to convince her of his worldview: the Holocaust was a myth, notorious Auschwitz physician Josef Mengele was a medical genius, and that blacks and Jews were responsible for various social ills. Rickey released transcripts of their conversations to the press and also provided evidence establishing that Duke sold Nazi literature (including Mein Kampf) from his legislative office and attended neo-Nazi political gatherings while he held elective office.[69][70]

        Between the primary and the runoff, called the “general election” under Louisiana election rules (in which all candidates run on one ballot, regardless of party), white supremacist organizations from around the country contributed to Duke’s campaign fund.[71][72]

        Duke’s rise garnered national media attention. While he gained the backing of the quixotic former Alexandria Mayor John K. Snyder, Duke won few serious endorsements in Louisiana. Celebrities and organizations donated thousands of dollars to former Governor Edwin Edwards’ campaign. Referencing Edwards’ long-standing problem with accusations of corruption, popular bumper stickers read: “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important”,[73][74] and “Vote for the Lizard, not the Wizard.” When a reporter asked Edwards what he needed to do to triumph over Duke, Edwards replied with a smile: “Stay alive.”

        The runoff debate, held on November 6, 1991, received significant attention when journalist Norman Robinson questioned Duke. Robinson, who is African-American, told Duke that he was “scared” at the prospect of Duke winning the election because of his history of “diabolical, evil, vile” racist and antisemitic comments, some of which he read to Duke. He then pressed Duke for an apology and when Duke protested that Robinson was not being fair to him, Robinson replied that he didn’t think Duke was being honest. Jason Berry of the Los Angeles Times called it “startling TV” and the “catalyst” for the “overwhelming” turnout of black voters who helped Edwards defeat Duke.[75]

        Edwards received 1,057,031 votes (61.2%), while Duke’s 671,009 votes represented 38.8% of the total. Duke nevertheless claimed victory, saying, “I won my constituency. I won 55% of the white vote,” a statistic confirmed by exit polls.

      • This page is complete hooey. There’s no evidence ANY of these Presidents were Klan members. And in the case of McKinley it’s impossible, since the Klan did not then EXIST.

        The Klan was founded Christmas Day 1865 by six young veterans of the Confederate Army. Much is known about them including all their names, but no info has ever pointed to them having political affiliations. And in any case, the Republican Party — which was only 11 years old at the time — effectively did not even exist in the South yet.

        That Klan was extinguished in less than 15 years. It would be revived in 1915 — fourteen years after McKinley died — by one William Simmons of Georgia, who ALSO had no political affiliations. He was a salesman and huckster out to make money from memberships. He rekindled the Klan after seeing the public reaction to “Birth of a Nation”.

        No evidence exists for the others’ membership. Wilson was indeed a racist and praised the film Birth of a Nation. But since the film came BEFORE the Klan refounding, and years before that iteration of the Klan started growing, he cannot have made Klan membership “skyrocket by providing screenings” of the film. It defies linear time.

    • Fern, your comment shows not only ignorance of the American political scene, but also a sad lack of knowledge about the definition of Socialism. Your comments are obviously talking points from FOX News and clearly show that you have no ability to think for yourself. Go back to you teabagger fantasy world and leave the serious political discussions to people with some sense!

    • The Klan was founded (1865) by six young veterans of the Confederate army. We know their names and much about them, but no one has ever come up with a political affiliation, and they were not politicians. For that matter the Republican Party in 1865 did not yet exist in the South anyway.

      That Klan was extinct in less than fifteen years. The revival Klan — the one that spread far wider and drew millions more members — was founded in 1915 by William Simmons of Georgia, who was basically trying to make a buck off the popularity of “Birth of a Nation”. Again, no political affiliation is known about Simmons, who was a salesman and a huckster, but also not a politician.

      Then there’s the inconvenient fact that that (Simmons) Klan coalesced political power in places like Ohio, Indiana, Colorado, California and the Pacific Northwest — as Republicans. And that that same Klan despised blacks, Jews, gays, Catholics, immigrants and unions — all constituents of the Democratic Party.

      This is all easily looked up yanno.

  3. They are not thanks to the new media ,who cares now as a African American that was the past.We are talking about now( the present )so we don’t care about those dead people. Don’t think we African American are not dumb or shock about the past white people have always been racist( thank God for cameras and real Christians) so keep your history of racist in the white house to yourself

  4. The claim that Harding was a Klan member has been thoroughly debunked. Wikipedia has a fairly good section on this in its article on politicians involved with the Klan.

