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Toga parties at Harvard used to look a bit different

Klansman at Harvard

The Boston Public Library has posted a ton of Leslie Jones photos from Harvard, MIT and Wellesley, including this June, 1924 charmer, titled, "Harvard Class Day: Harvard Klass Kow & Klans - students having fun on Class Day."

Some context: The Klan was in the news at Harvard in the 1923-24 school year. In October, 1923, the Crimson reported on Klan recruitment among Harvard men. A local Klansman claimed 300 Harvard men had attended a session in Boston; the year before, some Harvard Klansman switched allegiance from the Cambridge Klan to the Brookline chapter, because the latter was "sufficiently intellectual" for them. But, still that wasn't good enough for the Harvardians, some of whom wanted to organize their own chapter.

Perhaps in response to the Crimson article, some Harvard students draped a banner across Massachusetts Avenue declaring "KOPEY FOR KLEAGLE K. K. K" on Halloween night.

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Klan chapters in Cambridge and Brookline! Can you even imagine?

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A little more context, please.

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Kind of like "blackface" was popular back then, too?

Without further information, it is really hard to tell from the photo alone if these guys were really pro-klan or just participating in that longstanding Harvard tradition of poking fun at people from the South.

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who knew cambridge wasn't always so liberal :)

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The Klan was probably seen as kind of low-brow in Cambridge but Harvard, Yale and Princeton were excluding non-WASP students into the 60s.

There's a book called The Chosen that came out a few years ago which basically argued that the college admissions process that we use today (essays, letters of recommendation, extracurriculars, etc) was basically created so that Harvard and other elite schools could keep out Jews and other undesirables. Colleges used to admit students based on entrance exams, but in the early 20th century the percentage of Jews scoring at the top of those exams got so high as to cause serious problems - the Ivy League schools had valued the social aspects of college more than the academic aspects and these Jewish guys were typically coming from poor (or nouveau riche) families and were more interested in academics and building careers than in joining finals clubs. Plus, the schools wanted to figure out how they could weed out homosexuals or other potential problems. So the schools needed a way to accept or reject applicants based on a qualitative rather than a quantitative method and they started requiring students to write essays and to get letters of recommendation and all of the other stuff that now goes into a college application.

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The Klan of the early 20th Century was primarily anti-Catholic in motivation. Jews would have been secondary to their concerns.

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Blacks, Jews, Catholics -- all pretty equally bad.

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... was an equal hater: Blacks, Jews, Catholics, immigrants in general. Who it targeted depended on who was readily at hand. Outside of the Deep South, the Klan was particularly strong in Indiana, Oklahoma, & Maine. Believe it or not, in 1920, Maine had the largest, most active membership outside of the south. Its members focussed their ire on Franco-Americans (mostly French Canadians) for their religion & immigrant status. In Indiana, there was a notable clash between Klansmen & Notre Dame students which was brought back to light by Todd Tucker in his recent book, NOTRE DAME vs. THE KLAN: How The Fighting Irish Defeated The Ku Klux Klan. The Klan of the 20's was also politically significant. It helped elect significant numbers of senators & representatives and boasted of controlling over 20 state legislatures. At the peak of its membership & influence in 1924. it had enough power in the Democratic Party to block Al Smith's nomination for president.

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Lots of interesting info!

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I can't tell whether you think that all anti-semites are catholics, or if you're saying the jews didn't have it as bad as they claim. Either way I would tread lightly.

In all eras, the KKK was a christian terrorist organization that preyed on a range of social and religious minorities. I don't think there was much of a ranking, they were opportunists that seized what was around, and in their southern stronghold there were not many densities of Jews-- but that doesn't mean that the ones that were there were any less at risk. Lions don't necessary find gazelles tastier than walruses, they just take what's around.

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I think the general gist was the common strategy of "you think YOU got it bad?" that many folks use when they feel that the group they identify with is being pointed at as the bad guy or that some other group that they don't identify with (or actively detest) is gaining the moral upper ground as the victim of social injustices. The reverse racism kind of argument -- "we have it bad too...so we can have just as much right to moral indignation -- your problems are not my fault nor my problem."

Catholics have been the targets of hatred and bias (especially Italian and Irish Catholic immigrants), but have just as frequently (if not more frequently) been the source of ignorant hatred and persecution of other groups. And as folks here have pointed out the KKK has always been a group of pretty equal opportunity haters.

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