The KKK and Immigration in the 1920's

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United States immigration laws reflect a long history of debate over who should be included and excluded in differing visions of American identity. In 1924, Congress passed the Johnson-Reed Act or the Immigration Act of 1924, “a measure which was a legislative expression of the xenophobia, particularly towards eastern and southern European immigrants, that swept America in the decade of the 1920s.”This legislation drastically limited immigration to the United States through a quota system that targeted specific groups for exclusion. While the annual quota for German immigrants was set at over 51,000 people, the quota for Syrian immigrants, for example, was 100 people. Thus, U.S. policy officially distinguished between races and backgrounds of people included or excluded as future Americans. The Ku Klux Klan influenced the passage of this legislation, which had dire consequences for those seeking asylum in the U.S. over the following decades in which the quota system remained in place.

This lesson uses primary sources from the Indiana Historical Library to explore ways that the KKK tried to sell their hateful ideology as "100% American"