As of 2018, study shows 1020 different hate groups are operating within the boundaries of the United States of America. Most of the hate groups advocate the same thing, kill the blacks, Jews, foreigners, stop immigration, stop abortion. It is a toned-down version of the word they use, but we cannot use the same terminology used by the hate groups.
The thing is, hate groups are nothing new, there were, there are, and there always will be groups which resent other people, but there is one group which stood the test of time and is still prevalent 154 years hence. One hundred fifty-four years is a long time for a hate group to persist, but Ku Klux Klan defied all norms as it was handed down from fathers to sons and mothers to daughters.
President Trump and his humanizing of the Klan is seen as the reason for the rise of Ku Klux Klan as he was once seen agreeing with David Duke the 5th Grand Wizard of the Klan. But Trump isn't the only person to blame for the rise of the KKK, the encroachment of social media into our personal lives is also to blame. Social media provided a platform where lies were spread, recruitments were made. Social Media platforms were supposed to bring us closer together, but that was a lie as social media platforms were where truth breath it's final breath.
Gone are the days when people bringing up facts during arguments would’ve silenced the whole room, but now it is not that simple, it is simply “you have your truth, I have mine.” This resulted in the political discord our country is currently embroiled in right now. Bernie Sanders can say he will wipe out student debts, which he won’t be able to, and Donald Trump can chant with his adoring crowds to send the four non-white Democratic Congresswomen to the country they came from, which he won’t be able to do, but still, they appeal to human emotions. The student debt thing appeals to all college students who have a back-breaking student loan which will follow them to their death bed and the “send her back” chant appeals to people who think their country is overrun by non-patriot people who would love to diminish and marginalize white America.
The only time the two parties seem to agree is when there is a war to fight, but we cannot manufacture a war now (not for lack of trying) to bring the two warring parties together. The separation which the two parties caused is nothing new; there isn’t a single time period where the two parties were in sync.
The height of discord between the two factions was after the end of the brutal American Civil War. As most Confederate generals surrendered and the confederate states were being restored in the United States of America there was growing fears of disenfranchisement of whites of Southern states, there were also fears that migration of black people would cause them to lose their way of life and even their work and when people fear something, they resort to violence most of the times. "The tendency to resort to violence gave birth to the Ku Klux Klan."
According to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, (Yup, Just lost a couple of people right there) Ku Klux Klan definition “is the most infamous – and oldest – of American hate groups.” The ‘Birth of a New Nation’ (more on that later) after the Civil War, resulted in the formation of the oldest American hate group.
Ku Klux Klan originated in the south, but it gradually gained momentum in the Northern states during the peak popularity of the group. They were never able to sustain a long period of dominance, and for that reason, the Klan can be separated into three distinct eras where they rose and fell and persisted. The first era was from 1865-1871, which was also the first appearance and formation of the Klan, the second Klan was from 1915-1944, and the third Klan was from 1946-to present day.
1st Klan (1865-1871)
The time was 24 December 1865, eight months removed from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the rise to power of Andrew Johnson as the 17th President of the United States of America. Six former Confederate soldiers, James R. Crowe, John B. Kennedy, J. Calvin Jones, John C. Lester, Frank O. McCord, and Richard R. Reed, met in Pulaski, Tennessee and started the Ku Klux Klan. The original intention for the group was as a social club for the Confederate veterans which morphed into a terrorist organization.
As the soldiers returned from the civil war and the Confederate armies surrendered to the Union, the reconstruction era was in full swing as the government sought to restore all the former Confederate states into the Union. The social group turned the hate group as a result of many confederate soldiers in the normal population with nothing to do and also the changing population situation as more people started migrating to the south. This resulted in the Klan to morph into a quasi-military outfit which sought to control the flow of black people into their part of the country. It was not the only job of the Klan, though as they used intimidation and violence to restore white supremacy. Since the 13th Amendment made slavery illegal, the clan used their anonymity to threaten and even kill freed black people in the south.
As members for the Klan grew, they started rioting in the public which targeted Republicans lawmakers predominantly (by the way, Democrats supported Klan and Republican supported black rights, imagine that for a change). The clashes and the hateful rhetoric resulted in the riot of Memphis, Tennessee between former white and black soldiers even the police assisted the 'KKK' and by the time the riots subsided, more than 40 people lost their lives, and almost a 100 people were injured.
