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Ku Klux Klan

KU KLUX KLAN

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is a white supremacist organization that was founded in 1866. Throughout its notorious history, factions of the secret fraternal organization have used acts of terrorism—including murder, lynching, arson, rape, and bombing—to oppose the granting of civil rights to African Americans. Deriving its membership from native-born, white Protestant U.S. citizens, the KKK has also been anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic, and has opposed the immigration of all those it does not view as "racially pure."

Other names for the group have been White Brotherhood, Heroes of America, Constitutional Union Guards, and Invisible Empire.

Origins and Initial Growth

Ex-Confederate soldiers established the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866. They developed the first two words of the group's name from the Greek word kuklos, meaning "group or band," and took the third as a variant of the word clan. Starting as a largely recreational group, the Klan soon turned to intimidating newly freed African Americans. Riding at night, the Klan terrorized and sometimes murdered those it opposed. Members adopted a hooded white costume—a guise intended to represent the ghosts of the Confederate dead—to avoid identification and to frighten victims during nighttime raids.

The Klan fed off the post-Civil War resentments of white southerners—resentment that centered on the Reconstruction programs imposed on the South by a Republican Congress. Under Reconstruction, the North sought to restructure southern society on the basis of racial equality. Under this new regime, leading southern whites were disfranchised, while inexperienced African Americans, carpetbaggers (northerners who had migrated to the South following the war), and scalawags (southerners who cooperated with the North) occupied major political offices.

Shortly after the KKK's formation, Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former slave trader and Confederate general, assumed control of the organization and turned it into a militaristic, hierarchical entity. In 1868, Forrest formally disbanded the group after he became appalled by its growing violence. However, the KKK continued to grow, and its atrocities worsened. Drawing the core of its membership from ex-Confederate soldiers, the KKK may have numbered several hundred thousand at its height during Reconstruction.

In 1871, the federal government took a series of steps to counter the KKK and its violence. Congress organized a joint select committee made up of seven senators and 14 representatives to look into the Klan and its activities. It then passed the civil rights act of 1871, frequently referred to as the ku klux klan act, which made night-riding a crime and empowered the president to order the use of federal troops to put down conspirators by force. The law also provided criminal and civil penalties for people convicted of private conspiracies—such as those perpetrated by the KKK—intended to deny others their civil rights.

Hugo L. Black and the KKK

Hugo L. Black is remembered as a distinguished U.S. Supreme Court justice, a progressive U.S. Senator, and an able trial attorney. Black also was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the 1920s. Public disclosure of this fact came shortly after his appointment to the Supreme Court was confirmed by the Senate in 1937. The resulting public uproar would probably have doomed his Court appointment if the disclosure had come just a few weeks earlier.

In 1923 Black was a trial attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, which at the time was controlled by members of the Klan. After rebuffing membership several times, he joined the KKK on September 23, 1923. Black later claimed to have left the group after several years, but no clear evidence documented his departure. In 1937 there were allegations he had signed an undated letter resigning from the Klan, which was to have been used to establish a false resignation date if public scandal occurred.

In 1937 Black made a radio address to the nation, in which he admitted his Klan membership but claimed he had resigned and had not had any connection with the group for many years. He also stated he harbored no prejudice against anyone because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.

During his Court career, Black was reluctant to discuss his KKK membership and offered various reasons for why he had joined. To some people he admitted it was a mistake, whereas to others he said the KKK was just another fraternal organization, like the Masons or Elks. It is clear, however, that as an ambitious politician, Black had sought Klan support for his political campaigns. In the 1920s KKK support had been critical to a Democratic politician in Alabama.

Despite his later denial of holding any prejudices, Black was an active member of the KKK for several years. He participated in Klan events throughout Alabama, wearing the organization's characteristic white robes and hood, and initiated new Klan members into the Invisible Empire, reading the Klan oath, which pledged the members to "most zealously and valiantly shield and preserve by any and all justifiable means … white supremacy."

cross-references

Black, Hugo Lafayette.

Also in 1871, President ulysses s. grant relocated troops from the Indian wars on the western plains to South Carolina, in order to quell Klan violence. In October and November of that year, the federal Circuit Court for the District of South Carolina held a series of trials of KKK members suspected of having engaged in criminal conspiracies, but the trials resulted in few convictions.

