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|“||No man can leave the Klan. He takes an oath not to do that. Once a Klansman, always a Klansman.||„|
|~ Theodore Bilbo|
There have been four incarnations of the Klan - post-Civil War, early 20th century, Civil Rights period, and Current.
Activities and ideologies
Members of the organization dress in white robes that cover their entire bodies, with distinctive masks that are said to represent the ghosts of fallen soldiers in the Revolution (in truth this was used to try and scare superstitious black slaves and was as much about concealing identity than anything else - the original Klan didn't wear this uniform), they are also famous for their practice of burning the Christian Cross (despite them believing themselves to be a Christian organisation) - the Ku Klux Klan has been known to set burning Crosses on the lawns of black families in an effort to scare them out of communities.
As mentioned above the Ku Klux Klan's past is violent and it has engaged in the practice of lynching - the illegal killing of black men (often via hanging) - this was sometimes used as another means of striking terror in the black community. Despite their infamy for these things, the modern Ku Klux Klan has seen a reduction in the murderous deeds it is known for. (although it still commits crimes like arson and racial hate)
The first Klan (1865 - 1871)The Klan dates back to the post-Civil War era, when it was founded by Confederate veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee after their side lost the Civil War. Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest served as the first Grand Wizard of the Klan.
The first Klan was active roughly from 1865 until 1874. Although there was little organizational structure above the local level, similar groups rose across the South and adopted the same name and methods Klan groups spread throughout the South as an insurgent movement promoting resistance and white supremacy during the Reconstruction Era. For example, Confederate veteran John W. Morton founded a chapter in Nashville, Tennessee. As a secret vigilante group, the Klan targeted freedmen and their allies; it sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against blacks and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871, the federal government passed the Enforcement Acts, which were intended to prosecute and suppress Klan crimes.
The second Klan (1915 - 1944)
The second Klan (which introduced much of what we traditionally associate with the organization, most notably the full body white robes and the practice of cross burning) was founded by William Joseph Simmons in 1915 and was largely inspired by the film The Birth of a Nation, which chronicled the exploits of the first Klan. This new incarnation of the KKK was the first to adopt Anti-Semitism and Anti-Catholicism. President Woodrow Wilson was known to be an ardent supporter of the Klan during his presidency.
It was also during this time that the Klan became a fraternal organization with a national and state structure.
The second Klan largely collapsed in the late 1920's after Grand Dragon D. C. Stephenson savagely raped and partially cannibalized a young woman, leading to her death. In disgust large numbers of people abandoned the Klan, and law enforcement stepped up efforts to fight the Klan. It continued to exist into the 1930's but had lost a considerable amount of prestige, and faded away completely by 1944.
The third Klan (1950 - 1968)
The Klan was revived again in the form of the third Klan, which rose up as opposition to the Civil Right Movement and was probably the most powerful and violent incarnation of the Klan. This incarnation of the KKK enjoyed a large amount of protection from corrupt politicians and law enforcement officers such as Bull Connor. This gave them a large amount of freedom to commit numerous hate crimes and lynchings against blacks.
Despite violent actions by the likes of Byron De La Beckwith, J. B. Stoner, Robert Edward Chambliss, and others, the Klan continued to lose influence and was on the losing end of the civil rights struggle. After the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the third Klan largely collapsed.
The third Klan was the last time the KKK existed as a national, uniform organization.
The fourth Klan (1971 - Present)
The fourth incarnation of the Klan arose in 1971 and exists to present day in the form of various independent organizations. Because the organization no longer exists as a centralized group at the national level, the current incarnation of the Klan has considerably less influence and poses less danger than the previous Klans. However, these groups do still perpetrate hate crimes and continue to follow the mission of the other Klans.
In the late 2000's and early 2010's it experienced a small revival because of the Great Recession and Barack Obama being elected President. However, it was still divided, largely over the issue of appearance and imagery, with "traditionalists" wanting to follow 1920's and 1960's style and look good for the media, and "militants" wanting to embrace imagery from(and alliances with) other white supremacists, such as neo-Nazis and White Power Skinheads, along with a more paramilitary style and even threatening opposing leaders. A notable incidence of this was when the traditionalist Southern Alliance of Klans organized a protest in Selmer, Tennesee, which the militant Church of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan attempted to join, much to the SAK's displeasure.
Many modern Klan groups are associated with the Alt-Right.
There have been a number of organizations over the years that have bore the name "Ku Klux Klan" and have been considered to be the "true" or "main" Klan. These include:
- Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (generally considered to be an alternate name for the Klan as a whole)
- White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
- Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
- National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
- Original Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy
Multiple splinter groups of the KKK have cropped up over the years, particularly in the modern era during the latter half the 20th century and into the 21st century following the collapse of the third Klan (the last time that a national, centralized Klan actually existed.) Most of these splinter groups operate independently from each other (but still work together frequently.)
Most modern Klans (and related organizations) have adopted traits of Neo-Nazism, Neo-Fascism, Neo-Paganism, Islamophobia, homophobia, Christian Identity, anti-communism and anti-liberalism. Typically, their disagreements are over which of these beliefs is most important. For instance, some Klans might prefer to follow Christian Identity and reject Nazism as a foreign, un-American ideology, whereas others are open to non-Christians (usually atheists or pagans) and embrace Nazism.
- White Patriot Party
- Knights of Mary Phagan - a forerunner group to the second Klan
- United Klans of America - considered to be the main Klan group of the Civil Rights Movement era
- Knights of the White Camelia
- Silver Dollar Group
- Imperial Klans of America
- White Citizens' Council
- Council of Conservative Citizens
- Black Legion
- National Association for the Advancement of White People
- White Aryan Resistance
Relations with groups
- National Alliance
- White Power Skinheads
- The Police (formerly)
- Proud Boys
- Aryan Brotherhood
- Aryan Nations
- American Nazi Party
- The Ku Klux Klan hoods are very similar in design to the Capirote, a religious dress worn by members of some Spanish Catholic movements during Holy festivals - dating back to the Inquisition (where it was used during capital punishment) - due to the similarities people often confuse the two but the Nazarenos (who often wear Capirotes) are not a hate-group and, somewhat ironically, have their basis in Catholicism - while the KKK is anti-Catholic.
- The Ku Klux Klan costume is very similar to the costume worn by the Death Eaters only the Death Eater costume is in black.
- The KKK uniform is meant to symbolize the ghosts of fallen soldiers during the Civil War, they often clash with black supremacist groups such as New Black Panthers - members of KKK have been murdered by NBP and vice-versa, similar to how early Nazi groups used to war with each other on the streets prior to becoming a national threat.
- Ironically they consider Westboro Baptist Church too extreme for their standards (former leader Fred Phelps was a former Civil Rights lawyer).
The KKK flag
A KKK rally, c. 1920, showing the group’s distinctive costumes
- Kkk cross burning.jpg