Characteristic of the Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan began in 1865 in the South after the Civil war and were a group of people who were disgruntled by the abolition of slavery. The Ku Klux Klan wore robes with white hoods, burnt crosses and used different intimidation tactics in pursuit of their ideal of white supremacy. During the Civil Rights Movement, the Ku Klux Klan re-emerged as an active group opposing the advancement of integration from the 1950’s to1960’s. The members of this white extremist group were fanatics, that wanted to gain a political stronghold in the South. The group resisted social change, using different tactics to limit the Civil Rights Movement. The Klan believed in racial extremism and were actively violent against the black Americans.  Terrorism arises when a group of people attack civilians to terrorise people to achieve a political goal. The Ku Klux Klan is regarded as a terrorist organisation, practicing extreme violence against African-Americans where murder, destruction of property, bombings and assault are committed. However, the Ku Klan believed that they were a freedom fighter organisation, fighting a revolution to achieve a political goal, with the mission to preserve the supremacy of the white race and to stop integration with African-Americans.

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The Ku Klux Klan (‘KKK) used fear, violence and intimidation tactics in their mission to ensure white supremacy. The Klansman, known as the ”white knights”, terrorised people, and this included the killing of black Americans and Civil Rights Activists and destroying property. In 1955 a 14-year-old black boy Emmett Till was murdered for alleged flirting with a White woman.  In Alabama, a memorial was erected as testimony of forty people that were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960’s. This testimony highlights the violent nature of the KKK, forming the basis of terrorist organisation. Furthermore, in the most famous murders committed by the KKK, were those of Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, who were civil rights workers busy registering black voters in Mississippi. The Klan hunted them down and shot and buried them in pre-prepared graves. The local policeman refused to prosecute the perpetrators and the FBI had to be sent to investigate. They finally found the bodies with the help of informant and charged 18 men for these crimes, some of whom were policeman. This reinforces the argument that the Klan where a terrorist organisation as through these murders, the top law enforcement in America had to get involved. What’s more, in 1965 the murder of Civil rights activist, Viola Liuzzo, shocked America when she and a black American, Leroy Morton were shot, after they had attended a rally of Martin Luther King Jr and were driving in a car together. The KKK murderers were arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison.  This murdering of innocent civilians falls within the definition of a terrorist organisation. In addition to murders, the Ku Klux Klan burnt down property as a form of intimidation, particularly churches, houses and buses. In Florida, several African-Americans were driven from their homes throughout the area when their houses were burnt down, this came to be known as the Groveland reign of terror. The National Guard had to be sent to restore order in Florida. This act of destroying innocent people’s property by the KKK falls within the ambit of a terrorist group. The Ku Klux Klan was used by the Birmingham police commissioner, Bull Conner in 1961 to attack the ‘Freedom Riders”, a group of white and black civil rights activists who purposely rode on buses through the South to protest against segregated bus stations. The Klan attacked the Freedom Riders and burnt their buses as they travelled through Alabama. This clearly shows the terroristic characteristics of the KKK. Churches in particular were regarded as easy targets. In 1964, the Mount Zion Church was burnt down in Longdale, when the KKK were searching for the civil rights activist Schwerner and when he was not found, burnt down the historic wooden church. The burning down of sacred and peaceful places of worship, can only be described as a violent act of terrorisms. Therefore, through the murders and destruction of property, the KKK can be characterised as a terrorist organisation.

