History of the United States
African-American History
Ku Klux Klan

Who were the KKK?

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2018-02-25 18:04:42
2018-02-25 18:04:42

The KKK Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is the name of several past and present secret racist organizations in the United States. They are best known for advocating white supremacy and acting as vigilantes while hidden behind conic masks and white robes. The first KKK arose in the turmoil after the Civil War. It utilized terrorism, violence, and lynching to intimidate and oppress African Americans, Jews, Roman Catholics, and other racial and religious minorities. For all intents and purposes, the KKK was sometimes considered a Christian terrorist organization.

The first Klan was founded in 1865 by veterans of the Confederate Army. Its purpose was to restore white supremacy in the aftermath of the American Civil War. The Klan resisted Reconstruction by intimidating carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freedmen. The KKK quickly adopted violent methods. The increase in murders and lynchings finally resulted in a backlash among Southern elites who viewed the Klan's excesses as an excuse for federal troops to continue occupation. The organization declined from 1868 to 1870 and was degraded by President Ulysses S. Grant's prosecution and enforcement under the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

The Ku Klux Klan was most certainly not destroyed in 1871. In 1871, U.S. Grant signed the "Ku Klux Klan Act" (authored by Benjamin Franklin Butler ) into federal law. This law was overturned in 1882, with US v. Harris.

While some sources report that the KKK was destroyed in the 19th century, a "Second KKK" appeared in the early 20th century, and the KKK-2 plead that they were a reemergence of the original KKK. The movie Birth of a Nation (1915), which glorified the Reconstruction South, did much to stir up the white supremacy sentiment. As a result, the KKK spread significantly and into the North, reaching around one million members (although it is noted that not all members were open about their affiliations). Additionally, the Great Migration showed that African Americans were becoming more mobile, which did much to aggrandize racism already present in society. Meanwhile, the 20s Red Scare and the Palmer Raids caused widespread fear and distrust of immigrants. This, and the fact that immigrants took jobs from working-class Americans, caused the KKK to rally against immigrants (especially Eastern European) and radicals. By the 1920s, the KKK had grown to be anti-African American, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and anti-radical.

The fact is that, like most if not all such organizations, the KKK started and remained a disorganized lot. Today's KKK groups also plead original ancestry from the post Civil War Klan, but this link would have to be tenuous at best.

The FBI mounted major operations against the KKK as late as the 1950-60s, which resulted in downsizing and quite a few convictions. The KKK, much reduced and now no longer popular in anything but the extreme right wing, reduced in numbers and in advertising. However, minor rallies have been reported as recently as 1998, and the Klan is still operational although changed structurally.

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