1925 November 19

Columbia Univ. President, Congressman Blast KKK as Contrary to American Ideals


Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler and Congressman Isaac Siegel on this day blasted the Ku Klux Klan as contrary to American ideals. They spoke at a ceremony at the Institutional Synagogue in New York City to dedicate a Table honoring Americans who died in World War I.

Butler declared that “The war in which these men died is not over. . . . The war let loose in this world new hate. . . . Hates of race against race; hates of faith against faith.” The Klan represented that kind of hate. Congressman Siegel said that “This country will not tolerate for a moment the secret, invisible organization that calls itself to Ku Klux Klan and is afraid of the light of day.”

The Klan was growing in the 1920s, and had considerable support outside the south, particularly in Ohio, Oregon, and New Jersey. In a brazen show of strength on August 8, 1925, 35,000 Klan members paraded down Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC, wearing their white KKK robes (but not their masks).

The irony of President Bulter’s remarks was that during World War I he had been a strong advocate of intolerance of different points of view, firing two Columbia University faculty members on October 1, 1917 for “disloyalty” because they opposed U.S. entry into World War I.

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