The Klan declined in influence as the 1870s wore on. Arrests, combined with the return of southern whites to political dominance in the South, diminished its activity and influence.

Resurgence

The KKK experienced a resurgence after world war i, reaching a peak of 3 or 4 million members in the 1920s. David W. Griffith's 1915 movie The Birth of a Nation, based on Thomas Dixon's 1905 novel The Clansman, served as the spark for this revival. The movie depicted the Klan as a heroic force defending the "Aryan birthright" of white southerners against African Americans and Radical Republicans seeking to build a Black Empire in the South. In particular, the movie showed a gallant Klan defending the honor of white women threatened by lecherous African American men.

William J. Simmons renewed the KKK at a Stone Mountain, Georgia, ceremony in 1915. Later, Christian fundamentalist ministers aided recruitment as the Klan portrayed itself as the protector of traditional values during the Jazz Age.

As its membership grew into the millions in the 1920s, the Klan exerted considerable political influence, helping to elect sympathetic candidates to state and national offices. The group was strong not only in southern states such as Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, but also in Oklahoma, California, Oregon, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Strongly opposed to non–Anglo-Saxon immigration, the Klan helped secure the passage of strict quotas on immigration. In addition to being racist, the group also espoused hatred of Jews, Catholics, socialists, and unions.

By the end of the 1920s, a backlash against the KKK had developed. Reports of its violence turned public sentiment against the group, and its membership declined to about 40,000. At the same time, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oklahoma passed anti-mask laws intended to frustrate Klan activity. Most of these laws made it a misdemeanor to wear a mask that concealed the identity of the wearer, excluding masks worn for holiday costumes or other legitimate uses. South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia later passed similar laws.

Anti-Civil Rights Involvement

The KKK experienced another, less successful resurgence during the 1960s as African

Americans won civil rights gains in the South. Opposed to the civil rights movement and its attempt to end racial segregation and discrimination, the Klan capitalized on the fears of whites, to grow to a membership of about 20,000. It portrayed the civil rights movement as a Communist, Jewish conspiracy, and it engaged in terrorist acts designed to frustrate and intimidate the movement's members. KKK adherents were responsible for acts such as the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in which four young African–American girls were killed and many others injured, and the 1964 murder of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, in Mississippi. The Klan was also responsible for many other beatings, murders, and bombings, including attacks on the Freedom Riders, who sought to integrate interstate buses.

In many instances, the federal bureau of investigation (FBI), then under the control of J. EDGAR HOOVER , had intelligence that would have led to the prevention of Klan violence or conviction of its perpetrators. However, the FBI did little to oppose the Klan during the height of the civil rights movement.

By the 1990s, the Klan had shrunk to under ten thousand members and had splintered into several organizations, including the Imperial Klans of America, the Knights of the White Kamelia, and the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. These factions also sought alliances with a proliferating number of other white supremacist groups, including the Order and Aryan Nations. Like these groups, the KKK put new emphasis on whites as an "oppressed majority," victimized by affirmative action and other civil rights measures.

The Klan's campaign of hatred has spurred opposition from many fronts, including Klanwatch, an organization started by lawyer and civil rights activist Morris Dees in 1980. The group is affiliated with Dees's southern poverty law center, in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1987, Dees won a $7 million civil suit against the Alabama-based United Klans of America for the 1981 murder of a 19-year-old man. The suit drove that Klan organization into bankruptcy. In 1998, Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center won a civil suit against the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who were accused of burning down the Macedonia Baptist Church in Bloomville, South Carolina. The center won an unprecedented $37.8 million in damages.

The KKK suffered other setbacks. For example, in 1990 the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of that state's Anti-Mask Act (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-38) by a vote of 6–1 (State v. Miller, 260 Ga. 669, 398 S.E. 2d 547). The case involved a Klan member who had been arrested for wearing full Klan regalia, including mask, in public and had claimed a first amendment right to wear such clothing. The court ruled that the law, first passed in 1951, protected a state interest in safeguarding the right of people to exercise their civil rights and to be free from violence and intimidation. It held that the law did not interfere with the defendant's freedom of speech.

further readings

Allen, Wayne R. 1991. "Klan, Cloth, and Constitution: Anti-Mask Laws and the First Amendment." Georgia Law Review 25 (spring).

Chalmers, David Mark. 2003. Backfire: How the Ku Klux Klan Helped the Civil Rights Movement. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.