  5. I’m a white English woman and I live in England. I have just watched a programme about the KKK. It seems to me that the KKK are nothing but country bumpkins who are brainwashed by mythology of why the black person exists. They are deluding themselves and need psychotherapy. They are nothing but Nazis in bedsheets and even deny the holocaust ever happened. They say they burn the cross because it represents the light of Christ. Christ was a Jew and was neither white nor black. Jews are descendants of the Arab race. The Arab race comes from Africa. So KKK, guess who came to the Last Supper. My objection to the Black Power movement is that it rejects whites like me siding with them. Not good you guys. Give some of us white people credit for some sense and compassion. We are not all like these brainless KKK white supremacy idiots. Science and history tells us that we were all black once and we all come from the same genome. People want to get their facts right before becoming racist.

    • Christians WOULD NEVER BURN A CROSS, A CHURCH or any other symbol of their creator. It is sacrilegious. Another lie, the Nazis were progressive socialist/communist. Although thing to note is the genocide of Margaret Sanger, who in modern times, THE DEMOCRATS praise and worship as a hero for creating Planned Parenthood. Some notable quotes: “America Needs a Code for Babies,” 27 Mar 1934 Give dysgenic groups [people with “bad genes”] in our population their choice of segregation or [compulsory] sterilization.

      Woman, Morality, and Birth Control. New York: New York Publishing Company, 1922. Page 12.
      “We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

      Supreme Court Justice
      Ruth Bader Ginsburg< DEMOCRAT appointed by Bill Clinton
      New York Times interview July, 2009
      "Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion."

      • You say what now about Nazis being progressive no they weren’t. Naziism wasn’t progressive wasn’t socialist or communist, actually was against Russia’s communism/socialism style. Don’t go talking about things you don’t know. KKK is conservative and has always been conservative and is run by conservative lunatics today. Naziism was conservative and was always conservative and neo-Nazis today are a bunch of conservative lunatics. Cross-burnings happen and are done by Christians don’t try and paint them as not-Christian cuz you disagree with them they’re not a good part of my religion but I at least admit they’re part of it. I got racist in-laws in Louisiana burned a cross at my wife’s gramma’s wedding in celebration back in ’84, they’re Southern Baptist most Christian folk you’ll ever see. Try and think before you type buddy?

  6. Harding was a public critic and opponent of the KKK, which was a courageous position in the 1920s when the Klan held considerable political power.
    He gave a memorable speech opposing lynching. He welcomed prominent black people to the ?White
    House, unlike the racist Woodrow Wilson.
    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/harding-publicly-condemns-lynching
    http://archive.org/stream/addressofpreside00hard#page/n3/mode/2up
    The KKK smeared him by labeling him a member.
    In fact, Harding was followed by rumors he was part black throughout his career. New research indicates he was not, but during his lifetime he was willing to consider the idea.
    There is no evidence Coolidge was a KKK member and the claim of cross burnings in Washington, D. C., are false.

  7. We Black Americans are fully aware of the shift in American politics which took place between FDR & LBJ’s Administrations. The Democratic and Republican part switched roles with the last civil rights era. Democrats championed the causes of freedom and equality, just as the Republican party had during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. The Republican party changed when racist Southern Democrats migrated to the Republican Party in the 60’s. These Democrats did not support Civil Rights & effectively most racists left the Democratic Party in the 60’s and went to the Republican Party where their ideology is alive & well as promoted by Mr. Trump.

  8. The segment about Warren Harding being a member of the KKK is pure and complete BS! Recent scholarly research using primary sources from the time period (unlike the ridiculous drivel in this article) has proven that the rumor of Harding’s membership started as a recruitment scheme by the top level of the KKK in order to attract new members by making the totally false claim that the new, and then very popular president, was a member. The claim was discredited even at that time, but people who loved conspiracy theories (and still do), and unscrupulous authors who were too lazy to do real research (like perhaps in this article?) continued to repeat the lie.

  9. I believe in some of the stuff the kkk did and they were right for doing that and they did not just go for black people they went for both

  10. We understand conservative democrats (Dixiecrats) were key creators of the kkk. But you didn’t note 3 of these presidents were republicans ?

  11. “…one only needs to note that not a single Democrat voted for the 14th Amendment which granted citizenship to former slaves.”

    This statment is historically wrong as, while it is is true, but not the WHOLE TRUTH. Not a single SOUTHERN politician, Democrat OR Republican voted for it. Not ONE.

    But trying to compare the the Democrats and the Republicans of the reconstruction era to the Dems/Pubs of today is just foolish, and shows an astounding degree of ignorance of American history. In fact, I’d argue that it shows complete and utter incompetence to even have an opinion about American politics in general.

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