It was a Fourth of July festival few at the time likely would ever forget.
Under a cloudless sky on a warm day in a field along Seymour Street, vendors sold food, drinks, confections, tobacco and souvenirs; a national leader spoke on important issues of the day; bands played and an aerial acrobat performed stunts on the wing of a plane before parachuting to the ground to the amazement of all.
Fireworks lit up the sky and a parade two miles long filed through downtown, and most of its participants wore distinctive costumes – flowing white robes and hoods with pointed tops.
Called the Klonvocation of the first Klonklave of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the rally that brought 100,000 people to Jackson was one of the largest the KKK ever hosted in Michigan. And it was in Jackson on July 4, 1924.
Source : Leanne Smith, “Peek Through Time: KKK Stages Huge Statewide Fourth of July Rally in Jackson, Michigan in 1924”, MLive, July 5, 2012.
For more information, see Craig Fox, Everyday Klansfolk: White Protestant Life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan, Michigan State University Press, 2011. Although the picture of the Ku Klux Klan as a small, fanatical organization bent on racial violence and based primarily in the American South is certainly accurate in terms of the organization’s history during the 1860s and the 1960s, according to Fox (PhD, history, U. of York), there was another Klan that existed all over the United States in the 1920s which relied more upon “wide-ranging popular appeals to Protestant morality, prohibition, and law enforcement, rather than overt reliance upon vigilantism.” This “second” Klan achieved a membership of millions by the middle of the decade and spread all across the United States, including to rural Newaygo County, Michigan, where a previously unknown cache of organizational documents and paraphernalia of the 1920s Klan was discovered in 1992, providing an unprecedented opportunity for a case study of the organizational life of “Newaygo County Klan No. 29” from its inception in the summer of 1923, through its 1925 peak, official chartering, and subsequent decline, presented here and placed in its regional context.