Grossman, Mark. 1993. "Ku Klux Klan." Civil Rights Movement. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO.

Johnson, Sandra E. 2002. Standing on Holy Ground: A Triumph Over Hate Crime in the Deep South. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Phillips, John W. 2000. Sign of the Cross: The Prosecutor's True Story of a Landmark Trial Against the Klan. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press.

cross-references

Jim Crow Laws.

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Ku Klux Klan

KU KLUX KLAN

KU KLUX KLAN. A Reconstruction-era terrorist group founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan has been resurrected in a variety of forms from that time to the present; it is one of the powerful, enduring symbols of violent white supremacy and bigotry in American history.

Initially a fraternal organization for a small group of Confederate veterans, the Reconstruction-era Klan quickly turned in a violent, overtly political direction. Like similar groups that appeared across the South in 1866 and 1867 (the Knights of the White Camellia, for example), the Klan used violence and the threat of violence to thwart perceived challenges to white supremacy and Democratic rule. Its mayhem was intended, among other purposes, as a means of controlling black labor, reinforcing social deference to whites, disciplining perceived instances of interracial sexual relationships, and punishing any whites sympathetic to or working on behalf of the Republican Party. Most often, the Klan's victims were African American community leaders—ministers, teachers, politicians, former or current soldiers, or anyone else who clearly held a place of special importance among the former slaves. Murders, floggings, beatings, and sexual assaults carried out against these leaders often achieved the intended goal not only of undermining Reconstruction government, but also of demoralizing the wider black community. Klan terror erupted on a vast scale during the election year of 1868, leading to more than two thousand political assassinations and murders in the former Confederate states, often carried out with the approval or even direct support of local Democratic leaders. "Run nigger, run, or the Kuklux will catch you," warned one Democratic newspaper in Alabama (Trelease, White Terror, p. 63). The violence completely eliminated Republican opposition in some areas of the South. Similar waves of Klan activity in 1870 and 1872 led to a series of congressional acts that gave the federal government historic new authority to enforce civil rights under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The most significant of these


were the Enforcement Act of 1870 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. The Klan faded from the scene after Reconstruction came to an end in 1877, but remained a vivid symbol of barbarous racial violence in the minds of African Americans—and an equally powerful emblem for many whites of what they saw as a just struggle against the tyranny of Reconstruction and "black rule."

By the early twentieth century, idealized images of the Klan as savior of white civilization had become a mainstay of scholarly and popular representations of the Reconstruction era. Thomas Dixon's best selling, turn-of-the-century novels The Leopard's Spots and The Clansman told the story of heroic Klansmen with melodramatic flair. In 1915, the motion picture visionary D. W. Griffith used The Clansman as the basis for his sweeping epic, Birth of a Nation.

In that same year, previously unsuccessful fraternal organizer William J. Simmons capitalized on the enormous popularity of Griffith's film by launching a new Klan movement. For five years the "second" Klan barely survived, maintaining a small membership in Georgia and Alabama. In 1920, however, in the wake of extensive postwar labor and racial strife and the onset of national Prohibition, it began a five-year period of enormous, nationwide popularity. The revived Klan was based on romantic images of the original, but ultimately was a very different organization. While the first Klan had little formal structure or leadership outside of individual communities, the second had a highly developed organization, with a hierarchy of local, state, and national leaders, public relations advisers, a string of newspapers, and a marketing operation that sold official uniforms and other paraphernalia. Using recruiting agents—who earned a 25 percent commission on each ten-dollar initiation fee—and holding mass public ceremonies, parades, and social events to attract widespread attention, the second Klan enrolled perhaps as many as five million male and female members (women joined a separate organization, Women of the Ku Klux Klan). Its largest state memberships and greatest local influence came outside the South, in the Midwest and the West. The Indiana Klan enrolled approximately 25 percent of all native-born white men in the state; at least one half million men and women became Klan members in Ohio.

