public health

White Coats, White Hoods: The Medical Politics of the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s America

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

This article explores the medical politics of the second iteration of Ku Klux Klan in the United States. As eugenics gained a foothold in America at the turn of the twentieth century, the Klan embraced the latest in scientific racism to lend legitimacy to their cultural, political, and economic goals of white supremacy. Klan physicians in particular held a vested interest preserving a racialized medical hierarchy and promoting reproductive surveillance in public health. By the 1920s, a symbiotic relationship developed between the organization and the medical profession. The Klan relied on its member physicians to lend professional respectability to the organization and scientific legitimacy to its agenda. In turn, affiliation with the Klan gave physicians an opportunity for career advancement and provided the muscle to intimidate professional and political opponents.