Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Although the Ku Klux Klan was founded after the Civil War, the white supremacist group was at its most powerful in the mid-1920s, claiming more than 2 million members nationwide. More than 25,000 of them staged a demonstration of their strength in Washington, marching in their hooded robes up Pennsylvania Avenue NW to the Washington Monument in one of the largest gatherings witnessed by the city up to that time. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 8, 1925:
Refusal of a colored band to participate in the parade, a threat from colored servants of a downtown hotel not to work today and a last minute effort to prevent the demonstration by court order greeted the hordes of the Ku Klux Klan as they bore on Washington today to give their greatest display of strength.
"Regardless of what happens, what is said to you from the sidewalk, keep your eyes directly on the man in front of you. Never falter."
These were the final instructions which went out to the thousands of the hooded order who poured in yesterday and last night and they will be repeated to the countless white-robed marchers who began arriving by train at 2:25 o'clock this morning and will continue until noon. ...
Local klansmen sought to have the Community Center band, a colored aggregation, participate in the parade, but James E. Miller, the bandmaster, refused to let his men play.
The floodgates of the invisible empire seemed to have been opened as the klansmen and their families marched on the city last night. Throughout the day they had been arriving by automobile and by regular train from all sections of the country.
With the coming of darkness white-robed figures took up positions just across the District line on all the main roads leading to the city and directed their fellows to camps. Some stopped overnight at nearby Maryland and Virginia points to come on to Washington today.
The first of the 45 special trains which bore the peak load of klansmen arrived from Harrisonburg, Va. Thereafter they came at brief intervals, and soon the Union station concourse was a milling mass of humanity.
An eleventh hour change was made in police plans and the klansmen will now have the Avenue from Peace Monument to Fifteenth street all to themselves. Based on earlier estimates that there would be only 5,000 persons in the parade, it had been planned to give them only the north side of the thoroughfare and not to stop traffic.
Klan leaders and the police are now confident that there will be at least 50,000 in the procession. Therefore, all traffic on the Avenue is to be stopped from 2:50 o'clock until the end of the parade.
Even with the marching ranks spread across the width of the Avenue it is believed that the parade will continue into the night, and that the service planned for the Sylvan theater will be carried out by starlight. No lighting display whatever is to be permitted the klansmen.
Although the city was not in its holiday attire, the arriving klansmen and their families, nevertheless, gave it a convention color. No welcoming banners waved from the hotels or other buildings as is usual when the city receives such large crowds.
But this was all in keeping with the klan atmosphere. ...
The visitors are here in picnic array. No secrecy attends their identity. Their cars, for the most part, carry banners reading: "On to Washington," "100 Per Cent Americanism," "KKK" and other inscriptions, which leave no doubt as to the occupants of the cars. At the various camps they looked up acquaintances or delegations from near their homes. No secret meetings marked their presence. They spent a large part of the day sightseeing.
Beyond their instructions to form for the parade at 3 o'clock, they are absolutely free to go wherever they please.