The goals and tactics of the second Klan also differed markedly from those of the first. While the original movement used terror to confront the significant challenge to white supremacy that came with Reconstruction, the Klan of the 1920s faced no such threat and was focused instead on upholding a more general sense of white, Protestant hegemony within American society. The perceived threat came from Catholics, Jews, immigrants, African Americans, Prohibition-related lawlessness, gambling, prostitution, immoral popular culture and personal behavior, and a sense of decline in religion, "pure womanhood," and the family. Vigilante violence did occur in association with the new Klan, most often in the South, targeted in some instances, of course, against African Americans. But more often, when violence did occur, it was directed against fellow white Protestants as punishment for drinking, gambling, adulterous behavior, or other perceived moral lapse. Mob violence was also directed against the Klan, particularly in northern and midwestern cities where ethnic minorities vastly outnumbered native, white Protestants and Klan parades and demonstrations were not well received. The main thrust of the second Klan movement, however, was to elect its members and supporters to public office. Promising to uphold traditional values and enforce the law—Prohibition in particular—the Klan won control of mayor's offices, city councils, school boards, sheriff and district attorney offices, and judgeships in many communities across the nation. It gained complete control of state politics for a time in Indiana, Colorado, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Alabama, and was an important political force in almost every state outside the Northeast. The second Klan began to lose its momentum by 1925 when Klan politicians proved as incapable as other elected officials of halting Prohibition-related vice and other unwanted conditions. Membership dropped precipitously after a series of scandals, the most famous involving Indiana Klan leader D. C. Stephenson, who was convicted of second-degree murder after committing a brutal sexual assault against an Indianapolis woman who eventually died from her injuries.

By the end of the 1920s only small pockets of Klan members remained, most of them in the South and devoted primarily to perpetuating the tradition of racial vigilantism. After World War II, support for Klan groups began to increase again as war-related social changes and the rising expectations of African Americans threatened the Jim Crow system. Once the civil rights movement took hold, the spirit of massive white resistance and the leadership of the White Citizens' Council gave birth to a number of independent, regional Klan organizations. Like the Reconstruction-era Klan cells, these new groups operated mainly through terror, committing hundreds of murders, and countless other acts of violence and intimidation, with the goal of stopping the second Reconstruction. In the face of intense media coverage and the persistent courage of civil rights workers, however, Klan violence actually back fired by broadening public sympathy for the cause of racial justice. Klan groups have continued to exist since that time as part of a diverse, sometimes violent right-wing element in American life, although consistently and effectively assailed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups. In one notable instance, one-time Louisiana Klan leader David Duke gained widespread national attention during the late 1980s and early 1990s by proclaiming himself a mainstream conservative Republican, winning election to the state legislature, and falling just short of the governors' office. National party leaders, however, rejected Duke, underscoring the fact that the Klan itself had lost any place of legitimacy or influence in American life.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Blee, Kathleen M. Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Chalmers, David M. Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan. 3d ed. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1987. The original edition was published in 1965.

Jenkins, William D. Steel Valley Klan: The Ku Klux Klan in Ohio's Mahoning Valley. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1990.

Moore, Leonard J. Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921–1928. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

Trelease, Allan W. White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

Leonard J.Moore

See alsoDiscrimination: Race ; Force Acts ; Jim Crow Laws ; Race Relations .

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Ku Klux Klan

Ku Klux Klan (kōō´ klŭks klăn), designation mainly given to two distinct secret societies that played a part in American history, although other less important groups have also used the name. The first Ku Klux Klan was an organization that thrived in the South during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. The second was a nationwide organization that flourished after World War I. Subsequent groups calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan sprang up in much of the South after World War II and in response to civil-rights activity during the 1960s.

The First Ku Klux Klan

The original Ku Klux Klan was organized by ex-Confederate elements to oppose the Reconstruction policies of the radical Republican Congress and to maintain "white supremacy." After the Civil War, when local government in the South was weak or nonexistent and there were fears of black outrages and even of an insurrection, informal vigilante organizations or armed patrols were formed in almost all communities. These were linked together in societies, such as the Men of Justice, the Pale Faces, the Constitutional Union Guards, the White Brotherhood, and the Order of the White Rose. The Ku Klux Klan was the best known of these, and in time it absorbed many of the smaller organizations.

It was organized at Pulaski, Tenn., in May, 1866. Its strange disguises, its silent parades, its midnight rides, its mysterious language and commands, were found to be most effective in playing upon fears and superstitions. The riders muffled their horses' feet and covered the horses with white robes. They themselves, dressed in flowing white sheets, their faces covered with white masks, and with skulls at their saddle horns, posed as spirits of the Confederate dead returned from the battlefields. Although the Klan was often able to achieve its aims by terror alone, whippings and lynchings were also used, not only against blacks but also against the so-called carpetbaggers and scalawags.

