Black Legion (political movement)

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For the Croatian World War II brigade, see Crna Legija.
Black Legionnaires' uniform and some regalia, posed by policemen after arrests

The Black Legion was a political organization that splintered from the Ku Klux Klan and operated in the United States in the 1930s. The organization was founded by William Shepard in east central Ohio.[1] The group's total membership, estimated between 20,000 and 30,000, was centered in Detroit, Michigan, though the Legion was also highly active in Ohio and one of its self-described leaders, Virgil "Bert" Effinger, lived and worked in Lima, Ohio.

The Associated Press described the organization on May 31, 1936, as

a group of loosely federated night-riding bands operating in several States without central discipline or common purpose beyond the enforcement by lash and pistol of individual leaders' notions of "Americanism."

The death of Works Progress Administration worker Charles Poole, kidnapped and murdered in southwest Detroit, caused authorities to finally arrest and successfully try and convict a group of twelve men affiliated with the Legion, thereby ending its reign of terror.

Ritual murder[edit]

An article in The Sydney Morning Herald from May 25, 1936, alleges that the Black Legion are a secret society who practice ritual murder:

A secret society that practices ritual murder, and is known as the Black Legion, has been discovered in Detroit. A number of its members are to be charged with murder. It ls believed by the police to be an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan, and to have more than 10,000 members. Its aim is to oppose negroes, Roman Catholics, and Jews.[2]

In media[edit]

  • The April 1, 1937 episode of True Detective Mysteries, a radio show based on the magazine of the same title, was based directly on the Black Legion and the murder of Poole.
  • The March 20, 1938, episode of the radio show The Shadow, with Orson Welles in the title role, was entitled "The White Legion"; it was based loosely on the Black Legion movement.
  • A 1998 episode of the TV series History's Mysteries which examines the group is called, 'Terror in the Heartland: The Black Legion'.


  1. ^ Rudolph Lewis (28 December 2011). "Black Legion: American Terrorists – FBI Investigation Files". ChickenBones: A Journal. 
  2. ^ "SUMMARY. OVERSEA NEWS.". The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 25 May 1936. p. 1. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 

External links[edit]