An Alabama Citizen’s 1924 Letter Asking the Government to Investigate the KKK

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
May 16 2014 10:45 AM

An Alabama Citizen’s 1924 Letter Asking the Government to Investigate the KKK

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Membership in the Ku Klux Klan was at an all-time high in the mid-1920s when Selma, Alabama citizen S. Jonce wrote this heartfelt complaint letter to Attorney General Harlan F. Stone.

Though Reconstruction- and civil rights-era incarnations of the Klan targeted black victims, historian David Chalmers points out, in the 1920s, “often the victims of the Klan were not blacks, Catholics, Jews, or new immigrants, but fellow white native-born Protestants who offended the Klan in some way.” Jonce doesn’t self-identify as a member of a particular ethnic group, but the incidents mentioned in his or her letter show how the Klan’s actions affected a wide range of people in his community.


Jonce, who doesn’t include his or her own first name, lists other names: Selma citizens who, Jonce claimed, had been called “up there before” the KKK membership at meetings in its downtown offices, where they had been “handled Very Ruff.” These include L.C. Farley, a businessman from “an eastern Company”; Harry Smith, a landlord who rented to black tenants; and “a negro named Shannon W.” Jonce also listed “ring leaders” of the Klan, in hopes that Stone would “have this matter investigated.”

Presidents Harding and Coolidge and the Department of Justice received many such complaint letters during the 1920s. By the end of the decade, scandals in the KKK’s leadership, along with citizen opposition and local prosecutions, brought the KKK’s membership levels down. They would resurge in the postwar period, in response to the civil rights movement.


National Archives.


National Archives.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.