Ku Klux Klan
|Ku Klux Klan|
|Abbreviation||KKK, Invisible Empire|
|Motto||Today, Tomorrow and Forever|
|Existence||First Klan Era (1866–1877)|
Second Klan Era (1915–1944)
Third Klan Era (1945–1974)
Fourth Klan Era (1974–1981)
Fifth Klan Era (1981–present)
|Type||European American interests|
The Ku Klux Klan (sometimes known as the Invisible Empire, the KKK, or The Klan) is a name which has been used by a wide variety of nationalist, racialist organizations representing several different eras from the 19th century onwards in the United States and Canada.
The first Klan originated during 1866 as a guerrilla band of former Confederates, following the American Civil War. The "Radical Republicans" during Reconstruction had attempted to undermine European American hegemony in the South.
Observers have divided the history of the Klan into five "Eras". The Klan’s permanent motto is "Today, Tomorrow, and Forever." Two important individuals involved in the founding of the original Klan were Confederate generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and Albert Pike, a high-degree freemason.
- 1 First Era (1866-1877)
- 2 Source
- 3 Second Era (1915-1944)
- 4 Third Era (1945-1974)
- 5 Fourth Era (1974-1981)
- 6 Fifth Era (1981-present)
- 7 Portrayal in Media
- 8 Notable Ku Klux Klan members
- 9 Notes
- 10 See also
- 11 More Pictures
- 12 External links
First Era (1866-1877)
Historical Background: Looming Black Rule
Following the Civil War, the Radical Republicans controlling Congress fought to "punish" the Southern States, against the wishes of both Lincoln and his successor Andrew Johnson.
They sought to impose Black Rule on the former CSA, which at the time had a black majority. It also sought to destroy the "plantation aristocracy" by appropriating all its wealth, to the sum of $17,000,000 in Black slaves. Confederate veterans were denied participation in elections only to be replaced by freed slaves who were easily swayed by political promises of “forty acres and a mule” from conquering Northern carpetbaggers.
The first Ku Klux Klan was an American secret association of Southern Whites united for self-protection and to oppose the Reconstruction measures of the United States Congress, 1865–1876. The name is generally applied not only to the order of Ku Klux Klan, but to other similar societies that existed at the same time, such as the Knights of the White Camelia, a larger order than the Klan; the White Brotherhood; the White League; Pale Faces; Constitutional Union Guards; Black Cavalry; White Rose; The '76 Association; the Redshirts and hundreds of smaller societies that sprang up in the South after the Civil War. The object was to protect the Whites during the disorders that followed the Civil War, and to oppose the policy of the North towards the South, and the result of the whole movement was a more or less successful revolution against the Reconstruction and an overthrow of the governments based on Black suffrage. It may be compared in some degree to such European societies as the Carbonara, Young Italy, the Tugendbund, the Confreries of France, the Freemasons in Catholic countries, and the Vehmgericht.
Rise and Influence
The most important orders were the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camelia. The former was founded on May 6, 1865, in Pulaski, Tennessee, as a club of freemasons and unknowing young men, most of these were veterans of the Confederate Army. It had an absurd ritual and a strange uniform. The members accidentally discovered that the fear of it had a great influence over the lawless but superstitious blacks, and soon the club expanded into a great federation of regulators, absorbing numerous local bodies that had been formed in the absence of civil law and partaking of the nature of the old English neighborhood police and the ante-bellum slave patrol. The White Camelia was formed in 1867 in Louisiana and rapidly spread over the states of the late Confederacy. The period of organization and development of the Ku Klux movement was from 1865 to 1868; the period of greatest activity was from 1868 to 1870, after which came the decline.
