Hoods and gallows: was this the KKK in Portsmouth?

Was this really the Ku Klux Klan in Portsmouth?
Was this really the Ku Klux Klan in Portsmouth?
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Surely this cannot be what it appears to be. Can it?

The bizarre picture on the right comes from The News archive and was taken in 1929.

Let’s get the location out of the way first. It’s clear we are on the steps of the old Guildhall.

Now the subject matter.

At first glance it would appear to be the lord mayor surrounded by a visiting branch of the Ku Klux Klan.

Look again and the man with the necklace resting on his chest is certainly not wearing the city’s mayoral chain. It appears to be a necklace of pebbles.

Perhaps he was the leader of this unit?

The people in the hoods and aprons with spinechilling holes cut for eyes and mouths appear jolly enough, if that’s what floats your boat.

But then your eye is drawn to the makeshift gallows being paraded at the back on the left and the photograph takes on an even more sinister tone.

In 1929 the Klan was at the height of its second manifestation in the United States carrying out violent attacks against African Americans and burning crosses.