The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan

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"The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation…until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country." ~Woodrow Wilson

After the American Civil war there was an extreme amount of hostility between the white people and the African Americans. Blacks were beaten and killed; they were hated by most white people. The hostility grew; in 1866 the original Ku Klux Klan was founded by Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Ku Klux Klan (K.K.K.) was compiled of many men, mostly upper-class, who wore long white robes, masks, and pointed hats. They would flog, beat, and murder black men and women. In 1869 General Forrest ordered a disbandment of the Ku Klux Klan, this was not entirely successful, although it did break up the order amongst the Klans. In 1876 the Klan was broken up. There was no need for a white supremacist group while the Jim Crow Laws were in progress. In 1915, the second Ku Klux Klan was founded by Joseph Simmons. This new Ku Klux Klan was very popular, it emerged right after the release of D.W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation which, glorified the K.K.K The film created a new hope and vision for the Klan. This new KKK was headed by Hiram Wesley Evans until 1939. In 1944 the Klan was dissolved. In the early 1950s the civil rights movement triggered the rise of a new K.K.K. this new KKK will last up to the present. Even though they were not as large as the other Ku Klux Klans they were far harsher than the original KKK and have a different message that the first and second K.K.K in the United States.

The "first" Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866 by general Nathan Bedford Forrest. This original KKK was used for intimidating carpetbaggers , scalawags , and freed slaves. During this time period "the organization's aims were more in the spirit of "mischief" than terrorism" (Williams, 37). It was at first a social club that focused on "jokes" and hazing rituals. "Klansmen dressed up in outlandish costumes, throwing sheets or robes over themselves to hide their clothes and wearing comical masks and pointy hats to disguise their identities. Then they tore through the streets of Pulaski on horse back, enjoying the looks of astonishment they got. Astonishment, and fear."(Kronenwetter, 19). Before long they began to frighten the black people in the area, they resented the freed slaves and felt that the freeing of the slaves threatened the "Southern way of life". They sought to control political and social status of the freed slaves, tried to stop African American right to education, economic advancement and the right to bear arms. In the months following the formation of the KKK the Klan grew larger and, many Klansmen sought out more violent activities yet, they remained a small group of rowdy bullies. They might have stayed this way if the Radical Reconstructions laws had not been passed in 1867.

In 1867 The Radical Reconstruction Laws were passed by Congress. Northern Republicans felt as if America owed the former slaves a place in American society. The former Black codes were answered with a full array of new laws that would give the African Americans freedoms and right similar to those of the white man's. African American's now had the right to vote and even hold positions in state governments, rights that even some white southerner's did not have. The south, now divided into five military districts, began to feel as if their previous way of life was being threatened. Those who were being governed by African Americans felt humiliated and wronged, many were raised to believe that animals and property, they were outraged. "Where before the Klan's violence had been more or less random and undirected, now the KKK could claim to have a purpose: fighting Reconstruction and everything it stood for." (Kronenwetter 23) The Klan held its first big convention in Nashville, Tennessee in the spring of 1867. The KKK held this...
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