The various causes assigned for the origin and development of this movement were: the absence of stable government in the South for several years after the Civil War; the corrupt and tyrannical rule of the alien, renegade and Black, and the belief that it was supported by the Federal troops which controlled elections and legislative bodies; the disfranchisement of Whites; the spread of ideas of social and political equality among the Blacks; fear of Black insurrections; the arming of Black militia and the disarming of the Whites; outrages upon White women by Black men; the influence of Northern adventurers in the Freedmen's Bureau and the Union League in alienating the races; the humiliation of Confederate soldiers after they had been paroled - in general, the insecurity felt by Southern Whites during the decade after the collapse of the Confederacy.
In organization the Klan was modelled after the Federal Union. Its Prescript or constitution, adopted in 1867, and revised in 1868, provided for the following organization: The entire South was the Invisible Empire under a Grand Wizard, General Nathan Bedford Forrest; each state was a Realm under a Grand Dragon; several counties formed a Dominion under a Grand Titan; each county was a Province under a Grand Giant; the smallest division being a Den under a Grand Cyclops. The staff officers bore similar titles, relics of the time when the order existed only for amusement: Genii, Hydras, Furies, Goblins, Night Hawks, Magi, Monks and Turks. The private members were called Ghouls. The Klan was twice reorganized, in 1867 and in 1868, each time being more centralized; in 1869 the central organization was disbanded and the order then gradually declined. The White Camelia with a similar history had a similar organization, without the queer titles. Its members were called Brothers and Knights, and its officials Commanders.
The constitutions and rituals of these secret orders have declarations of principles, of which the following are characteristic: to protect and succour the weak and unfortunate, especially the widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers; to protect members, of the White race in life, honour and property from the encroachments of the blacks; to oppose the Radical Republican party and the Union League; to defend constitutional liberty, to prevent usurpation, emancipate the Whites, maintain peace and order, the laws of God, the principles of 1776, and the political and social supremacy of the White race - in short, to oppose African influence in government and society, and to prevent any intermingling of the races.
During the Reconstruction the people of the South were divided thus: nearly all native Whites (the most prominent of whom were disfranchised) on one side irrespective of former political faith, and on the other side the ex-slaves organized and led by a few native and Northern Whites called respectively scalawags and carpetbaggers, who were supported by the United States government and who controlled the Southern state governments. The Ku Klux movement in its wider aspects was the effort of the first class to destroy the control of the second class. To control the Black the Klan played upon his superstitious fears by having night patrols, parades and drills of silent horsemen covered with white sheets, carrying skulls with coals of fire for eyes, sacks of bones to rattle, and wearing hideous masks. In calling upon dangerous blacks at night they pretended to be the spirits of dead Confederates, "just from Hell," and to quench their thirst would pretend to drink gallons of water which was poured into rubber sacks concealed under their robes. Mysterious signs and warnings were sent to disorderly Black politicians. The Whites who were responsible for the conduct of the blacks were warned or driven away by social and business ostracism or by violence. Nearly all southern Whites (except "scalawags"), whether members of the secret societies or hot, in some way took part in the Ku Klux movement. As the work of the societies succeeded, they gradually passed out of existence. In some communities they fell into the control of violent men and became simply bands of outlaws, dangerous even to the former members; and the anarchical aspects of the movement excited the North to vigorous condemnation.' The United States Congress in1871-1872 enacted a series of "Force Laws" intended to break up the secret societies and to control the Southern elections. Several hundred arrests were made, and a few convictions were secured. The elections were controlled for a few years, and violence was checked, but the Ku Klux movement went on until it accomplished its object by giving protection to the Whites, reducing the blacks to order, replacing the Whites in control of society and state, expelling the worst of the carpetbaggers and scalawags, and nullifying those laws of Congress which had resulted in placing the Southern Whites under the control of a party composed principally of ex-slaves.
Gallery Images of the first Klan
A scene from the film Birth of a Nation.
Second Era (1915-1944)
Birth of the Second Klan
On December 4, 1915, William Joseph Simmons founded the second Ku Klux Klan which happened to be timed with the release of the now clasic silent film Birth of a Nation. Simmons was a preacher and Freemason, who was a member of dozen fraternal groups and two churches. The day before Thanksgiving in 1915, Simmons and 15 charter members lit a cross on Stone Mountain, Georgia, inaugurating the revived Klan.
