Two widely circulated Internet memes purporting to show images of Klu Klux Klan rallies at the 1924 Democratic Convention are fake. The memes have been spread by right-wing propaganda sites and social media followers in an effort to discredit the party in the eyes of African-American voters.
— Johnny Dee (@Johnny_Capione) January 16, 2017
Google Klanbake pic.twitter.com/ow5hkR0NhS
— Jennifer Burkart (@J_Burkart68) April 30, 2018
Snopes.com, one of several Web sites that have been spawned by the Trump administration to debunk fake news, analyzed the photos and determined that neither event took place at the 1924 Democratic Convention.
“The group’s supposed control over the 1924 Democratic convention has come to be exaggerated to legendary proportions. That is in large part thanks to the efforts of social media propagandists bent on tarring Democrats in particular with the legacy of the Klan’s religious bigotry, xenophobia, and racism,” the Web site noted.
The convention was definitely tumultuous. A platform plank favored by urban Democratic supporters of New York Gov. Al Smith condemned the Klan by name. But the proposal was defeated after a raucous debate marred by fistfights. Oddly, and never mentioned by right-wing propagandists, the exact same measure was also defeated at the Republican National Convention.
According to one right-wing Web site that promoted the photos, the rally was held by “tens of thousands of hooded Klansmen” in a New Jersey field, “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.
Even well known conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, has refered to supposed KKK gathering in New Jersey.
But neither photo is related to the 1924 Democratic Convention. The image of hooded clan members marching in a parade dates from December 1924–five months after the convention–and documents an event held in Madison, Wisconsin, according to Wisconsin historic records examined by Snopes.
The photo actually shows the Ku Klux Klan parading down King Street to Schroeder Funeral Home for the funeral of police officer Herbert Dreger, according to the historic Web site.
The nighttime photo of KKK members posing with a burning cross was taken in 1921. It documents an initiation ceremony held in August of that year outside Chicago, according to The Chicago Tribune.
While 300 Democratic convention delegates were “card-carrying” members of the KKK, there is no evidence any rally was held at the widely documented event, which began on June 24, according to reports at the time.
The only Klan rally in New Jersey occurred on the Fourth of July in the town of Long Branch, about 60 miles outside of New York City, which in those days was a haul.
It was unrelated to the convention. But the event did include an effigy of Smith that was part of a baseball toss game, according to The New York Times, which described the event as “largely a picnic.”
Despite the evidence, the false narrative has been widely spread. Even left-leaning publications like Mother Jones referred to the so-called “Klanbake,” as a convention-related event in a 2016 article, written by senior reporter Tim Murphy.
Snopes had this to say:
“What’s interesting about every version we were able to find of this claim, however, is that not one of them was published before 2000. During the entire 76 years between 1924, when the convention took place, and 2000, when it was first asserted that it was popularly known as the ‘Klanbake,’ there appear to have been no published mentions of that ‘fact’ at all.”
“In all the contemporaneous press coverage of the convention, the word ‘Klanbake’ appeared only once — as an editorial joke (in the New York Daily News)— and would not used again in that context for more than seven decades,” according to The Washington Post.
By the same token, a 1924 report in Time magazine referred to the Republican gathering as the “Kleveland Konvention,” an obvious reference to Klan influence over the party.