Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, April 27, 2019


From its very beginning America has had a long history of xenophobia.  Indigenous Americans, religious dissenters, Blacks, Jews, Catholics, Irish, Chinese, Muslims, Hispanics, the LGBTQ community ...the list is long and getting longer.  Despite the teachings of our major religions and our best nature to go beyond our darker fears, there will always be a few who are happy to revert back to white supremacy and/or nationalism.  Which brings us to the Ku Klux Klan.

First a brief history.  The Klan has existed in three separate incarnations.  First organized in Tennessee in the late 1860s by six former confederate Army officers and was overtly a social club.  Within a year it began transforming into an amorphous mass of individual groups throughout the South with the stated purpose of promoting white supremacy and resisting the post-war Republican rule.  They became a vigilante group which used threats, violence, and murder to further their ends.  By 1871, the Klan was virtually dead -- brought down by poor leadership and and a large number of criminals and sadists in their ranks.  But by this time they had given rise to a number of paramilitary vigilante groups in the South.

The second incarnation of the Klan began in 1915 Georgia by William Joseph Simmons, who was inspired by the romantic image of the Klan portrayed in D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation.  Simmons and the newly recruited Klansmen began public marching, most notably to an Atlanta screening of Griffith's film.  By 1921 the Klan developed a business plan and began to grow to a nationwide organization though the use of paid recruiters and the image of being a "fraternal" society.  Promoting "One Hundred Percent Americanism," the Klan opposed Catholics, Blacks, Jews, and immigrants from Eastern Europe, among others.  This new Klan was also fiercely puritanical and supported Prohibition.  A splinter group was formed by D.C. Stephenson in 1923.  Two years later, Stephenson was convicted of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a white schoolteacher, Madge Oberholtzer, and both Klans began a slow decline, although small independent groups managed to continue on. bringing terror and death to white and Black alike.  It should be noted that the second Klan was mainly an urban organization and that a number of Klan groups, mainly rural areas of the North, could find nothing to protest, becoming (as one paper put it) "night shirt knights."  (In the small New England town where I was raised, the local Klan (long gone before my birth) had little or nothing to do until (finally!) a Catholic family moved in the white Protestant community; the Klan members were overjoyed that they now had a place to burn a cross.) By 1944, the second incarnation of the Klan was dead.

The third and current incarnation of the Klan began in the 1950s as a response to the civil rights movement and as an attempt to hold onto their idea of white supremacy.  Homes were bombed, activists and protesters were killed, people were hanged, innocents slaughtered,   The atrocities -- too numerous to number -- burn in our brains to this day.  The modern Klan has morphed to embrace White Nationalists, neo-Nazis, hate speech, racism, antisemitism, and homophobia.  By 2016 the number of Klan chapters grew from 72 to 190.  The current administration appears to condone, if not support, the hated.

All this is a lengthy introduction to Our Own Ku Klux Klan, a newspaper comic strip that ran in the New York Evening Post in 1921.  I have not been able to find any information on this strip, including how long it last or in how many newspapers it appeared. It was written and drawn by Al Zere (born Alfred Ablitzer, 1889-1968), who began selling his drawings in 1904.  The few references I found for Zere mention his strips So This Is Married Life (1924-26), The Wows (1930-33), Flossie (1935-37), and Rookie Joe (1941), as well as taking the reins on Earl Hurd's Susie Sunshine for a year in 1930.

Zell's Klan is a friendly, helpful group looking out for the little man.  Terror is just not their thing.  One has to remember that many ordinary citizens favored some of the goals, if not the actions, of the Klan.  Supreme Court justice Hugo Black had been a long-time Klan member, laving the organization only after he had been elected to the Senate.  D. W. Griffth immortalized a romantic version of these night riders.  Black Mask magazine had a special "Klan" issue, printing stories both in favor of anf against the Klan.  Respected fantasy author and regional historian Many Wade Wellman had great respect for the original Klan and its purpose; and Wellman's personal hero, Wade Hampton, was supported by Red Shirts (an offspring of the Klan) and may well have been a member of that group. And, as indicated above, many supported the Klan as a fraternal organization without (amazingly) being aware of  its atrocities.  I assume it is the latter people the strip was aimed at.

All I have been able to find of Our Own Ku Klux Klan are three strips reprinted by Comic Book Plus, linked here for your perusal:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Clearly, I am more shaken than I was fully aware. As I've been trying to write, That is a troubling assessment of Manly Wade Wellman's sympathies. Can you direct us to direct expression of this in his writing or interviews? I haven't yet read much at all of his historical nonfiction writing. And thanks for point out this almost insanely inane strip.

    1. Manly Wade Wellman expounds at length and with great admiration about the early Klan (which he considers different from its 20th century incarnations) in his historical North Carolina true crime book "Dead and Gone: The Stories Behind Ten Famous Murders" from 1954. It is most notable, and extensive, in the first chapter, "The General Died at Dawn" and later in "The Life and Death of Chicken Stephens."

      The love and admiration for Lost Cause mythology is not inconsiderable in writings about North Carolina folklore, particularly from the mid-20th century. But Wellman goes far beyond the usual genteel, vaguely racist Gone with the Wind fetishizing of the Antebellum South into apologias of outright admiration and idolizing of the vicious vigilante murders the early Klan engaged in against their political opponents during the Reconstruction period. He makes no mention of the way they also brutally intimidated the newly freed African Americans. I'm not sure if he genuinely didn't know about it or pretended not to see it. I'm guessing the latter, since it would be hard not to see.

      All I have to say about the comic strip in question is "Eww." I'd never heard of it before, so I'm afraid I can't help you with more info about it. I'm curious to see if you find any, though.