Badger state nationalism: World War I, the Ku Klux Klan, and the politics of 'Americanism' in 1915-1930 Wisconsin
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Date of Graduation
Master of Arts (MA)
The Ku Klux Klan is most synonymous with racism and religious bigotry, especially during the revival period of the 1920s. What is often less understood is the aggressively nationalist nature of the Klan, which in some locales proved to be its most potent symbol and recruiting tool, epitomized by the use of the American flag and the ‘100% Americanism’ slogan. In Wisconsin, where entry into World War I was least popular in 1917, the following months saw a series of ‘loyalty struggles’ develop; many Wisconsinites regretted their early lack of support and sought to prove their loyalty and patriotism to the United States. These ‘loyalty struggles’ were played out in civil society, especially in newspapers, where this rhetoric developed. The loyalty rhetoric inadvertently gave the Klan a foothold in Wisconsin during the postwar years, exploiting fears of foreign influence, Catholicism, ethnic minorities, and anyone else who did not fit the ‘100% American’ label. The effect this ‘nationalizing’ project had on education is given particular attention, showing how patterns of immigration and religious pluralism provoked reactionary attacks from the Klan and its allies, turning public schooling into a political and cultural battleground. This study seeks to understand the Klan as a nationalist organization and what that means for nationalism, print media, and the idea of loyalty in a given society.
Levi, William, "Badger state nationalism: World War I, the Ku Klux Klan, and the politics of 'Americanism' in 1915-1930 Wisconsin" (2022). Masters Theses, 2020-current. 179.