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Ku Klux Klan


Ku Klux Klan: Andrew Johnson was the 17th American President who served in office from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869. One of the important events during his presidency was the emergence of the secret organization known as the Ku Klux Klan.

Definition and Summary of the Ku Klux Klan
Summary and definition:
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is a the Secret Society based in the South. The original Ku Klux Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee on December 24, 1865 during the Reconstruction Era following the American Civil War.

The goal of the original Ku Klux Klan was to oppose the Reconstruction policies of the radical Republican Congress and to maintain "white supremacy." The Resurgence of the 1920's Ku Klux Klan after World War I during the Red Scare, reached a peak of 4 - 5 million members. A further resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan occurred in the 1960's opposing the Civil Rights Movement.

Ku Klux Klan History for kids: Differences between the North and the South
To understand the emergence of the original Ku Klux Klan and its history it is necessary to understand the differences between the North and the South. Why were the Americans who lived in the South so different from the Americans who lived in the North? The differences between the North and the South
were dictated by the geographic and climatic differences that produced different raw materials that led to either agrarian (farming communities) in the South or the industrialized city dwellers in the North. These led to differences in:

  • The Economy: There were different commercial interests in the North and South

  • Slavery: The economy of the South was based on the cash crop plantation system which depended on the institution of slavery but the economy in the North was based on industry and manufacturing and was not reliant on slaves

  • Growth: The industrial North took a rapid entrepreneurial path, but there was a much slower rate of growth in the South

  • Social Status - Slavery fostered an elite, feudal society in south with social status taking precedence over making money

  • Culture Clash: The rural farm life in the South as opposed to the city life in the North led to completely different lifestyles

Ku Klux Klan History for kids: The Civil War and Slavery
To understand the emergence of the original Ku Klux Klan, and its history, it is also necessary to understand why Americans took up arms against fellow Americans during the Civil War.
The reason the Civil War erupted was primarily due States Rights. The inauguration of Republican President Abraham Lincoln, on March 4, 1861, contributed to the Secession of the South and the establishment of the Confederate States of America. During his first inaugural address the President declared he had "no purpose ... to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists." This changed on January 1, 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation and the war to preserve the Union became a revolutionary struggle for the abolition of slavery.

Ku Klux Klan History for kids: The South after the Civil War
The Ku Klux Klan History starts with the situation in the South following the bitter Civil War.
The Southern States were devastated. The defeated white people were humiliated, the land was wrecked, the infrastructure including the railroads and bridges had been destroyed, Confederate officers had been stripped of power, lands were confiscated and property values had collapsed. The farming system of the South based on the Plantation system worked by black slaves was finished and there was  a lack of laborers for their fields. The economy of the south had disintegrated.

Political power of the state governments in the South was held by Republicans. The South feared that the North wanted revenge and would inflict a terrible retribution on the former Confederate States of America. The Black Codes were established and the Ku Klux Klan was formed. By 1868 most of the Black Codes were repealed and new state laws were passed that saw the emergence of the Carpetbaggers and the Scalawags.

Ku Klux Klan History: Terror of the Ku Klux Klan
As the power of the Ku Klux Klan grew the secret society developed into sinister and dangerous terrorist organization posing a dangerous threat to civil liberties. The Ku Klux Klan gained political power by functioning as the unofficial paramilitary arm of Southern segregationist governments allowing Ku Klux Klan members to commit terrible crimes with impunity. The 1920's Ku Klux Klan re-emerged following WW1 during the Red Scare and again in the 1960's in opposition to the Civil Rights movement. The Ku Klux Klan was responsible for many acts of extreme violence and terror against African-Americans including lynching, murder, arson, whippings, rape, and bombing. The Ku Klux Klan also acted to drive the Carpetbaggers and Scalawags out.

Facts about the Ku Klux Klan History for kids
Interesting facts about the Ku Klux Klan History are detailed below. The history of the Ku Klux Klan is told in a factual timeline sequence consisting of a series of interesting, short facts providing a simple method of relating the
history of the Ku Klux Klan for kids, schools and homework projects.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee on December 24, 1865

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is known by other names including the White Brotherhood, Heroes of America, Constitutional Union Guards and the Invisible Empire.

It was originally founded as a social club for former Confederate soldiers

The first two words of the organization's name originated from from the Greek word 'kuklos' meaning "circle" and took the third word is a variant of the word clan.

In April 1867 a meeting was held to codify rules and the organizational structure of the KKK

At the meeting, former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was elected supreme leader of all the KKK and given the title of Imperial Wizard

As it was a secret organization codes were developed for use of KKK members. The codes included:

  • A.Y.A.K. or Ayak meaning "Are you a Klansmen?"

