Claude Kitchen's Crusade

Background and Biography of the Loudest Voice of Opposition to American Entry to the Great War


  • Timothy Reagin University of North Carolina, Greensboro


North Carolina, Democratic Party, Politics, World War I, Segregation, Claude Kitchen


On April 16, 1917, House Majority Leader Claude Kitchen took to the floor of the House shortly after midnight wearing a William Jennings Bryan-inspired string tie, upholding a stance that his hero, Bryan, would have been proud of, to announce his intention to the crowded room to vote against the war resolution that would send the American Republic into the “bloodiest war known in the history of the world.” He continued, “Half of the civilized world is now a slaughterhouse for human beings. [The United States] is the last hope of peace on earth.” The great orator passionately pleaded with the chamber for his allotted ten minutes in vain. The United States would soon enter the Great War.

The man who captivated the attention of the United States on that chilly, rainy April night has largely been forgotten today, despite his
importance to a nation on the eve of its launch to world power status. Kitchin was well known in the 1910s in North Carolina and around the
country, due to his decades of service to the country. He was well respected in many circles and loathed in a few others. Like many figures
of national renown from the American past, he has a checkered record, which must not be ignored. He was a white southern man of his time,
who helped disfranchise black voters in North Carolina. He believed that in doing so he also had an obligation to protect those black Tar
Heels out of a sense of paternalism, or noblesse oblige, although that “protection” kept African Americans in second-class status.




How to Cite

Reagin, T. (2022). Claude Kitchen’s Crusade: Background and Biography of the Loudest Voice of Opposition to American Entry to the Great War. Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians, 29. Retrieved from