Impact of KKK on American History

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The Ku Klux Klan, more so known as the KKK, is a hate organization that has employed terror in pursuit of their white supremacist agenda. There was one group founded clear back in the 1870s following the Civil War. Another group began in 1915 and has continued to be present. (Ku Klux Klan, 2018) The 19th century Klan was originally organized as a social club by the confederates in Tennessee, in 1866. (Ku Klux Klan, 2018) They derived the name from a Greek word, kyklos, which means, circle, in English. Klan was added for the sake of alliteration, which then became the Ku Klux Klan. The members of the KKK sought to restoration of white supremacy through violence and intimidation aimed at black freedom. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was the Confederate cavalry commander in the American Civil War, who is known to have served as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. The symbol of this Klan was a burning cross and white-robed Klansman participating in marches, parades, and nighttime cross burnings all over the country. (Ku Klux Klan, 2018) They dressed in robes and sheets designed to frighten superstitious blacks and to prevent identification. (Ku Klux Klan, 2018) The KKK is known for its long history of violence and being the oldest of American hate groups. Even today, there is an estimated 5,000-8,000 Klan members amongst dozens of organizations that use the Klan name.

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Motivations:

        The KKK was excessively violent and Forrest ordered in 1869 that it be disbanded due to their large responsibility for the restoration of white rule in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. In the 20th century the Klan had its roots more directly in the American Nativist tradition. This Klan was organized in 1915 near Georgia by Col. William J. Simmons, a preacher and promotor of fraternal orders, who had been inspired by Thomas Dixon’s book The Clansman and the film, The Birth of a Nation. The second Klan peaked in the 1920s when it’s memberships exceeded 4,000,000 nationally, and profits rolled in from the sale of its memberships, regalia, costumes, publications, and rituals. (Ku Klux Klan, 2018) To the old Klan’s hostility toward blacks, the new Klan added bias against the roman Catholics, Jews, foreigners, and organized labor. The old Klan was strong in the Midwest as well as the South.

        During the 1930s, around the time of the Great Depression, the Klan’s membership dropped drastically, and the last remnants of the organization temporarily disbanded in 1944. (A lone African- American man attends a Klan rally in Jackson, USA, 1950, 2018) For the next 20 years the Klan was quiescent, but, was still active in the southern states during the 1960s, as civil-rights workers attempted to force some Southern communities, compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (A lone African- American man attends a Klan rally in Jackson, USA, 1950, 2018) During this time, there was numerous bombings, whippings, and shootings in the southern communities which was apparently the work done by Klansman. During the 21st century cases of Klan violence became more isolated and members declined by only a few thousand. Due to the decrease in members the Klan was made up of several separate and competing groups. Some of the groups occasionally entered into alliances with neo-Nazi and the other right-wing extremist groups.

Structure:

        The Ku Klux Klan was considered hierarchical due to the rankings associated with the group. The Empire was the area in which the Klan’s had activities. The Grand Wizard was his leader, who was also in charge of his 10 staff members, Genii’s. The treasurer of the Klan was known as a Grand Exchequer, who worked with the Grand Scribe to keep a list of all the subordinate officers. The Grand Dragon was the leader of the Realms and Hyrdras, who had the same job as the Genii’s. So, the Grand Dragon led eight Hydras, the Grand Exchequer, and the Grand Scribe. Following them, was the Great Titan who led six furies, a Great Exchequer and a Great Scribe. The Grand Turk of the Klan was in charge of informing the Klansmen of all meetings and important information. They were also in charge of helping the Grand Magi and Grand Cyclops controlled the government of the Den, which was a basic level of organization. Following them was the Grand Ensigns was in charge of taking care the KKK’s flag. 

