Letter Regarding Ma Ferguson and the Ku Klux Klan

Texas women vote against the Ku Klux Klan

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by Jenny Cobb, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

Jessie Daniel Ames, President of the Texas League of Women’s Voters, responded to a letter from Dr. P. O. Ray of Northwestern University in Illinois regarding Miriam “Ma” Ferguson’s candidacy for Texas governor in 1924. Ray wondered what impact Ferguson would have on the state, and Ames responded that it was “a question as to the greater evil—the [Ku Klux] Klan or [Ma] Ferguson.”

The Ku Klux Klan was originally founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, by six Confederate veterans following the Civil War in 1865 and quickly spread to Texas and other Southern states. In opposition to the federal Republican-led government, Klan members swore to support the supremacy of the white race, and opposed immigration and integration. African Americans, Mexican Americans, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and anyone challenging the group’s idea of morality were considered enemies. The Klan became so powerful in Texas that following the 1922 statewide election, the Klan held a majority in the Texas House of Representatives, controlled numerous city governments in North Texas, and influenced legislation state-wide.

Their power began to fade in 1924 when Ma Ferguson defeated Klan-candidate Felix D. Robertson in the July 1924 Democratic Primary. Jessie Ames, a Ferguson supporter, felt it a victory worth celebrating. “The Klan had taken over the Democratic Party in Texas, which means, of course, the State of Texas," Ames wrote to Dr. Ray, who was concerned how Ferguson's election might impact The University of Texas. If Robertson had won “Following the tactics of the Klan in the past, no one but Klansman would be appointed [to serve as Regents of The University of Texas] and no one but Klansmen would be permitted on the faculty . . .The Klan would have been in power for twenty years at least.”

Ferguson’s anti-Klan platform and subsequent election as governor coupled with increased Klan controversy led to dissension within the organization and a growing anti-Klan sentiment among Texans. By the late 1920s, Klan membership declined rapidly along with the organization’s realm of influence throughout the state. The Klan, however, would continue to resurface throughout the 20th century and into the 21st

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Letter Regarding Ma Ferguson and the Ku Klux Klan Artifact from Georgetown, Texas
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