This was the time when the Klan started using Masks robes; first, it was to hide their identities, but the real reason for the robes and those pointy hats were the dramatic flair they provided when Klan’s men rode their horses in the night. Ask any person who ever saw a Klan’s men ride a horse in full 'regalia', they will tell you, it was terrifying. The reason for Klan members using masks was because most of the Klan members lived in small towns where the people could recognize you, the mask provided anonymity, but the major thing the mask and the robes provided was the sense of power. Things people would’ve hesitated to do freely came naturally when they put on the robes and the masks.
The Klan was the fastest-growing group in the United States as the Confederate states, and Southern Democrats threw their hats in with the group. This resulted in the group being the most significant terrorist organization operating in the United States; they even called the Klan “The Invisible Empire of the South.”
By the start of 1868, the Klan was one of the most influential organizations in America, and the head of the organization was “Grand Wizard” (fancy) Nathan Bedford Forrest. Former Confederate army General Nathan formed a hierarchy for the former Confederate soldiers and led them in co-ordinated strikes against Loyal Leagues and Republican State Governments. Forrest’s work and his manifesto worked with the former soldiers, but they were ignored by people operating at the local level as they used the Klan to settle old scores and restore white supremacy.
The Klan was getting bolder as they started attacking political organizations and people who sympathized with black and union soldiers. The Klan really started becoming brutal, leading up to the presidential election of 1868 as they led the charge of voter suppression. They started their campaign against republican voters and black people as they used intimidation to get them not to vote in the upcoming election.
The Klan killed, injured or wounded more than 2000 people in Louisiana to stop them from voting Republican. Over 2000 murders in Kansas and over 1000 black people died in Louisiana, Georgia was also a prominent member in voter suppression and the Democratic parties won in all of those states. During the presidential election 1,071 voters registered as Republican in St. Landry Parish didn’t vote for the future President Ulysses S. Grant as they were all made to vote Democrat by the Klan.
The bodies piled during the Presidential election took a toll as by the end of 1868 the power of the Klan was waning. The southern Democrats who got to control because of the Klan feared the lawlessness and brutality of the Klan in the southern states would give the Federal government power over the southern states, so they started to turn against the Klan. The Klan’s early demise was also attributed to the Union soldiers banding together and putting the fear of reprisals against the Klan’s men if they don’t stop attacking black people or union soldiers. The soldiers weren’t the only militia working against the Klan as black youth started banding together and started fighting the Klan and patrolling their neighborhoods.
The final nail in the coffin for the Klan came in the form of the Enforcement Act of 1871 also known as the Ku Klux Klan act which allowed the President to battle the Klan at the state level. Prison sentences and fines were handed out to Klan members, and this signaled the end of Klan. Even though Forrest said that he possessed a standing soldier of 50,000 members at his disposal the law broke the Klan’s back.
Forrest called for the disbandment of Klan in 1869, but it wasn’t an honorable bowing out like he had hoped as the Klan disintegrated gradually because of the perversion of their battle statements and people losing the moral high ground after multiple rapes and debauchery claims were filed against many top members of the Klan. 'Jim Crow' also in full effect so people in the confederate states didn’t have to join the Klan to make their voices heard as Jim Crow ensured there is racial discrimination in the south. Slowly the 1st Klan withered away, and the violence in south subsided substantially.
2nd Klan (1915-1944)
To understand the second Klan you need to watch the movie ‘The Birth of a Nation,’ no, not really, still, watch the film, it is one of the best movies we have seen ever. Roger Ebert said it best, “The Birth of a Nation is not a bad film because it argues for evil. Like Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, it is a great film that argues for evil. To understand how it does so is to learn a great deal about film, and even something about evil.”
The reason we are talking about the movie is that the film is credited with the rise of the second Klan. The movie is based on the book by Thomas Dixon Jr. which glorifies the Klan as the heroes of the south as romanticizes the formation and work of the Klan in the late 1860s.
After the end of the Klan almost 50 years ago the movie rejuvenated the Klan as William Joseph Simmons made his way to the Stone Mountain with his chest full of fraternal badges he burned a cross on top of the mountain ushering the start of the Klan again.
This was all new to the Klan as the 1st Klan never used white robes or burned crosses, which is why we were talking about the movie as the book influenced by the Scottish lore introduced cross burning and the new Klan adopted that. The new Klan was also running like business as this was the first time in Klan history were members were asked to pay a fee to become members and even remodeling the Klan as a fraternal organization and trying to move away from the terrorist labels of the past.
