Formation of the Ku Klux Klan

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The Ku Klux

Following the end of the Civil War, young confederate-veterans began dressing in disguise and tormenting the freedmen in the area of Pulaski, Tennessee. Their antics quickly spread throughout the south as a form of controlling and intimidating blacks and republicans, and these men became known as the Ku Klux Klan. This is noted in Tougee’s A Fool’s Errand when one of the black characters addresses “Mars Kunnel” about the KKK, stating: “…dem folks what rides about at night a-pesterin’ pore colored people, an’ a-pertendin’ tu be jes from hell, or some of de battle-fields ob ole Virginny”[1]. Nathan Bedford Forest, a former Confederate general and slave trader, was the Ku Klux Klan’s first Imperial Wizard. This essay will weigh the evidence supported by the traditional view, that is, the Ku Klux Klan was an organization of white Southerners who resisted reconstruction and halted the northern encroachment. This traditional view can also be asserted as a racist view. The other popular view is called the revisionist view, and it deems the Ku Klux Klan a violent and disrespectful organization set on overthrowing the rule of Negros, scalawags, and carpetbaggers. This essay will look at the horrific acts committed by the Klan during the period of reconstruction, question the morality of such acts, and conclude that it is certain that the Ku Klux Klan was in a terrorist organization which hindered social and political integration: that if these evil men had let congress win the new south would have been a better place. In 1866, congress was battling with President Johnson over reconstruction policies, and congress was winning. The 10 per-cent policy and admittance of state governments comprised of former confederates made some think the war was fought in vain. The “Black Codes”, which were enacted to suppress black, had been struck down by the Radical Republicans. The radicals believed they should not accept the enemy back as “prodigal sons”. With the passing of the fourteenth amendment as a stipulation of re-admission to the Union and the erecting of “barbarous” black governments, many southern whites hung up their gray uniforms and put on white hooded-cloaks. The Ku Klux Klan was formed to serve three measures in late rebellious states: to promote social and political terror in the black man, to regain and maintain southern white control of governments and society, and as a defense mechanism against an unpopular Reconstruction Policy enacted by a Radical Republican Congress. Through these means the southern whites accomplished the end of repressing the black class to a system of servitude, little better than pre-war bondage. W. E. B. Du Bois said, “The former slaves were intimidated, beaten, raped, and butchered by angry and revengeful men.... Almost every law and method ingenuity could devise was employed by the legislatures to reduce the Negroes to serfdom, -- to make them the slaves of the state, if not of individual owners”[2]. This was true and proof can be found in the fact that when reconstruction was over new “Black Codes” were erected to segregate blacks and hinder most rights gained from the Civil War amendments. The Klan used terrorist acts to counter the conditions the Yankees imposed on their homeland. President U. S. Grant said in his message to the House of Representatives about the condition of affairs in the Southern states that: “Powerful combinations popularly known as ‘Ku Klux Klans’...by force and terror...prevent all political action not in accord with...members, to deprive colored citizens of the right to bear arms and of the right to a free ballot, to suppress schools in which colored children were taught, and reduce the colored people to a condition closely akin to that of slavery.... That they [KKK] had perpetrated many murders and hundreds of crimes to minor degree, all of which were unpunished”[3]. Grants message to the Forty Second Congress told the Klan’s goals and methods...
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