       Philosophical concepts associated with group actions:

        The New Klan is mostly remembered as a hyper-reactionary movement, distinct for its opposition to Judaism, Catholicism, Bolshevism, and multiple dangerous ideologies of the conservative twenties. (The Klan in the Coal Mines: The End of Kansas’s Reform Era in the 1920’s, 2017) The Ku Klux Klan was known to be fascism. They were characterized by dictatorial power and had a strong arrangement of the economy and the society. Another philosophy associated with the Ku Klux Klan was white superiority. Due to the fact they used an excessive amount of violence and terrorized the blacks, it shows that they felt superior. The Klan didn’t want the blacks to gain any civil-rights so they attacked them in hopes to put a stop to it.

Strategies:

        The Klan came up with code words and strategies to make it easier to communicate in strange surroundings. For example, A.Y.A.K. or Ayak, means Are you a Klansman? Then it is to be answered with A.K.I.A or Akia, which means A Klansman I am. They would typically put the phrases into a sentence during a normal conversation, so they wouldn’t give away their identity. Following the code words or phrases, they would initiate a secret hand shake or other sign of recognition. Another code phrase is Kigy, which means, Klansman I greet you. In addition, Sanbog means Strangers are near, be on guard. They had to use the code words and phrases because too many people were becoming suspicious of them when they would meet in public areas. To avoid confrontation and suspicion, they created them when the Klan first started.        

Recruitment Methods:

        Kleagles are the individuals that are responsible for recruiting potential members for the Ku Klux Klan. They are appointed by imperial wizard or his imperial representative to ‘sell’ the KKK among non-members (Ku Klux Klan recruitment 2018.)  The members that typically recruit are paid by commission and can sometimes receive a portion of new members initiation fee. Another recruitment was called bloc recruitment and referred to the way in which social movement organizers often recruit members and participants among groups of individuals already organized for some other purpose. This helped the Klan out a lot because it allowed them to recruit larger groups rather than one individual at a time. The KKK typically targeted fraternal lodges and Protestant churches for bloc recruitment. Fraternal lodges and Protestant churches were easy to recruit because they were already socially active in public issues because of their involvement in the organizations. The primary recruitment leader during the 1920’s was Edward Young Clark, who reported that he gained 48,000 new members into the Klan in just three months. Due to the significant amount of new members, they started to use membership fees to finance large purchases. With the money they received from new members, they were able to fund a Klux Krest, a new home for the Imperial Wizard, William J. Simmons, the founder of the 2nd KKK. 

        In 1926, organizers Lewis A. Scott and Hugh Findley Emmons, from the KKK entered the Province of Saskatchewan. They aroused old prejudices and revived the anti-Catholic and anti-French feeling that lay dormant in the province. (Daniel Carlyle Grant and the Ku Klux Klan in Winnipeg, 1928, 2017) Basing themselves, respectively, in Regina and Moose Jaw, Scott and Emmons spent the spring and summer of 1927 traveling throughout the province selling memberships at $13 a time. (Daniel Carlyle Grant and the Ku Klux Klan in Winnipeg, 1928, 2017) Shortly after, both men disappeared from Saskatchewan with the funds they received and were never heard or seen again. The Klan in Saskatchewan worried that they were going to collapse due to lack of funds, but a new leader stepped forward. Once the new leader stepped forward, their membership in Saskatchewan grew to 40,000. In 1926, the Kleagles in Saskatchewan moved towards their provincial border into Manitoba and started to recruit new members there as well.

        The organ for initiation into the Klan was called the Investigating Committee, composed of the Grand Cyclops, Grand Magi and Grand Monk. (Ku Klux Klan titles and vocabulary, 2018) The Klan would then have a nomination to see if the person being recruited would be a good fit for the KKK. The committee would investigate the candidates antecedents and his past and present standings and connections and would then pronounce the candidate competent and worthy to become a member. (Ku Klux Klan titles and vocabulary, 2018) The Grand Turk would then take the possible new member to the outpost to question him and then conduct the oath. 

Goals:

        The goals of the KKK are obvious at this point. The KKK wanted the political defeat over the republican party and the maintenance of white supremacy in response to newly gained civil and political rights by southern blacks after the civil war. (Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstruction Era n.d.) The Klan’s bombing’s, murder’s and other attacks took so many lives. In fact, they killed four young girls while preparing for Sunday services at a Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. They enjoyed killing, bombing, setting fires, and other major crimes. Their original intention was to oppose interference imposed by the federal government and to scare former slaves into keeping their place in southern society. (What were the aims of the Ku Klux Klan when it first formed?, n.d.)