The Ku Klux Klan threatened American citizens, particularly African-American through bombings and assault. The KKK particularly made use of bombs. One of the first bombings was the home of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Florida executive Director, Harry Moore on Christmas eve when both him and his wife were killed. This bombing threatened the peaceful American lifestyle and triggered many protests. Secondly, in 1956 during the Montgomery bus boycotts, the KKK threw dynamite into Martin Luther Kings house while his wife and baby were inside. This can clearly be seen as an act of terrorism. Thirdly, in 1963, dynamite was planted under the steps of a Church in Birmingham and four young girls were killed, and twenty members of the congregation were injured. This church, known as the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was a place where civil rights leaders used to meet. This bombing and active violence clearly can be regarded as the destruction of a peaceful environment in America, brought upon by the KKK. Fourthly, during 1964, the KKK fired bombed approximately 20 black churches in Mississippi. Between January 1956 and June 1963, 138 bombings were reported in the South. The sheer magnitude of bombings in one state and some of them in one year, is outweighing evidence that the KKK were a terrorist organisation. In addition, the KKK members committed a tremendous amount of assaults. During the ”Florida terror” (called this due to the extensive number of bombings), the KKK declared war on the NAACP, the catholic church and the Federal Council of Churches. There were a multitude of cross burnings and floggings all the way from Florida to Miami. This period stresses the violent and terrorist nature of the KKK. Furthermore, after the Supreme Court judgement, Brown vs Board of Education, the KKK members in the rural areas of Alabama, decided to resort to violence to undermine the school integration. Many law enforcement officers were members of the KKK and therefor the members did not fear prosecution, consequently many people were violently assaulted by mobs during this period. In Little Rock the army had to be sent to protect black students from assaults when they tried to attend schools regarded as for whites only.  In 1961, adding onto the burning of the busses, the KKK assaulted the ”Freedom Riders”, beating them with clubs. When they finally arrived in Birmingham and exited the bus, they were beaten with metal pipes, baseball bats and chains. The police refused to interfere with these attacks. By assaulting innocent civilians, it clearly shows that the KKK acted with terrorist intentions. Therefore, with the extreme amount of cases of bombings and assaults, the KKK can be regarded as a terrorist organisation.

However, the Ku Klux Klan regarded themselves as a freedom fighter organisation fighting for the true values of America. The Klan members believed that American citizens can be whatever person they want to be and therefore have the right to exercise violence, if they have a difference of opinion with the ruling party and were protecting their white heritage. The exercising of violence doesn’t disqualify them as freedom fighters, as many other organisations that have been regarded as freedom fighters, like the ANC during Apartheid, have used violence to achieve their goals. Some of these Southerners, saw it as their civic duty to protest against laws, which they will felt was placing their way of life at risk. Furthermore, the founders of the Ku Klux Klan rode in secret with their faces covered, to instil fear in society and in their view to rightfully stop the Reconstruction policies. The KKK felt that government was in place for white people and not Africans, who could not be considered as citizens of the USA. This argument, although backward in thinking, can support the claim that the KKK were a Freedom Fighter group as their intent was a ”revolutionary struggle” against the government in order to better themselves in society. Due to the civil war, the Southerner’s lives were destroyed and they therefore felt they needed protection and that their jobs and livelihood needed to be safeguarded. Thus, they felt the laws being put in place were threatening their livelihood. This can be viewed as a form of protest against the state in order to achieve a ”political goal”, which is the definition of what organisation is. The Klan’s resurgence in the 1960’s, again arose due to the fears that their lifestyles and white heritage were being threatened and therefore they acted in violence as a form of resistance. All of these arguments considered, it is thus not incorrect to view the Klan can as freedom fighters if the definition of a freedom fighter is taken into consideration.

Despite the above, the Ku Klux Klan’s motives behind their violent intent, was not well supported by most citizens and they cannot be viewed as a Freedom Fighter Organisation and it is clear to see that the Ku Klux Klan used intimidation, murder, destruction of property and assault for purposes of terrorism. All the three periods where the Ku Klux Klan was resurrected were in times of social upheaval when the white population felt threatened and though they allegedly were protecting their white heritage, their tactics injured individuals of all races and also intimidated entire groups of people damaging the entire society. The examples listed above, which shows all the intimidation tactics used by the Ku Klux, are criminal and spread their hateful racist nature. The Ku Klux Klan is without a doubt a terrorist organisation and further has a history of terrorising American citizens through murder, bombings and intimidation to further their pollical ideals of segregation of white supremacy, which does not make them freedom fighters even if it fits the description to an extent. In conclusion the members of the Ku Klux Klan cannot justify their argument that they were fighting for the freedom of white people, as it is clear that they were a hate organisation practicing a reign of terror to stop change from occurring. 

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Characteristic Of The Ku Klux Klan. (2019, Oct 31). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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