The first Klan was focused on their fight against the Republican lawmakers and the black people, but after the foundation of the new Klan, the group broadened its horizon as they went after Roman Catholics, Jews and foreigners. They taught the people Roman Catholics were not patriots, they also taught the Jews were coming to take over their country, and the foreigners were coming to take over their jobs.
The resurgence of Klan can be attributed to the uber-popular movie ‘The Birth of a Nation,’ but the reason they thrived was that America was changing and becoming more urbanized and leaving it’s farming roots behind. Americans were being modernized as divorce was not considered a taboo, and there was adultery, and more gangs and Klan positioned themselves as the moral compass as the nation. As rural America could not change with the changing country, they started growing weary for the soul of the country. So, Klan was the answer, fighting against people who did not follow the protestant way of Christianity. Simmons had trouble finding new members in the country early on, but as the organization started attacking the urbanization and leaving the old country behind people began to get trapped in the allure of the Klan.
Starting in the 1920s, Simmons spearheaded a campaign to add members and publicize the Klan as he hired Mary Elizabeth Tyler and Edward Young Clarke to do the publicity for the Klan. They worked like any other sales organization as the country was divided into the sales area and attacked specific and susceptible regions. It was a great plan by the 2nd Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan as they focused their strength on the people who were on the fence and people who felt disenfranchised. They used over 1000 solicitors and used the allure of a fraternity to lure thousands of people to the Klan. They used the recruiters to recruit almost 100,000 members, but this time the people required a membership payment to get in the Klan. For $10 they received a robe and a hat and the membership of the Klan.
The recruiting played a great hand in bringing the 2nd Klan to prominence as the membership swelled from a couple of thousand to more than 100,000 within a matter of months. The Klan was growing at an exponential rate, and people were flocking to the Klan as the government opened investigations into the group, but instead of people being afraid, they were attracted by the allured of the Klan. Like always the Klan was privy to many internal struggles and power battles which resulted in the ouster of the 2nd Grand Wizard and made way for Hiram Evans, who was a dentist working in Texas.
The Klan planted seeds of doubt and enmity in every direction as people started to feel insecure in their own neighborhoods. The 2nd Klan drew from the examples of the Reconstruction era as they bashed the leftist politics and positioned themselves as the protector of the old ways of America. The difference between the old and the new Klan was people in the Northern states were also joining the group, which was not the case in the first Klan. It was not a surprise when people from Confederate states like Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas flocked to the KKK but when Indiana, Washington, Colorado, Ohio, etc. also joined that is when the Klan really started to grow beyond anything before.
The members were not rich men as before or soldiers like before, but this time the members were middle-class white men who worked in factories and who owned small businesses, teachers, clerks, mechanics made up the majority of the Klan members. As the auto industry was booming people were flocking to Michigan, but especially Detroit where the numbers of Klan’s men in the city were north of 40,000 as the Klan trumped-up black people and foreigners were coming in to steal their lucrative auto industry jobs. The hateful rhetoric gave way to the swelling of the numbers of Klan’s men, which reached almost six million by the end of 1924.
The Klan may position themselves as the moral compass of the country, but that was not the only thing they were doing. The Klan used violence like their predecessor to people who argued against their belief. They killed and tortured black people, Jews, and Catholics; they rode in at night, dragged people out of their homes and killed them by lynching. They were so into the whole “pure” America thing; they even beat and lynch women who rode in cars with other men.
It is such an easy thing to just think these people as a horrible sociopath who wanted white supremacy and wanted to stop the national progress. But that is not the only people who were Klan members as the Klan positioned themselves not as vigilante justice seekers but a fraternal organization for people to spend time together in. The amazing thing about the 2nd Klan, they attracted people not because of violence against other people, but they allowed members to feel a sense of community which allowed the people to feel like they belonged to something.
The secrecy and the rituals surrounding the Klan was so alluring, which resulted in people wanting to be part of the organization. Mystical robes, secret handshakes, fantastic and mystical sounding names, code words, all of these things combined together to give the people an appearance of belongingness and made them feel special, and frankly who doesn’t want to feel special.
