Ku Klux Klan
Hugo L. Black And The Kkk
Hugo L. Black is remembered as a distinguished U.S. Supreme Court justice, a progressive U.S. Senator, and an able trial attorney. Black also was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the 1920s. Public disclosure of this fact came shortly after his appointment to the Supreme Court was confirmed by the Senate in 1937. The resulting public uproar would probably have doomed his Court appointment if the disclosure had come just a few weeks earlier.
In 1923 Black was a trial attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, which at the time was controlled by members of the Klan. After rebuffing membership several times, he joined the KKK on September 23, 1923. Black later claimed to have left the group after several years, but no clear evidence documented his departure. In 1937 there were allegations he had signed an undated letter resigning from the Klan, which was to have been used to establish a false resignation date if public scandal occurred.
In 1937 Black made a radio address to the nation, in which he admitted his Klan membership but claimed he had resigned and had not had any connection with the group for many years. He also stated he harbored no prejudice against anyone because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.
During his Court career, Black was reluctant to discuss his KKK membership and offered various reasons for why he had joined. To some people he admitted it was a mistake, whereas to others he said the KKK was just another fraternal organization, like the Masons or Elks. It is clear, however, that as an ambitious politician, Black had sought Klan support for his political campaigns. In the 1920s KKK support had been critical to a Democratic politician in Alabama.
Despite his later denial of holding any prejudices, Black was an active member of the KKK for several years. He participated in Klan events throughout Alabama, wearing the organization's characteristic white robes and hood, and initiated new Klan members into the Invisible Empire, reading the Klan oath, which pledged the members to "most zealously and valiantly shield and preserve by any and all justifiable means … white supremacy."
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