A general organization of the local Klans was effected in Apr., 1867, at Nashville, Tenn. Gen. N. B. Forrest, the famous Confederate cavalry leader, was made Grand Wizard of the Empire and was assisted by ten Genii. Each state constituted a Realm under a Grand Dragon with eight Hydras as a staff; several counties formed a Dominion controlled by a Grand Titan and six Furies; a county was a Province ruled by a Grand Giant and four Night Hawks; the local Den was governed by a Grand Cyclops with two Night Hawks as aides. The individual members were called Ghouls.

Control over local Dens was not as complete as this organization would seem to indicate, and reckless and even lawless local leaders sometimes committed acts that the leaders could not countenance. General Forrest, in Jan., 1869, seemingly under some apprehension as to the use of its power, ordered the disbandment of the Klan and resigned as Grand Wizard. Local organizations continued, some of them for many years.

The Klan was particularly effective in systematically keeping black men away from the polls, so that the ex-Confederates gained political control in many states. Congress in 1870 and 1871 passed legislation to combat the Klan (see force bill). The Klan was especially strong in the mountain and Piedmont areas. In the Lower South the Knights of the White Camelia were dominant. That order, founded (1867) in Louisiana, is reputed to have had even more members than the Ku Klux Klan, but its membership was more conservative and its actions less spectacular. It had a similar divisional organization, with headquarters in New Orleans.

The Second Ku Klux Klan

The second Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1915 by William J. Simmons, an ex-minister and promoter of fraternal orders; its first meeting was held on Stone Mt., Ga. The new Klan had a wider program than its forerunner, for it added to "white supremacy" an intense nativism and anti-Catholicism (it was also anti-Semitic) closely related to that of the Know-Nothing movement of the middle 19th cent. Consequently its appeal was not sectional, and, aided after 1920 by the activities of professional promoters Elizabeth Tyler and Edward Y. Clarke, it spread rapidly throughout the North as well as the South. It furnished an outlet for the militant patriotism aroused by World War I, and it stressed fundamentalism in religion.

Professing itself nonpolitical, the Klan nevertheless controlled politics in many communities and in 1922, 1924, and 1926 elected many state officials and a number of Congressmen. Texas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Oregon, and Maine were particularly under its influence. Its power in the Midwest was broken during the late 1920s when David C. Stephenson, a major Klan leader there, was convicted of second-degree murder, and evidence of corruption came out that led to the indictment of the governor of Indiana and the mayor of Indianapolis, both supporters of the Klan. The Klan frequently took extralegal measures, especially against those whom it considered its enemies. As was the case with the earlier Klan, some of these measures, whether authorized by the central organization or not, were extreme.

At its peak in the mid-1920s its membership was estimated at 4 million to 5 million. Although the actual figures were probably much smaller, the Klan nevertheless declined with amazing rapidity to an estimated 30,000 by 1930. The Klan spirit, however, was a factor in breaking the Democratic hold on the South in 1928, when Alfred E. Smith, a Roman Catholic, was that party's presidential candidate. Its collapse thereafter was largely due to state laws that forbade masks and eliminated the secret element, to the bad publicity the organization received through its thugs and swindlers, and apparently from the declining interest of the members. With the depression of the 1930s, dues-paying membership of the Klan shrank to almost nothing. Meanwhile, many of its leaders had done extremely well financially from the dues and the sale of Klan paraphernalia.

The Klan after World War II

After World War II, Dr. Samuel Green of Georgia led a concerted attempt to revive the Klan, but it failed dismally as the organization splintered and as state after state specifically barred the order. Southern civil-rights activities during the 1960s gave the Klan a new impetus and led to revivals of scattered Klan organizations. The most notable of these were Mississippi's White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, led by Robert Shelton. The newly revived Klan groups were responsible for violent attacks against blacks and civil-rights workers in cities throughout the South, including Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Fla., Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala., and Meridian, Miss. In spite of its efforts, the new Klan was not strong, and by the end of the decade its power and membership had declined to practically nothing. Although a resurgence of support for the Klan was manifest in the surprising popularity in the early 1990s of David Duke of Louisiana, actual membership in Klan organizations is estimated to be in the low thousands.