The 2nd Klan was like an exclusive club where you pay a membership fee, and they organize various programs for the members to enjoy. Which is what the 2nd Klan did, they organized outings, picnics, trips, sponsored baseball teams, held beautiful baby pageants, operated bands which played in concerts, hosted Sunday service and donated Bibles and American flags to schools. They even operated the auxiliary organization for children like the 'Ku Klux Kiddies' and 'Junior Ku Klux Klan'. Oh and they also built Protestant-only hospitals, so you can see the allure of such an organization.
We are not saying the people who are not harming others and still are members of the Klan are good people. They are involved in the organization, and they are responsible for the atrocities the Klan carries out but they were lured in by a sense of community and for every person who joined the Klan so he/she can use the Klan as a disguise to harm others there were also people who just wanted to be with people who looked like them and believed the same things they believed in. Nothing will ever make it right, joining a hate group, but people also need to understand that not everyone carries malicious intent while entering. Naivety cannot be a defense, but it can be something which can be forgiven.
The Klan’s success in gathering more members resulted in the group situating themselves in many elections where they won the Governor races and used their influence to remove Republicans with Klan sympathizers. But the height of 2nd Klan’s success did not come after winning significant elections, the height of their power or the last show of their power was on 8 August, 1925 when over 50,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan, in full regalia paraded for almost three hours in Washington D.C. Men and Women walked in-formation of K and brandished banners which had the name of their states emblazoned on them proudly.
The Klan members were wearing the hoods, but they pulled up their masks to show their faces in broad daylight as they were only allowed to march in Washington if all the members showed their faces. This was not a massive deal for the Klan because nothing at this point could scare them as millions of people supported them all across the United States.
Watch: The Klan makes their way through Washington D.C.
As the Klan celebrated the height of their success in 1925, the same year also saw the slow decline of the Klan. The decline of Klan was not because of outside pressures, but like always the decline of the Klan can be attributed to the leaders of the Klan. The real reason for the decline of the Klan was after the conviction of the Grand Dragon of Indian and 22 other states. D.C. Stephenson was charged with second-degree murder after he raped and murdered a white woman, Madge Oberholtzer, which resulted in the rapid decline of the Klan members. The Klan positioned themselves as the moral compass of the country, and if the leader of the Klan is a rapist, the whole ideology of the Klan fell in the eyes of most Christian members.
The failure in leadership caused a decline in membership, and the Klan never recovered from the scandal as the number of members went from 4 million to 30 thousand within four years. The greater credit to the demise of the 2nd Klan also goes to the journalist and sensible presidents like Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge who saw the Klan for the public menace which they were. Another aspect of the people leaving the Klan was when Klan said the migration of the blacks would cause unrest, that never came to pass, when they said foreigners were there to steal their jobs, that never happened either and most of all the political offices were held by white male Americans which meant people didn’t need the Klan to impose their superiority. And like we said before, Jim Crow was also in full effect which meant there were racial bias and discrimination in the country and people didn’t need Klan to do what was already in full effect almost in every southern state.
The Klan maintained a small number as they went into the 30s, but they were insignificant at that point considering the massive show of force only five years before. The Klan still carried out acts of terror in the 30s and 40s, but they were small to what the Klan was doing in the 20s. The loss of life was still tragic as Austin Callaway was dragged from the police station for suspected assault on a white woman and killed by six white men; they were affiliated with the KKK. The small independent KKK affiliates still caused terror in southern states, but by the 40s the KKK was dead which resulted in the Imperial Wizard Hiram Wesley Evans sold the Klan to veterinarian Samuel Green and James A. Colescott, but they made the organization defunct after the IRS presented them with a $700,000 back tax receipt. In 1944, the 2nd Klan saw its demise, but there were still few stragglers here and there which were ridiculed after Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Klan and published all their rituals and code words and everything secretive about the organization which ushered the end of the recruitment for the most remaining organization.
3rd Klan (1946-present)
The third Klan’s establishment wasn’t as dramatic as the 2nd Klan. No Klan leader went on top of a mountain after being inspired by a movie which advocated the Klan as the heroes of the world trying to save America’s soul from adultery, debauchery, and invasion from foreigners. There was no sitting atop a mountain with the followers and burning a cross to symbolize the start of the Klan again. The Ku Klux Klan just existed in local levels after the demise of the national organization.
Small groups popped up all over the southern states as small groups of white men adopted the name of Ku Klux Klan, their credos and their costumes. The small groups didn’t communicate with each other, and they were all independent chapters which started to come into existence to resist the black people wanting their civil liberties. The Klan was alive in the late 40s as well, but they rose to prominence in the early 50s in Birmingham, Alabama. They started their terror acts by scaring black people, but then they started bombing churches and houses and slowly, lynching started again.
