White robes, masks, and conical hats are the definitive appearance of the Ku Klux Klan. Formed post-Civil War, the Klan has stricken fear into many individuals, being America’s first true terrorist group. Today, it is still a prominent organization that is trying to be stopped. The KKK is arguably the most infamous organization of all time because of their hate of non-white/Christian people. The Ku Klux Klan originated in 1865. It was created by six Confederate Army veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee to oppose Reconstruction policies and maintain “white supremacy” by scaring African Americans (“The First Ku Klux Klan”). The Klan quickly spread into most southern states and started its reign of terror on blacks, Republicans, scalawags (white Southerners who interacted with Northerners), and carpetbaggers (Northerners that moved to the South) (“The First Ku Klux Klan”). Common acts used by the Klan during that time were lynchings, whippings, rapes, and tar-and-featherings (“Ku Klux Klan”). The Klan had a meeting in 1867 to attempt organize itself; General Nathan Bedford became the Grand Wizard in the process (“The First Ku Klux Klan”).
Despite this meeting, the Dens continued to operate independently and became more and more reckless (“The First Ku Klux Klan”). Forrest ordered for the Klan to be disbanded in 1869, saying that the Klan was “being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace.” (“Creation of First Klan”). The first Klan officially ended in 1871, as the government would pass a Force Act to make most of their intimidation tactics federal offenses, thus hindering their actions (“First KKK”). The Klan would remain inactive for the next few decades. Indeed, in about four decades, the Klan would rise again. The second Klan was founded in 1915 by William J. Simmons (“The Second Ku Klux Klan”). Compared to its previous incarnation, this Klan was much better organized, such as how it recruited members with membership fees (“The Second Klan”).
This Klan was not just focused on blacks, but Catholics, Jews, and immigrants as well (“Revival of the Ku Klux Klan”). Their actions were similar to that of the first Klan, frequently using extreme actions on its enemies (“The Second Ku Klux Klan”). This Klan was the biggest of any Klan during its lifespan, with an estimated 4-5 million members at its peak in the mid-1920s (“The Second Klan”). However after the Great Depression in 1929, the Klan quickly deteriorated in the 1930s, and by the 1940s it was again finished due to “internal conflicts, criminal acts done by chapter leaders and external oppositions” (“The Second Klan”). The Klan was back again during the Civil Rights Movement. During that time, many whites were outraged by the proposed laws of African Americans getting equal rights; therefore, they formed multiple groups throughout the South, calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan (“The Third Klan”).
Violence of these groups was most notable in Birmingham, Alabama, with them bombing and attacking African Americans schools and white activists (“The Third Klan”). One of the more notable bombings is the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, which killed four children (“The Third Klan”). These bombings led to the arrest of multiple members of the Klan (“The Third Klan”). Since the 1970s, the Klan has been weakened by events such as court cases and government infiltration (“Ku Klux Klan”). To further limit their notoriety, neo-Nazi activity would soon overshadow the Klan by the late 1990s (“About the Ku Klux Klan”). In the early 2000s, the immigration rates in some communities increased greatly, creating fear of immigration in many Americans (“About the Ku Klux Klan”).
To no surprise, the Klan attempted to use this fear to gain publicity and more members, though they ultimately failed. The Klan is still active to this day, numbering between five thousand to eight thousand members. It is split into “klaverns”, or small organizations, that are located throughout the United States (“Present-Day Klans”). These klaverns have increased ever since the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, hoping to bring back white supremacy (“Present-Day Klans”). Recently, they have been trying to exploit common issues such as gay marriage and crime (“About the Ku Klux Klan”). Many people consider their actions to be nothing more than attention-seeking (“The KKK History”).
It is possible that they are waiting for the perfect opportunity to reign supremacy. The Ku Klux Klan will forever live in infamy due to their violent actions. During its existence, the Klan has attacked African Americans, Jews, immigrants, homosexuals, and Catholics. Although it will never be as big as it was in the previous years, many people still fear this dangerous group. Small children have trouble sleeping at night in thought of the Ku Klux Klan’s terrifying actions.
Courtney from Study Moose
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