external image KKK-Titlebar.jpg

external image _ku-klux-klan.jpgWhen was the Ku Klux Klan Started?

The Ku Klux Klan was formed in the year 1866 by some southern citizens as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Southern defeat in the Civil War. The first branch however were made up of former Confederate soldiers. People believe that the KKK was formed to seek revenge against the new free blacks. Their motto was "the South shall rise again". In May 1866, Nathan Bedford Forrest, an outstanding general during the American Civil War, learned that the Ku Klux Klan had established their first branch in Pulaski, Tennessee. To learn more about this organization Forrest went to Nashville to see his chief of artillery, Captain John Morton, who swore Nathan Bedford Forrest into the Klan. Soon after he joined, Forrest became known as the first Grand Wizard, or leader, of the KKK.
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Nathan Bedford Forrest

What is the Ku Klux Klan?

The Ku Klux Klan, otherwise known as the KKK, is a secret organization which was held mostly in the Southern states of the US during the 1930s and was one of the first terrorist groups in the country. They were called the White Brotherhood, the Men of Justice, the Consitutional Union Guards, and the Knights of the White Camelia. This Klan was and still is a group of strong white supremicists that uses violence and intimidation in order to reassert white domination in the United States. The members of this group primarily targeted the slaves (African Americans) that were set free after the American Civil War. However, in their minds, they never considered these former slaves as free, rather they considered them as savages, or sub-humans. In later years, the KKK's promotion of "100% Americanism" included new targets and hostility towards Jews, Roman Catholics, socialists, communists and those foreign born citizens. The KKK also wanted more restrictions placed against immigrants. The Ku Klux Klan's actions included cross burnings, parades, and lynchings during the 1920s.

The Ku Klux Klan's Symbol

external image kkk_150.gifThis is the symbol of the Ku Klux Klan. The blood drop represents the blood shed by Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for the White Aryan Race. The belief that white supremacy; the theory that the white race is superior to all other races, especially the blacks, is expressed within this symbol. This symbol is often worn on patches or located on flags. Some members even have the emblem tattooed on their body.

Their Robe and Mask

All Klansmen, with the exception of the higher authority figures, wear white masks, white carboard hats, and draped in white sheets during any of their getherings or meetings. They hide behind their masks in a way of protecting their identity. Those who hold higher power wear more decorated robes to show higher power of authority and leadership. Some of these Klansmen were depicted in red robes instead of the white on the less powerful Klansmen.

The Klan's Goals

During the 1930s, the Klan had numerous goals. They included:
  • Destroying the Republican Party
  • Throwing out the Reconstruction governments
  • Aiding the planter class
  • Preventing African Americans from exercising their political rights

Devastation brought on by the Ku Klux Klan

The Klan killed thousands of people and destroyed the lives of many others. The KKK would burn crosses on the fields of Black farmers as a fatal warning to them. The following night, the Klan would return and set the farmers house on fire; finally lynching the men as they ran out. Lynching the blacks became a form of entertainment at weekly weekend white picnics.
Their brutality did not stop at individual blacks.
Members of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally in 1922
Members of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally in 1922
The KKK also burnt the churches of the black population. They murdered, tortured and raped all they hated. The Ku Klux Klan were also involved in shootings by instigating hostilities at pro black rallies. The Klansmen would also shoot at cars driven by blacks, and shoot at homes occupied by blacks without provocation. The Klan did numerous things to those they hated, however, they were rarely prosecuted for their crimes. Although some police agreed with the Klan, many others did not, and tried to arrest them. The outlaws were hard to find as they never stayed in one place for a long time because they feared they would get caught.

Leader of the Ku Klux Klan

Numerous individuals have held the title of Imperial Wizard, or leader of the KKK. Among them was Hiram Wesley Evans . Born on September 26, 1881, Evans studied dentistry at Vanderbilt Universtity, but left without obtaining his degree. In 1900, Evans set up shop as a dentist in Dallas. In 1920 Hiram Wesley Evans joined the Ku Klux Klan. In 1922, Evans became the Imperial Wizard. During his leadership the Klan membership rose to 4 million members in 1925. Also during Evans' leadership, the Ku Klux Klan started electing people to positions of political power within some states. Before Evans resigned as Imperial Wizard in 1939, he wrote several books. They include The Menace of Modern Immigration (1923), The Klan of Tomorrow (1924), Alienism in the Democracy (1927), and The Rising Storm (1929).

Hirman Wesley Evans
Hirman Wesley Evans

Why did the Ku Klux Klan decline in the 1930s?

The Ku Klux Klan declined during the 1930s due to the disputes within the group, as well as financial problems. As most Klan members held a day job, the Klan's major sources of revenue came from membership dues and sales of the Klan's paraphenalia. The scandals that preceeded the decline included the conviction of David C. Stephenson, the then Imperial Wizard, to second degree murder and corruption charges. During the 1930s the membership of the KKK fell to 30,000, a trend that continued through the Great Depression.


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