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.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.