I have learned that the Ku Klux Klan was in response to the Southern bitterness towards blacks having won freedom from slavery in the aftermath of the civil war. Congress had passed the Reconstruction Acts which divided the South into 5 military districts, each under a general. New elections were to be held in each state with freed, black, male slaves being allowed to vote; this infuriated Southerners. The first branch of the Ku Klux Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, around 1865, the name Ku Klux comes from the Greek word, Kuk lose, meaning circle. The Klan was a secret organization founded by 6 ex-confederate veterans, they considered the Klan to be a secret social club, not knowing what a violent organization it would turn into. They decided to make their Klan costumes as odd as possible.
Klan members would be dressed in white sheets and their faces would be covered with white masks. These ex-soldiers would ride through the town, make jokes and act silly, this made former black slaves to believe that the ghosts of the Confederate dead had risen to reclaim their land. Many Southerners began to join the Klan and harm former black slaves. Soon these night rides turned into violent night rides and lynching's. Once the Klan began to make a name for itself, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the famous cavalry leader, became the leader of this invisible empire. The Klan was effective in keeping blacks away from the voting polls.
The Klan was coming under increased attack by Congress and the Reconstruction state governments. The leaders of the Klan realized that the Klan's end was near as an organized force. In 1869, Forrest ordered the Klan to be disbanded. In 1871 President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Klan and Enforcement Act. The Klan became an illegal terrorist group and the use of force was used to suppress the organizations activities. In 1882 the Klan Act was declared unconstitutional.
Although efforts in suppressing the Klan seemed to have been effective, the Klan was reestablished during World War 1.