Kampus Klan:
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Ku Klux Klan, in the Early 1920s

Project Editor:Ryan Treick, History 470: Digital History, Spring 2008

Table of Contents

National Klan
Nebraska Klan
University Klan

University Klan

At the beginning of the fall semester in September of 1921, a rumor was floating around the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus that a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was being organized on campus ("Rumor Klan Unit to be Formed Here"). There was no official request to the University Board of Regents for a University Ku Klux Klan, and because of the Klan's secrecy there is lack of evidence that suggests there was an official attempt by the Ku Klux Klan to officially organize. The story did have the attention of the campus as the Daily Nebraskan published the rumor on the front page of its paper.

The organization of a Ku Klux Klan on the Lincoln campus appeared to be student led. Before it was able to obtain any traction to move ahead, legal issues prevented the group from getting off the ground. A rule that was unanimously passed by the University Senate on 29 April 1909 banned any organization whose membership was secret ("UNI Ku Klux Klan Runs into a Snag"). Because the Ku Klux Klan is notoriously known for being a secret organization, rules already established at the University prevented a sanctioned University Klan.

The rumor of a University Klan being formed on campus immediately drew a response from the local Klan. The Committee of the Lincoln Province issued "Order No. 27." This official order was sent to Chancellor Samuel Avery, and three local papers: , , and . The Lincoln Province publicly denied that they had in any way begun recruiting or attempting to organize a Ku Klux division on the Lincoln campus. The organization claimed that it was a "law abiding" and that it would respect the rules of the University that banned secret societies on campus (Committee of the Lincoln Province).

In response to the talk and rumors on campus about the Klan attempting to organize at UNL, Chancellor Avery issued an unofficial statement on Tuesday, September 20 saying, "the organization of a K.K.K. in the University is highly undesirable ("Chancellor Avery's Statement")." Citing University policy of not allowing secret organizations, Avery also made it known to students the consequences of participating in campus Klan activity by saying that "students violating the rule are subject to expulsion ("Kill Ku-Klux among UNI Students")." Avery did a good job of making it known to University students that the activities of the Klan were not going to be tolerated and that UNL did not want in anyway an association with the Ku Klux Klan. Michael Schuyler, a scholar on Klan activities during the 1920s, argues that it was because of Nebraska citizens such as Avery speaking out against the KKK was an "important factor! in determining the klan's fate...(Schuyler, 246)"

Schuyler makes a good point about the influential role Avery played in the Klan's fate, however, there was public support for Avery in his decision to come out against the Klan. The editorial page published an article hoping that the students and faculty alike would reject the notion of a University Klan forming on campus. "The present Ku Klux Klan professes faith in government," the article said, "but repudiates this faith by taking the law in its own hands at a time when our government does govern ("Teaching University Students")." The response from the public indicates that the Klan was not an organization that Nebraskans wanted its University associated with.

There is no denying that the Klan was popular during the 1920s, and grew more until the middle of the decade. Much credit must be given to Chancellor Avery's ability to communicate with the faculty and students of UNL that a University Ku Klux Klan was not going to be tolerated on campus. A racist and bigoted organization such as the KKK has been a black eye to America when studying history. Because UNL was able to keep this group seperated from its campus life, students should be proud of its University's history in not allowing the Ku Klux Klan to be associated with its institution.