The second Klan became a national organization and avoided sectionalism. It embraced "Americanism" and was no longer isolated to the South. The second Klan was stronger in the Midwest than in the Deep South. It wasn’t until the 1950s when the Klan embraced the Confederate Flag. Presidents such as Washington, Jefferson, and even Lincoln were seen as true Americans in the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s.
The new Klan filled a political vacuum in the USA very quickly: American nationalism. The new Klan called for "100% Americanism", standing in opposition to rising Jewish and Roman Catholic political power in the USA. A joke in the early 1920s claimed "KKK" really stood for "Katholics, Kikes, and Koons": The group's opponents.
1920s: Peak of Power
By the early 1920s, the organization had an estimated 4–5 million members. Of these some 40,000 fundamentalist ministers were members. Michigan had the largest number in 1921, with 875,000. In 1922, internal bickering forced Simmons out of the organization. He was replaced by Hiram Wesley Evans. Evens moved the Klan headquarters from Atlanta to Washington D.C. in 1924. On September 13, 1926 the Klan held a parade where 40,000 robed Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington carrying American flags. 
The 1920s-Klan helped elect nationalist, isolationist Republican candidates in the 1920, 1924, and 1928 elections. Republican President Warren Harding was alleged to have been inducted into the Klan in the White House in a secret ceremony.
Its greatest legacy was helping to pass an immigration restriction law in the early 1920s, made permanent in 1924. (Repealed in 1965).
Decline and Persecution by Roosevelt
Internal bickering and the Great Depression caused membership fall and the Klan's influence to wane. In 1942, it had fewer than 10,000 members and was no longer capable of delivering electoral victories.
Its influence as a racialist organization fell during the 1930s and early 1940s with the growing popularity of fascist-oriented groups like the German American Bund, the Silver Legion and the Christian Front. Beginning in 1937 the Klan focused on communist infiltration inside organized labor particularly the Congress of Industrial Organizations. (CIO).
The political climate in Washington under the FDR administration began a crackdown on the Klan with the IRS levying a $640,000 lien in 1944 for failure to pay back taxes. The state of Georgia responded by revoking the Klan's charter leaving the national group to formally disband on April 23, 1944. This however did to stop the Klan from continuing to organize across the nation, whereas the once great organization splintered into seven major groups.
Klan leaders of the Second Era
- Harry W. Garing, New York
- "Come Join the Ku Klux Klan In The Old Town Tonight" tune
- "Hear the Call of the Ku Klux Klan" tune
- "Why I am a Klansman" tune
Third Era (1945-1974)
Post-war Klan activity began on October 13, 1945, when a fiery cross was lit on Stone Mountain Georgia, repeating an event that had occurred decades earlier. Participating in the cross-lighting were James A. Colescott, former Imperial Wizard, J. B. Stoner a Klan activist from Chattanooga, Tennessee and Dr. Samuel Green, Grand Dragon of Georgia. Georgia quickly became the stronghold of the post-war Klan with klaverns in every county by 1949. Other states showing strong Klan activity were in California, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama. Internal disputes and government harassment left the organization and unstable and by the time of Greene’s death in 1949 membership had greatly declined.
Eldon Edwards formed a new group called U.S. Klans, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan on October 24, 1955. After 1954, the group experienced large growth in the wake of forced desegregation. In 1956, Edwards held a rally attended by 3,000 robed Klansmen on Stone Mountain. In 1958, the U.S. Klans had 15,000 members. In 1960, Edwards died and group fell into disarray.
In 1961, Robert Shelton formed the United Klans of America (UKA). Members of UKA fought with Marxist agitators and were involved in violent confrontations at universities in the early 1960s. In 1965 the total number of Klansmen reached 50,000 and peaked in 1967 at 55,000 with 19 different groups spread throughout the South. The most militant group of the 1960s Klans was the White Knights of Mississippi, with some 5,000 members. In 1968, FBI arrests and the murder of Klanswoman Kathy Ainsworth broke up White Knights of Mississippi. The Ku Klux Klan was infiltrated by government moles and agents provocateur during this time, which caused great damage to the organization. There were as many as 2,000 government agents in various Klan groups.