  • A.K.I.A. or Akia meaning "A Klansmen I am"

The whole Ku Klux Klan (KKK) organization was referred to as the Empire which was organized into divisions called Realms, Dominions, Provinces and Dens. High ranking members of the KKK were given titles taken from terrifying mythical creatures in Greek Mythology

A hierarchy was established in the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) starting with the Empire headed by the Grand Wizard who was supported by ten Genii, a Grand Exchequer and a Scribe

The Realms were headed by a Grand Dragon assisted by eight Hydras

The Dominions were ruled by the Great Titan assisted by six Furies

The Provinces were ruled by the Grand Giant assisted by four Goblins

The Dens were ruled by the Grand Cyclops, who appointed two Nighthawks, a Grand Turk, a Grand Sentinel and a Grand Ensign

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members who undertook action against their enemies were referred to as a Wrecking Crew

The goals of the original Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was to organize white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies which were aimed at establishing political and economic equality for blacks

The targets of the KKK included African-Americans and teachers, judges, politicians and  "carpetbaggers" from the North together with "Scalawags" from the South

The first KKK had adopted a hooded white costume, called a "Glory Suit" supposed to represent the ghosts of the Confederate dead. The KKK costume allowed members to avoid identification and to frighten victims during nighttime raids.

The vast membership of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) consisted of men who had once been Confederate soldiers, battle-hardened and bitter men who had increased in number to several hundred thousand and the violence increased and the atrocities worsened

The members of the KKK had become impossible to control and a disgusted Nathan Bedford Forrest attempted to disband the original KKK in 1869. Many of the more honorable members left the KKK but the Klan continued and the violence escalated further.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was particularly effective in keeping black men away from the polls, so that the ex-Confederates gained political control in many states.

In 1870 the federal government stepped in to investigate the activities of the KKK

Congress then passed the 1871 Enforcement Acts, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and often referred to as the Ku Klux Klan Act

The Enforcement Acts of 1870/1871 (including the Ku Klux Klan Act)

  • Made night-riding a crime

  • Empowered the president to use federal troops to put down conspirators by force

  • Provided criminal and civil penalties for people convicted of conspiracies with the intention of denying others their civil rights

Prosecution of Klan crimes suppressed KKK activity and hundreds were indicted, fined, and imprisoned leading to the decline of the first KKK

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) experienced a resurgence after World War I which spanned from 1915-1944

The resurgence was sparked by Thomas Dixon's 1905 novel 'The Clansman' which led David W. Griffith to make the movie 'The Birth of a Nation' in 1915.

The movie portrayed the members of the KKK as a gallant and heroic band.

The movie brought strong protests from the NAACP and riots broke out in Boston and Philadelphia.

William J. Simmons, an ex-minister, renewed the second KKK at a Stone Mountain, Georgia in a ceremony held in 1915. The Klan's role was portrayed as the protector of traditional values. The organization, the Second KKK attracted millions of new members.

Cross burning: In the first reconstruction Ku Klux Klan (KKK) the Klans did not burn crosses. The concept of cross burning was introduced in the 'The Clansman' by Thomas Dixon, Jr.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) costume, or "Glory Suit" developed over the years starting with a basic white robe made from a bed sheet accompanied by a sack worn over the head with eyeholes cut into it. The KKK costume is now recognized as a a floor-length, white robe (often bearing an insignia with a cross) and a tall, white, pointed hat that includes a full-faced cloth mask with eyeholes

Although the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)  traditionally wore white robes in later years color robes were also adopted indicating rank:

  • Imperial Wizard: Purple or blue costume

  • Grand Dragon: Green robe

  • Great Titan: Red costume

  • Cyclops: Gold colored robe

  • Nighthawk (security): Black robe

Insignia: The insignia of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) often include red, round patch with a white cross in the center, sometimes with a drop of red blood in the center.

The second Ku Klux Klan (KKK) with its massive membership exerted considerable political influence. The organization attracted support across the whole of the US, not just the Southern States. The nation had experienced a terrible depression and the KKK advocated a strong racist and anti-immigration policy. The group, strongly supported by Protestants, also espoused hatred of Jews and Catholics.

The support of the second Ku Klux Klan (KKK) declined as the violence of its members increased and by the early 1940's, and with the outbreak of the Second World War, its membership dropped to less than 40,000.

After World War 2, Dr. Samuel Green of Georgia led a concerted attempt to revive the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), but it failed as the organization splintered and as state after state barred the order

The third Ku Klux Klan (KKK) emerged in the 1960's and advocated a strong racist and anti-communist policy. It strongly supported the opposition to the Civil Rights movement and gained many new members in the South who were opposed to racial integration.

The third Ku Klux Klan (KKK) often forged alliances with Southern police departments and with governor's offices and were again allowed to operate with impunity.

Jim Crow Laws: The Jim Crow Laws imposed segregation in the South prohibiting businesses from employing African-Americans, and barring access to public places such as restaurants, hotels and public restrooms. Jim Crow legislation was officially instituted by the southern states shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation and these laws came under threat with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

The most famous of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) organizations in the 1960's were the Mississippi's White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan led by Samuel Bowers and Robert Shelton.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) were responsible for attacks on civil-rights workers in cities throughout the South in the 1960's during the Civil Rights Movement and were responsible for incidents such as the attacks on the Freedom Riders.

Although there was a rise of support for David Duke, a Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard in Louisiana in the 1990's by the end of the 20th century, growing racial tolerance reduced KKK members to a few thousand.

US American History
1866-1881: Reconstruction Era

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