The Ku Klux Klan was very prominent and active in Southern Illinois in the 1920s. Many head officials and authorities were sympathizers of the Klan or part of the Klan themselves. However, one might ask how the Klan rose to such a high position in this area of the country during the time period, especially in the town of Herrin, Illinois. Because the Klan promised many different improvements to the people of Herrin, the Klan was able to control the town as its own and was accepted as ultimate authority.
In 1923, when the KKK rose to power in southern Illinois, their beliefs were eye to eye with the townspeople. Both were primarily Protestant, and both hated and resented immigrants, especially Italians who drank wine and made up twenty percent of Herrin‘s population. Among the Klan rose fear of all who were not Protestant, calling all other religions crazy. Patriotism was also a key element of the Klan in post World War I era, and hatred for immigrants from Europe was popular a
Because of a similar religious and cultural background and an overwhelming patriotism, the Klan was able to prosper in southern Illinois. After the passing of the 18th amendment, Prohibition, crime was at an all time high. The crime ring seemed to center around Williamson County, Illinois, and the townsfolk grew restless as it struggled continuously to control it. Foremost, the town needed cleansing after a horrendous incident, in which 19 people were murdered by a rioting mob of union workers. The people found it was the only way to abolish the problems that plagued current society and agreed to Klan authority. These beliefs of hatred against immigrants and extreme patriotism, led the Klan to a position of power. Williamson County would not be known as "bloody Williamson", but instead become an ideal American county. Due to this attitude, many young men and women passed on the opportunity to attend college because they feared becoming social outcasts. The Klan slogan of "100 percent American" became a common saying and allowed others to take out their misfortunes on the immigrants. Williamson County was a center of cultural backwardness, as their county was isolated from the rest of modern society. The whole theory of Darwin"tms evolution was frowned upon and no teacher would dare teach the subject in schools. Thus, the Klan took power over the town, and many times rose above the law. Generally uneducated and unskilled, these people were very close-minded and naive about current events.