Bibliography

A. W. Tourgée's Fool's Errand (1879) and T. Dixon's Clansman (1905), on which D. W. Griffith based his film The Birth of a Nation, were two popular novels about the original Klan. For other works on the Reconstruction era Ku Klux Klan see A. W. Tourgée, The Invisible Empire (1880, repr. 1989); W. L. Fleming's edition (1905) of J. C. Lester and D. L. Wilson, Ku Klux Klan; S. F. Horn, Invisible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan, 1866–1871 (1939, repr. 1973). The structure of the Klan after World War I is discussed in J. M. Mecklin, The Ku Klux Klan (1924), A. S. Rice, The Ku Klux Klan in American Politics (1962), N. MacLean, Behind the Mask of Chivalry (1994), K. J. Baker, Gospel According to the Klan (2011), and T. R. Pegram, One Hundred Percent American (2011). D. Lowe's Ku Klux Klan: The Invisible Empire (1967) and D. Cunningham's Klansville, U.S.A. (2012) deal with the final period of Klan activity, as do D. M. Chalmer's Hooded Americanism (1968) and W. C. Wade's The Fiery Cross (1987), which also discuss the first and second Klans.

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Ku Klux Klan

Ku Klux Klan

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, in the spring of 1866 by six former Confederate soldiers, the Ku Klux Klan quickly emerged as an antiblack and anti-Republican force in the South. Following the passage by Congress of the Reconstruction Acts in 1867, Klansmen began a reign of terror, abusing, intimidating, assaulting, and sometimes murdering those who sought to create a true democracy in the former slave states. Riding across the countryside in white (and black) robes, they burned churches, schools, and the homes of former slaves and their white sympathizers.

In his fine study of the topic, Allen Trelease (1971) described this first Klan as a conspiracy among many whites in the Democratic Party to subdue their rivals, but historians have pointed out the lack of communication between Klan members in different states and locales during this period. Even if there was no conspiracy, there was large-scale participation. One estimate noted that in Alabama alone there were ten thousand Klan members. In 1870 and 1871, however, President Ulysses S. Grant (18221885) signed into law what were called the Force Acts, giving the federal government authority to protect freedmen and Republicans. The Force Acts drove the Klan underground, and the racial and political violence that occurred in subsequent years was mostly caused by white vigilante groups.

The second Klan, founded by William Joseph Simmons (18801945) at Stone Mountain, Georgia, in 1915, expanded the geographical reach and organizational purpose of the group. The second Klan acquired immediate legitimacy with the almost simultaneous release of D. W. Griffiths sympathetic and successful motion picture, Birth of a Nation (1915), based on Thomas Dixon Jr.s novel The Clansman (1905). By the 1920s, Klan rallies, complete with cross burnings, were being held in the South, Southwest, and north-central states. The city where perhaps the largest Klan rally in American history occurred was Kokomo, Indiana, on July 4, 1923, when about 100,000 Klansmen and Klanswomen gathered to celebrate the inauguration of a new Grand Wizard. The second Klan stood against foreigners, Jews, blacks, and Catholics, proclaiming Native, white, Protestant supremacy. In this movement to create an all-white society, the Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire, as the head of the Klan was called, explained: We know that we are right in the same sense that a good Christian knows that he has been saved and that Christ lives (Mann 1968, p. 129). With a national organization and national distribution of regalia, the new message of hate attracted a large membership, estimated at several million. It was this incarnation of the Klan that neither the U.S. government nor state and county agencies, including law enforcement departments, were able to curb or drive to cover. The Great Depression of the 1930s, however, decimated its ranks. With poverty, hunger, and unemployment among millions of Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Klans membership declined precipitously.

Following World War II (19391945), several Klan organizations emerged in various sections of the country. Klan members fought against the civil rights movement in the South and were responsible for bombings, burnings, and murders in Alabama, Mississippi, and other states. In response to this violence, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a small civil rights law firm, was founded in 1971 in Montgomery, Alabama. Today, the center is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists, and its tracking of hate groups. More recently, some Klansmen, including David Duke, have gained celebrity status by appearing on television talk shows. Throughout its history, however, the Ku Klux Klan has been a secret, terrorist organization dedicated to promoting white supremacy in the United States.

SEE ALSO Racism; White Supremacy

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chalmers, David M. 1965. Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan. New York: Doubleday.

