On this dayAug 17, 1923

1000 New Yorkers Join Klan in Opposition to Interracial Marriage

On August 17th, 1923, an estimated 1,000 white men and women participated in a Ku Klux Klan initiation ceremony just outside of Warwick, New York. 

Newspapers reported that motorists traveling from the city of Warwick to the city of Florida in New York on the evening of August 16 were stopped by guards connected to the Ku Klux Klan rally and asked for a “password” to enter the public area. Beginning at 9 p.m., hundreds of white people who arrived for the initiation gathered in an open field near the highway and burned a cross more than 20 feet tall. The meeting lasted until the early hours of the morning on August 17. 

Hundreds of people in the open field dressed in “full regalia” with robes bearing the insignia of the white supremacist organization meant that “the white hoods and the red crosses, embroidered on the breasts of the loose garments could be plainly seen even from a distance of several hundred yards” by eye-witnesses. The leader of the Klansmen reportedly spoke about the organization’s commitment to opposing interracial marriage, as well as their dislike of foreigners. 

During this era, white supremacist organizations sought to maintain racial hierarchy and dominance through terror. Organized groups committed to the myth of the inferiority of Black people such as White Citizens’ Councils and the Ku Klux Klan drew in crowds of hundreds, and often thousands. Claiming prominent politicians and other high-ranking members of white society, the Ku Klux Klan mounted campaigns of racial terror violence and used political power to uphold segregation and racial hierarchy.

Although racial terror and codified racial segregation have come to be thought of as uniquely Southern phenomena, the legacy of white supremacy and racial bigotry was a powerful force in the North as well. Inspired by Southern segregationists and white supremacists, there is a clear and undeniable record of pervasive discrimination based on race that spread across America, including the North. The legacy of this history haunts us still. Learn more about this history from The Equal Justice Initiative's report, Segregation in America.

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