Word Count: 1675″In world history, those who have helped to build the same culture are not necessarily of one race, and those of the same race have not all participated in one culture. In scientific language, culture is not a function of race” (Benedict). The sad fact is that many races are discriminated against. Discrimination is defined as the act of perceiving and making evident the distinctions between two different groups of people. There have been many groups that have been very discriminating, but the one that sticks out like a diamond in coal is the Ku Klux Klan.
The original Ku Klux Klan was formed, in April 1866, as a social organization for ex-confederates in Pulaski, Tennessee. This was during the time after the civil war, known as the Reconstruction period (Benet’s). The name Ku Klux Klan came from the Greek word kuklos, meaning band or circle (Benet’s). The Ku Klux Klan spread very rapidly through the south and soon got the nickname of the “Invisible Empire” (Ingalls). The Ku Klux Klan has been referred to by many different terms such as The Klan or KKK. In 1867, Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, an ex-confederate cavalry leader, and many other ex-confederates held a meeting and converted the social group to a group that opposed the Republican State government (Trelease). Nathaniel Bedford and many common group members, Klansmen, formed this group for three reasons. They wanted to keep white supremacy evident, make sure the black community didn’t revolt, and make sure the black community stayed in “their place” (Trelease). The Klansmen were from every economic social class, but the leaders would usually be from the elite
professional class (Trelease). The Klan was and still is present in both America and Canada (Ingalls).
The hierarchy of the KKK was set in the April 1867 meeting (Columbia). At this meeting, Nathaniel Bedford Forrest was made the Grand Wizard, which meant he was the leader of all of the clans (Columbia). A step lower than the Grand Wizard was the Grand Dragon (Columbia). A Grand Dragon and his Realm controlled each state (Columbia). The Realms were made up of eight Hydras, who acted as a staff to the Grand Dragon (Columbia). Below the Grand Dragon were the Grand Titans with their six Furies that controlled each county (Columbia). These rankings classified the duties of each one of the members.
The Ku Klux Klan used fear as a major proponent in their tactics to oppress the black community. Klansmen would disguise themselves in robes, hold silent parades, make midnight rides on horses, and speak with mysterious language and commands (Columbia). The KKK “Dressed in flowing sheets, their faces covered with white masks, and with skulls at their saddle horns, posed as spirits of the confederate dead returned from the battlefields” (Columbia). To accelerate the fear in the eyes of the common people The Klan would hold lynchings and whippings (Columbia). The widespread fear allowed the KKK to gain political power even though they were veering away from their main idea of restricting the south from reconstruction.
By doing many of these activities the KKK very effectively managed to keep blacks away from the voting booths. Many Klansmen were elected into office because the black community could not vote. Even though the white supremacists were in office,
they did not do as much as they would have hoped. Officials did not accomplish the idea of minimizing black power and increasing white supremacy.
The Ku Klux Klan power did diminish in 1870 and 1871, when congress passed the Force Bill (Columbia). This bill stated that one could not restrict another’s right to vote, which the KKK was doing. Another attempt to try to stop the KKK was the KKK acts of 1870 and 1871. After the KKK was proven to be violent, these laws that were formally passed disbanding the KKK in 1871 (Benet’s). Even though these bills and acts were passed, the KKK still survived.
The Clansman, written by Thomas Dixon in 1905, and the motion picture “Birth of a Nation”, by D.W. Grifith in 1915, stimulated the birth of the second Ku Klux Klan (Trelease). The second KKK was founded by an ex-minister, William J. Simmons, who was an excellent promoter of group activity (Columbia). There were many similarities of this new movement to the original. The new KKK movement added anti-nativism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-Semitic views to the black hatred of the first group and also attacked the issues of birth control, Darwinism, pacifism, and the repeal of prohibition (Benet’s; Columbia). It also drew members from all social classes but mainly the lower middle class (Trelease). Another common tribute between the original and second KKK was that they both spread very rapidly (Columbia).
Even though the original Klan had similarities with the second, they also had some differences. The second KKK not only feared blacks but also feared the many immigrants entering the U.S. (Trelease). The “Catholics and Jews that were rising in their economic social order” made the KKK feel threatened and caused them to be very
weary of the newcomers social position (Trelease). The second KKK burned crosses, which was unlike the original (Trelease). The burnt crosses were used to frighten as many people as possible even though the Ku Klux Klan believed they were very religious. This new Klan was mostly not violent, unlike The Klan before (Trelease). To make their mark on society, the KKK would parade in silent marches and wear KKK paraphernalia (Trelease). These events that were held more peacefully did more damage to the opposition than any other tactic the KKK used.
The KKK’s main objective was not for political control, but this idea came along because it was a peaceful and legal way to gain control. Texas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Oregon, and Maine all elected KKK members as state officials or congressmen (Columbia). The elected officials’ places were won many times because blacks were not allowed to vote (Columbia). These peaceful means of objection to the minorities worked well because this allowed them to attempt to achieve their goals legally.
Over time, the KKK declined due to several reasons. Davis C. Stephen was convicted of the murder of a black man that created a declination of the KKK in the 1920’s (Columbia). This event caused a decline in membership from 5 million to 30,000 by 1930 (Columbia). In 1923, there were less than half as many lynchings as in 1922. The comparison was from 61 lynchings in 1922 to 26 in 1923. “Of the 26 victims in 1923, one was a colored women and two white men the other 23 victims were black males” (KKK). Other reasons that the KKK declined in this time period was that the media looked down upon their events, and the interest of the Klan members themselves diminished (Benet’s). State laws also forbid the organization from being a secret society
(Columbia). These state laws made it illegal to gather together secretly and to perform many of their actions. Even though this decline lowered the numbers, the leaders still made a big profit from the sale of KKK paraphernalia (Columbia).
There was a another final attempt to reorganize the KKK by Dr. Samuel Green, but it failed (Columbia). The major stimulus of this new KKK movement was due to the many civil rights activities during the 1960’s (Ingalls). Most of the members in the third KKK were white people from a very low social economic class (Benet’s). Even though this attempt failed, the KKK still continues. This modern Klan is very small and does not have many members (Trelease). Other parties that are similar to the KKK in today’s life are the National States Rights Party, The Aryan Nations, and the Skinheads (Trelease).
Although crimes and complications with the KKK are not common, some recent examples have occurred. One example occurred in 1991 when a black man was set on fire after being soaked in gasoline. This crime occurred in Hillsborough County, Florida (Hatred 22). Another incident involving the Ku Klux Klan happened in Jasper, Texas where many Ku Klux Klan members, wearing white robes and hoods, waved confederate flags. This situation was very controversial because Jasper, Texas was the town where a black man was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck by three white men. Klan leader Rick Anderson commented that, “Jasper is part of the invisible empire. Make no mistake, this is Klan country,” when he paraded in Jasper. Another Klansmen stated that the KKK was doing Jasper a favor by practicing freedom of speech (Blacks). This incident in Jasper shows how the Ku Klux Klan followed up on a murder and made more damage by parading around the town.
The Ku Klux Klan, above any other group, is a very discriminating group. The KKK tries to spread hatred and prejudice. Now in the 20th century the truth came out and KKK power and membership has declined very rapidly in the recent years. In this next millennium it is most important to focus on peace and unity that was set as a standard at the end of the 20th century.
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