Jane Dailey on "Remembering Our KKK Past"

Remembering Our KKK Past

Although many Americans rolled their eyes at the spectacle of the Klan’s hooded marchers (40,000 strong outside the White House in 1926), the organization’s demand that control of the nation be returned to “old stock” Americans reflected widespread sentiment in the 1920s.  Groups like the Anglo-Saxon League urged immigration restriction to limit the dilution of the Anglo-Saxon race by inferior Asian, African, and Eastern European bloodlines, arguing that “the idea of the great American melting pot, into which one can put the refuse of three continents and draw out good, sound American citizens... is simply and perilously false.”

Congress responded to calls to limit immigration and passed the National Origins Act of 1924, which set national immigration quotas for each country at two percent of its existing total U.S. population based on the 1890 census: the last count before the mass influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. This change in immigration policy was designed to ensure that descendants of early immigrants would forever outnumber the children of the new. The new law barred the entry of anyone from Asia, which was defined expansively to include India. “America must be kept American,” new President Calvin Coolidge declared when signing the law. It was this law that Congress replaced when it passed the Immigration Act of 1965, and to which the Trump administration would happily revert.

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