        The KKK was known as A Democrat Legacy since 1868. They had a goal back then to make African Americans feel worse than they felt when they were slaves. The wanted to make sure African Americans were uneducated and nobody educated them. Their goal was to makes themselves feel in power because they were founded by a group of democrats. The KKK employed acts of terror and violence to assert white supremacy. The Klan wanted to make sure that they maintained a strict racial hierarchy. Lynching’s, tar-and-featherings, rapes and other violent attacks on those challenging white supremacy became a hallmark of the Klan (Ku Klux Klan n.d.)

Government intervention and negotiation process to the KKK:

        The KKK used a lot of violence so it was monitored closely by Klan leaders to discourage government intervention and to avoid backlash from the public, so it didn’t damage their recruiting efforts. With passage of the third Force Act, popularly known as the Ku Klux Act, congress authorizes President Ulysses S. Grant, to declare martial law, impose heavy penalties against terrorist organizations, and use military force to suppress the Ku Klux Klan. (Ku Klux Act passed by Congress, n.d.) Local branches of the KKK stayed active for a while but prompting Congress to pass the Force Act in 1870 and the Ku Klux Act in 1871. In United State v. Harris, in 1882, the Supreme Court declared the Ku Klux Act unconstitutional, but by that time the Klan had practically disappeared. It disappeared because the restoration of white supremacy throughout the south had been largely achieved during the 1870s.

Conclusion

        Throughout this research, I learned that the Ku Klux Klan was very violent and had a huge impact on the American History. To this day, the Klan is active, but does not have a large membership population like they did one hundred years ago. I was surprised to learn the information I did because nobody talks about the Klan. There has even been recent superstition that there is an active Klan only twenty miles from my home. My grandparents have told me stories about their ancestors being involved in the Ku Klux Klan, but they didn’t know anything about the Klan’s agenda back then. I was interested to learn the way they evolved in such a short time frame. The Ku Klux Klan was like no other terroristic group. They were so violent and harsh to human life.

Work Cited:

  1. Britannica, T. E. (2018, July 27). Ku Klux Klan. Retrieved November 29,2018, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ku-Klux-Klan
  2. Ku Klux Klan. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/ku-klux-klan
  3. Rothman, J. (2016, December 04). When Bigotry Paraded Through the Streets. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/second-klan/509468/
  4. Ku Klux Klan. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/hate-crime/ku-klux-klan/
  5. Ku Klux Klan recruitment. (2018, November 20). Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan_recruitment
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  8. What were the aims of the Ku Klux Klan when it first formed? . (n.d.). Retrieved December 4, 2018 from https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/brief-history-ku-klux-klan-when-did-form-who-were-351269
  9. LEIKER, J. N. (2017). The Klan in the Coal Mines: The End of Kansas’s Reform Era in the 1920’s. Western Historical Quarterly, 48(3), 277-298 https://doi.org/10.1093/whq/whx039
  10. A lone African- American man attends a Klan rally in Jackson, USA, 1950. (2018, November 17). Retrieved December 5, 2018 from https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/lone-african-american-man-kkk-jackson-usa-1950/
  11. Waldman, A. (2017). Daniel Carlyle Grant and the Ku Klux Klan in Winnipeg, 1928. Manitoba History, (85), 24-29. Retrieved on December 6, 2018 from https://eds.a.ebscohost.com.proxy-lhup.klnpa.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=52c80c1f-3abf-4ad5-a744-00384a95ef47%40sessionmgr4009
  12. Ku Klux Klan titles and vocabulary. (2018, Octo 05). Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan_titles_and_vocabulary
  13. Ku Klux Act passed by Congress. (n.d.) Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ku-klux-act-passed-by-congress
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Impact Of KKK on American History. (2019, Oct 31). Retrieved October 6, 2022 , from
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