Mann, Arthur, comp. 1968. Immigrants in American Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Trelease, Allen. 1971. White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction. New York: Harper.

Loren Schweninger

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"Ku Klux Klan." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 1 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Ku Klux Klan

KU KLUX KLAN


The Ku Klux Klan (abbreviated KKK) is a white supremacist groupmembers believe in the superiority of whites over other races. The first part of the name ("Ku Klux") is derived from the Greek word kyklos, meaning circle. Klan is a derivative of the English word "clan," meaning family. The group was originally formed in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, when Confederate Army veterans formed what they called a social club. The first leader (called the "Grand Wizard") was Nathan Bedford Forrest (18211877), a former general in the Confederate Army, who, on April 12, 1864, in the final days of the American Civil War (18611865), led a massacre of three hundred African American soldiers in service of the Union Army at Fort Pillow, Tennessee.

As the unofficial arm of resistance against Republican efforts to restore the nation and make full citizens of its African American (formerly slave) population, the Ku Klux Klan waged a campaign of terror against former slaves in the South. Klan members, cloaked in robes and hoods to disguise their identity, threatened, beat, and killed numerous African Americans. While the group deprived its victims of their rights as citizens, their intent was also to intimidate the entire African American population and keep them out of, or in some cases remove them from, politics. People who supported the federal government's measures to extend rights to all citizens also became the victims of the fearsome Klan. Membership in the group grew quickly and the Ku Klux Klan soon had a presence throughout the South.

In 1871 the U.S. Congress passed the Force Bill, giving President Ulysses S. Grant (18691877) authority to direct federal troops against the Klan. The action was successful, causing the group to disappearbut only for a time. The society was newly organized at Stone Mountain, Georgia, in 1915 as a Protestant fraternal organization (called "The Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc."), this time widening its focus of persecution to include Roman Catholics, immigrants, and Jews, as well as African Americans. Members of all of these groups became targets of KKK harassment, which now included torture and whippings. The group, which proclaimed its mission to be "racial purity," grew in number and became national, electing some of their members to public office in many states (and not just Southern states). The KKK's acts of violence, howveer, raised public ire, and by the 1940s, America's attention focused on World War II (19391945) and the Klan died out or went completely underground. The group had another resurgence during the 1950s and into the early 1970s, as the nation struggled through the civil rights era. The Klan still exists today, fostering the extremist views of its membership and staging marches to demonstrate its presence on the American landscape. Such demonstrations are often attended by protestors, with violence being the sad outcome.

See also: Reconstruction

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"Ku Klux Klan." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. 1 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Ku Klux Klan." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. 1999. Retrieved July 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406400506.html

Ku Klux Klan

Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Name of two secret, white, racist groups in the USA. The first Ku Klux Klan was organized in the South in 1866. Opposed to Reconstruction, it attempted to enforce labour discipline in plantation districts and to maintain white supremacy by preventing blacks from voting. Klansmen dressed in white robes and hoods terrorized black communities. By 1872 the Klan had been suppressed by Federal authorities. A second Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1915, embraced broader-based racism, targeting Catholics, Jews and communists, as well as black people. By the 1920s, its membership was about four million. It declined thereafter, but there was a minor resurgence in the 1960s and in some Southern states in the 1990s.

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Ku Klux Klan

Ku Klux Klan an extremist right-wing secret society in the US. The Ku Klux Klan was originally founded in the southern states after the Civil War to oppose social change and black emancipation by violence and terrorism. Although disbanded twice, it re-emerged in the 1950s and 1960s and continues at a local level. Members disguise themselves in white robes and hoods, and often use a burning cross as a symbol of their organization.

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ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "Ku Klux Klan." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 1 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "Ku Klux Klan." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. (July 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O214-KuKluxKlan.html

ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "Ku Klux Klan." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Retrieved July 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O214-KuKluxKlan.html

Ku Klux Klan

Ku Klux Klan / ˈkoō ˌkləks ˈklan/ (abbr.: KKK) an extremist right-wing secret society in the U.S. DERIVATIVES: Ku Klux·er n. Ku Klux Klans·man / ˈklanzmən/ n. (pl. -men) .

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"Ku Klux Klan." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. 1 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ku Klux Klan." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. (July 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-kukluxklan.html

"Ku Klux Klan." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Retrieved July 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-kukluxklan.html

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