Ku Klux Klan A secret terrorist organization that began in the southern states during the reconstruction period following the Civil War and was reactivated on a larger basis in the 20th century. The original Klan was brought together in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1865, by six X-Confederate officers who gave their society a name from the Greek word kuk los. Although the Ku Klux Klan began as a prank ish social organization, its activities soon were directed against the Republican Reconstruction governments and their leaders, black and white, which came to power in the southern states in 1867. The Klansmen thought of the Reconstruction governments as hostile and oppressive. They also believed in the inferiority of blacks so they resented the rise of former slaves to a status of equality. The Klan became an illegal group committed to destroying the Reconstruction governments everywhere from the Carolinas to Arkansas.
Wearing robes or sheets and masks with pointed hoods, the Klansmen terrorized public officials in order to drive them from office and blacks in general to stop them from voting. It was normal for the Klansmen to burn crosses near homes of people they wanted to frighten. When these things failed to create the wanted outcome, their victims might be mutilated or even murdered. These activities were justified by the Klan as needed measures in defense of white supremacy. A secret meeting of Klansmen in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1867, took on a declaration of principles showing loyalty to the United States Constitution. The convention designated the Klan as an invisible empire and made it possible for a supreme official, called Grand Wizard, who had racist power.
Other officials of the Klan were the Grand Dragon, the Grand Titan, and the Grand Cyclops. From 1868 to 1870 while federal troops were being taken out of the southern states, the Klan was more and more controlled by the rougher parts of the population. The local clubs, called klaverns, became so violent that the Grand Wizard, Nathan B. Forrest, disbanded the Klan in 1869. Klaverns, continued to go on their own. In 1871, Congress passed a Force Bill to enforce the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. In that year Ulysses S. Grant brought on a announcement calling all members of illegal organizations to stop, after that hundreds of Klansmen were arrested.
The left over klaverns faded as the political and social status blacks was brought back. The name and rituals of the Klan were adopted by a new fraternal society started in Georgia in 1915. The official name of the new brotherhood, which was fronted by Colonel William Simmons, was the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Membership was open to all white, Protestant males, 16 years of age or older. Blacks, Roman Catholics, and Jews were excluded and were made targets of persecution by the Klan.
Until 1920 the group showed little power. In the period of economic upset that happened after World War I, the Klan expanded in urban areas and became active in many states like Colorado, Oregon, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The Klan preached white supremacy, it centered its attack on what it thought to be outsiders, particularly the Roman Catholic church, which it believed was threatening old American ways and values. All non-Protestants, immigrants, liberals, and striking workers were denounced. Little prosecution occurred to this group.
Journalistic showings of crimes done by the Klan and of corruption in its leadership led to an investigation in 1921. The Klan changed its system. After 1921 it had a quick growth of membership and became politically influential all through the nation. One estimate of its membership, was as high as 3,000,000. In that year a resolution denouncing the Klan, stated at the national convention of the Democratic Party, started a controversy and was defeated. In the 1920's, bad leadership, inner conflict, and violence damaged the Klan's reputation, and political opposition increased.
By 1929 it had been reduced to a few thousand members. In the depression of the 1930's the Ku Klux Klan stayed active but small. It threatened blacks if they tried to vote. In 1940 the Klan buddies up with the German American Bund, an organization linked to the government of Nazi Germany at Camp Nord land, New Jersey. After the United States went into World War II, the Klan lessened its activities.
In 1944 it ended when it wasn t able to pay back taxes owed. The start of the Klan movement after the war made the public want suppression of the group. It suffered a setback in Georgia, when it wouldn t allow the Klan charter in 1947. With the death of Samuel Green, the Klan broke down into independent units, which did not last long enough to be placed on the list of organizations held by the attorney general. The Supreme Court ruling in 1954 stated that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, stirred the Klan into new trys at recruitment and violence but did not work. Most opponents of ruling went with other leaders, like the White Citizens Council.
As the civil rights movement gained force in the 1950's the Klan continued to offer hardcore opposition to civil rights and was thought to be involved in many crimes of racial violence. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 it had an increase in membership, reaching about 40,000 in 1965. In the 1970's, the Klan had gained a little in respectability. Known Klan leaders ran for office in the South, and got a numbers of votes. Around 15 organizations existed, like the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the United Klans of America, and the National Klan.
A new start of Klan violence occurred in the 1980's a Klan office was opened in Toronto, Canada. The membership was estimated at 5000 at the end of the decade.