Fourth Era (1974-1981)
In the 1970s, discrimination against White Americans had become enshrined into American law with government enforced affirmative action. In 1975, David Duke of Louisiana founded the Knights of The Ku Klux Klan and began to rebuild the Klan as a national White civil rights organization. Other Klan groups emerged across the South such as the 5,000-member Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan led by Glenn Miller. The Carolinia Knights later became the White Patriot Party.
It was also during the period when some Klan groups became paramilitary organizations. State Grand Dragon Louis Beam breaks from the Duke Klan and organizes the Texas Emergency Reserve. They were involved in confrontations between Vietnamese shrimp-fishermen and White fishermen in Galveston Bay.
In 1978, Klansmen were involved in a violent confrontation Marxist agitators at Greensboro, North Carolina. Five members of Communist Workers Party were killed. The Klansmen were acquitted of all criminal charges.
Fifth Era (1981-present)
Today’s Klan symbolism have merged with the Skinhead and so-called neo-Nazi scene. Klan organizations have sponsored skinhead bands at Nordic Fest. A "Nazification" has occurred with some Klans where swastikas and Iron Crosses are attached to Klan robes.
Thom Robb, Klan leader of Arkansas, has been one of the few trying to keep the Klan traditions of the past alive.
The KKK also has done neighborhood watch with the slogan, "You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake!" During the 2014 race riots in St. Louis, the KKK headed there as free protection for the innocent victims of the riots.
Portrayal in Media
The controlled media, whether in printed or television format, dishonestly represents "the" Ku Klux Klan as a fanatical terror group. This is wrong for several reasons: 1.) Violence has not been used by any of the Klans since the 1870s. A handful of well-publicized incidents of violence occured but would be found in any group of comparable size. 2.) It claims direct succession of one klan to another: The 1920s "Americanism" Klan had little or nothing to do with the original. 3.) The point of view of those who formed the organizations are never explained: To preserve the USA as a white-Christian nation.
The number of blacks killed by all the klans together does not exceed the number of blacks killed by other blacks in any given year in the modern USA.
Notable Ku Klux Klan members
- Nathan Bedford Forrest (general C.S.A.)
- Edward Douglass White (U.S. Supreme Court)
- William Joseph Simmons (founder of the second Ku Klux Klan in 1915)
- Warren G. Harding (U.S. President), alleged
- Hugo Black (U.S. Supreme Court)
- Harry S. Truman (U.S. President), alleged
- Robert Byrd (U.S. Senator)
- David Duke
- The Ku Klux Klan and Related American Racialist and Antisemitic Organizations, by Chester L. Quarles, page 9
- "They loved the American flag and adored American memories. In fact Texas Klansmen even accepted Abraham Lincoln as a true American hero and used him in their literature far more often than Confederates such as Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee. In the 1920s, at least, the Confederate flag never appeared as a prominent Klan symbol." Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas, By Gregg Cantrell, Elizabeth Hayes Turner, page 127
- Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism In Modern American History, By Stephen E. Atkins, page 8
- Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate, By Neil Baldwin, page 94
- Defining the Peace: World War II Veterans, Race, and the Remaking of... by Jennifer E. Brooks, page62
- American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement's Hidden Spaces of Hate, by Pete Simi and Robert Futrell, page 11
- KKK Heads To Ferguson To ‘Guard White Businesses’ And Protect ‘Innocent Whites’
- List of ranks, titles, and terms of the Ku Klux Klan
- Lineage of Ku Klux Klan organizations
- Know-Nothing movement
- American Protective Association
- The Birth of a Nation
- German Order of the Fiery Cross
- Black Legion
- Lineage of American Nationalist organizations and individuals