The Ku Klux Klan is perhaps the most famous of all hate groups in America. Originally founded at the end of the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan was a white supremacist group that used violence and intimidation in order to reassert white domination in the United States. The Klan’s attacks were directed at Blacks, Jews, Catholics, immigrants and other minority groups. It has long been notorious for its unmistakable symbols of the KKK , the white robes and hoods, horses coverd in white clothes and the burning of large crosses at the klan’s gatherings.
In 1865, following the War between the States former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest founded the original Ku Klux Klan along with five other confederate soldiers just out of uniform, in Pulaski, Tennessee. He named the group “Kuklos Klan,” a mixture of Greek and Scottish meaning “family circle.” The soldiers had full of ideas for their new society now that the civil war had ended. The organization was originally social in nature, however it soon turned sinister.
The different branches of the KKK, all held a common goal: to maintain the supremacy of the white race over Black Americans. White supremacy was an ideology which held that the white race was superior to all other races. It was for this reason that only WASP’s White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, could belong to the Ku Klax Klan.
While membership in the Klan has risen and fallen during its 130 year history, the scope of its hatred has expanded. The American Supremacist movement had four fundamental principals
The hatred of Blacks and other minorities
The hatred of people with disabilities/hereditary conditions
The hatred of Jews
The hatred of homosexuals
Branches of the group sprang up across the South, and many white Southerners, frustrated over Federal Reconstruction policies, used the cover of the Klan to lash out against the occupying federal soldiers or against blacks who were benefiting from Reconstruction’s open racial policies
They targeted those set free after the American Civil War – the African Americans. The KKK had never considered the former slaves as being free and terrorised Africa American families based in the South. The Klan wanted to spread fear throughout the black population that still lived in the southern states
By, 1866 The Klan group began terrorizing Blacks to keep them from voting or exercising the other rights they had gained during Reconstruction, the period following the end of the American Civil War in 1865. The KKK began raiding their homes at night while wearing white sheets and burning large crosses.
One of their most common klan tactic was to visited the houses of black people during the night and demand water, having actually poured the water through a rubber tube that flowed into a leather bottle concealed beneath his robe. After draining several buckets, the rider would exclaim that he had not had a drink since he died on the battlefield at Shiloh, and gallop into the night, leaving the impression that ghosts of Confederate dead were riding the countryside.
However the group soon became a violent organisation. The white hooded men burnt churches of the black population, murdered, raped, castrated, robbed and performed arson attacks, beatings and bombings but they were rarely caught as most senior law officers in the South were secretly high ranking men of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan were beginning to drive blacks out of Southern political life.
In 1871, Congress passed the Force Bill, which gave the President the authority to use federal troops against the Klan. An anti-Klan law was formed. Night riding and the wearing of masks were expressly prohibited. Hundreds of Klansmen were arrested but few actually went to prison. The KKK soon disappeared, but not for long.
After more than 40 years of inactivity, the “Invisible Empire,” as the Klan called itself, rose again in the autumn of 1915. Within a decade, the movement had reached the height of its power. Overall Klan membership reached between four and five million during this period
The Black Americans tried to fight back using non-violent methods. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) asked Washington for new laws to help combat the KKK violence
America experienced great economic prosperity during the 1920’s but not much of it filtered to the South. Racism mixed with anger at their economic plight formed a potent cocktail. The Klan had new business. They now targeted Asians, immigrants, bootleggers, dope, graft, night clubs and road houses, violation of the Sabbath, sex, pre- and extra-marital escapades and scandalous behaviour.
The decline of the Klan was just ahead. The Klan suffered counterattacks by the clergy, the press and a growing number of politicians. Then, in 1927, a group of rebellious Klansmen in Pennsylvania broke away from the invisible empire. Americans was clearly tired of the divisive effect the masks, robes and burning crosses had on their communities. State and local governments passed laws against cross burnings and masks. By the early 1950’s, membership in the invisible empire was at its lowest level since its rebirth on Stone Mountain in 1915
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