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Remembering the 1924 Democrat National Convention — The KlanBake

It was also known as “KlanBake.”

In Madison Square Garden, New York City, from June 24 to July 9, a dispute during came up revolving around an attempt by non-Klan delegates, led by Forney Johnston of Alabama, to condemn the organization for its violence in the Democratic Party’s platform.

But Ku Klux Klan delegates defeated the platform plank in a series of floor debates.

To celebrate, tens of thousands of hooded Klansmen rallied in a field in New Jersey, across the river from New York City. This event, known subsequently as the “Klanbake”, was also attended by hundreds of Klan delegates to the convention, who burned crosses, urged violence and intimidation against African Americans and Catholics, and attacked effigies of Smith.

The final vote was 546.15 for the Klan, 542.85 against it.

According to Wikipedia:

The Ku Klux Klan was resurrected after the 1915 release of D.W. Griffith’s very popular motion picture The Birth of a Nation. After World War I, the popularity of the Klan surged due to connections of its public relations leadership to those who had promoted the successful Prohibition Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, becoming a political power throughout many regions of the United States, not just in the South.

Its local political strength throughout the country gave it a major role in the 1924 Democratic Party National Convention (DNC). The 20th Century Ku Klux Klan was notoriously anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic, in addition to being anti-black.

The Klan advocates opposed those supporting Catholics from the major cities of the Northeast and Midwest. The tension between pro- and anti-Klan delegates produced an intense and sometimes violent showdown between convention attendees from the states of Colorado and Missouri. Klan delegates opposed the nomination of New York Governor Al Smith because Smith was a Roman Catholic. Smith campaigned against William Gibbs McAdoo, who had the support of most Klan delegates.

KKK platform plank

The second dispute of the convention revolved around an attempt by non-Klan delegates, led by Forney Johnston of Alabama, to condemn the organization for its violence in the Democratic Party’s platform. Klan delegates defeated the platform plank in a series of floor debates. The final vote on condemning the Klan was 542.85 in favor, 546.15 against, so the plank was not included in the platform. To celebrate, tens of thousands of hooded Klansmen rallied in a field in New Jersey, across the river from New York City.[5] This event, known subsequently as the “Klanbake”,[1] was also attended by hundreds of Klan delegates to the convention, who burned crosses, urged violence and intimidation against African-Americans and Catholics, and attacked effigies of Smith.

Impact

The notoriety of the “Klanbake” convention and the violence it produced cast a lasting shadow over the Democratic Party’s prospects in the 1924 election and contributed to their defeat by incumbent Republican President Calvin Coolidge.

Smith’s name was placed into nomination by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first appearance at the Democratic National Convention since his paralytic illness. This signaled a political comeback for Roosevelt; he would be elected Governor of New York four years later and President eight years later. [Emphasis added]

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