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Ku Klux Klan Organization in the 1860-1960s Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 17th, 2020

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) with its lasting history is the most popular American pro-White, right-wing extremist organization. Its members are supporters of the anti-immigration policy, the supremacy of the whites, and white nationalism. It was established in 1866 in Pulaski, Tennessee, not long after the end of the 1861-1865 Civil War. Though it did not have a strong local organization, the Ku Klux Klan groupings started appearing all over the South of the United States. The KKK “fought the federal military occupation of the South and worked tirelessly to restore the racial ideal of America as “White man’s country” (Wallace par. 2) with attacks on the black leaders and mass murders of the black people as the primary tool for extremist activity. Nevertheless, the federal government suppressed it in the early 1870s by signing the 1870 Force Act and the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act allowing imprisonment of the KKK members and using military powers to reinforce civil rights in the Southern states. Nonetheless, the organization began to fade, it managed to achieve one of its primary goals:

Largely through its efforts, defeated Confederate veterans were radicalized, and their determination to resist federal oppression was renewed. A “culture of resistance” was spawned in the South that denied the legitimacy of the federal government and the rights of freedmen. (Wallace par. 2)

This wave of violent activities went down in history as the First Klan and “was increasingly rationalized and even romanticized, most notably in Thomas Dixon’s popular novels, The Leopard’s Spots (1902) and The Clansman (1905)” (Lay par. 1) and The Traitor (1907).

The fact that the KKK ceased its activities did not mean that the life in the Southern states became quiet. The organization was replaced by the paramilitary groupings such as the White League and the Red Shirts, but their primary goal was to prevent further integration of the Northern and Southern states and they had nothing to do with the consolidation of white supremacy.

It was not until 1915 that the Ku Klux Klan was reborn. The rise of what is now known as the Second Klan was initiated by The Birth of Nation (1915), film shot by D. W. Griffith as the adaptation of the Dixon’s novel, The Clansman, mentioned above. This picture “solidified the emerging image of the Klan as a noble organization that had saved the post–Civil War South from the tyranny and corruption of southern blacks and northern Republicans” (Lay par. 2). Having been reborn in Stone Mountain, Georgia, it had grown to a nation-wide pro-White organization uniting millions of members. Unlike the original Klan, the Second Klan was:

A national organization that advocated 100% Americanism. It emphasized Protestant Christianity and used the American flag. The Second Klan was based in the Midwest, not the South; in urban metropoles, not rural areas. Second Klan strongholds included such odd places as Indiana, Maine, Long Island, Michigan, Colorado, California, and Oregon. White professionals flocked into its ranks. (Wallace par. 11)

In 1922, the KKK got its new leader, Hiram W. Evans, who turned it into a robust political party that nearly all municipal elections and “by 1924, the perceived power of the Klan were such that neither major political party was willing to denounce it formally” (Lay par. 6). Such success has become the primary reason for the Klan’s decline. Being highly ambitious and wishing for power and successful careers, over time the KKK’s members have forgotten the initial purpose of the Klan and it “was rocked by a series of scandals which tarnished its reputation as the defender of law and order, civilization, and traditional American values” (Wallace par. 13). By 1930, almost all its members withdrew from the organization and in 1944 it officially ceased to exist.

A new chapter of the Ku Klux Klan history began in 1954 with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of the United States Supreme Court declaring the unconstitutionality of separate public schools for black and white.

The Third Klan is best remembered for returning to its violent roots. Klan groups and individuals associated with the Klan used violence against “civil rights activists” to resist integration and social equality. A series of bombings in Birmingham and Atlanta were pinned on Klan activity. (Wallace par. 20)

Eventually, because of the series of the KKK’s violent attacks, in the 1960s, the federal authorities were forced to suppress the organization. The Ku Klux Klan was disrupted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that used “an extensive network of informers” (Lay par. 12), so the Third Klan was greatly weakened and as the result has filed as history as well as the initial two.

So, the Ku Klux Klan is the pro-White American organization that once was a mainstream national union and controlled entire states and has put down deep roots in the history of the United States. Preaching white supremacy and anti-immigration policy, the Klan is a convincing proof of American nationalism.

Works Cited

Lay, Shawn. 2005. Web.

Wallace, Hunter. Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in America. 2010. Web.

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