Skip to main content

Historical Proof

May 2024
1min read

Even in the twentieth century, the age of mass information (not to mention mass horrors), many supposedly well-informed people—readers of history, regular newspaper subscribers and the like—never quite believe some things until they see them, either personally or in convincing photographs. So it was for some at the end of the war when the full frightfulness of Hitler’s death camps was finally paraded before them. So it may be for those who have never taken seriously the twentieth-century revival of the old Ku Klux Klan of Reconstruction days and then gaze at this fantastic scene. You are looking from the grounds of the Treasury down Pennsylvania Avenue to the dimly visible dome of the U.S. Capitol, past familiar landmarks—the Old Post Office with its high gray tower on the right, the great old Occidental Restaurant and the Willard Hotel on the left. Here, where Grant’s and Sherman’s armies held their victory parades in 1865, it is now August 8, 1925, and forty thousand Klansman are parading to show their hostility to, in their words, “Romanism, alienism, Bolshevism, and anti-Americanism.” The power center of the KKK at this point was in the Middle West, especially Indiana, and it was also against “Darwinism” or evolution, liberalism, “modernism,” and, of course, the Jews. That night heavy rain, falling despite the prayers of the Klan’s fundamentalist preachers, prevented the burning of the usual fiery cross at the Washington Monument. In a relatively brief time the spectral army broke up; everything was negative, there was nothing to be for . But show this picture to anyone who wonders how a Hitler, or a Mussolini, or any zealot can raise an army overnight. And this time he will have television.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.