The bombing was so frequent in Birmingham, place a dubbed Bombingham as the KKK local chapters slowly started to quell uprisings and peaceful protests and Sunday services. The bombings weren’t the only thing the Klan was involved in as the groups started working with police and governors to stop the black uprising.
In 1951, the bombing of the NAACP activists, Harry and Hariette Moore’s home in Florida resulted in both of them losing their lives, this was the first prominent attack of the new Klan. There was also the case where Alabama Ku Klux Klan killed Willie Edwards Jr., after telling him to jump to his death from the Alabama Bridge.
The turn of the century resulted in the struggle for civil liberties by the African-American being more vocal as black activists from the north started going to the south to help out the oppressed in the southern states where Jim Crow was breaking every black and non-white people’s back.
Students started to be bused in to help out the civil rights campaign, which is when the KKK also spurred into action. The KKK was working with the state Governors, and the police of southern states as the police gave the Klan members fifteen minutes to attack the 'Freedom Riders' before the police were sent to protect the activists. Prosecutions of those caught Klan members were also not possible as southern states didn’t allow any black jurors in the court and the biased jury almost always found the Klan members not guilty of the violence they committed.
In 1963 as the civil rights movement was heating up, the Klan members started bombing and assassinations again. Medgar Evers, a World War II veteran, was killed by the Klan, he was working as the NAACP organizer, and for 30 years his killer avoided arrest, finally facing conviction in 1994. In September of the same year, the Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, which resulted in the deaths of four African-American girls, and 22 people received injuries. The four Klan members planted 15 sticks of dynamite inside the church as the blast took the lives of three 14-year-olds and one 11 years old. It took 14 years for the four girls to get justice, and the court only convicted one bomber, two more were convicted in 2001 and 2002, but the third one escaped justice as he died before he was convicted.
The 1964 murder of the James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner was what pushed the matter over the edge as FBI finally got involved and the Supreme Court brought back Ku Klux Klan act which was used to break the 1st Klan. The Ku Klux Klan act was used to convict the killers of the civil right activists as they were all sentenced to serve three life sentences after the court found them guilty. The investigation was all detailed in the investigation file 'Mississippi Burning' which was the same title a movie released in 1988 used; it was one of numerous Ku Klux Klan movies made by Hollywood detailing the atrocities of the Klan while taking a lot of liberties with the story.
After the federal government passed the legislation which outlawed segregation in any area of the United States of America, KKK started protesting the desegregation of schools. U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the segregation of the schools in the landmark decision in 'Brown v. Board of Education' but many schools still segregated on racial terms but then the Supreme Court used busing as the measure to desegregate the schools. The KKK opposed this measure by the federal government as they protested and tried to stop desegregation.
Affirmative Action was also one of the biggest points of anger for the White Supremacists as affirmative action meant protected spots for racially marginalized people. As people who advocated for white America, seeing people in power who look like someone who should be their slaves was something that was hard to swallow for the KKK. Jim Crow was gone, African American got the right to vote, affirmative action, everything just piled on the KKK in the 60s, and they were not happy. And they made it clear with bombing which was prevalent in the 1970s also as the KKK bombed school buses to stop desegregation.
This was also the time when David E. Duke became the 5th Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan; he worked with the organization from 1974 to 1979.
The KKK was involved in the Greensboro Massacre of the communist party members. They were all killed after the Klan used weapons and used the help of the American Nazi Party. The joint group of racists, killed five people, and none were caught after all the three parties engaged in a gunfight. The massacre happened in 1979, which was the same year where Jerry Thompson, who is a newspaper reporter, infiltrated the KKK. He reported the rival Klan members suspected each other of talking to the feds and the authorities relating to the crimes they all committed. Thompson also said after getting out of the Klan, the groups were afraid of the numerous lawsuits filed by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as the damages from the suits were amounting to millions.
Klan members decreased in number considerably, but there were still people trying to get into the Klan, or what remained of the once glorious organization. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, following the initiation rally of the KKK in 1980, three members of the KKK shot four elderly African American women, but they were all acquitted by an all-white jury except for the third who was given a light nine months sentence and released after three months.
The Ku Klux Klan was almost all gone, but then the internet rolled into town which gave the KKK leaders a mass platform to voice their opinions. The KKK leader Don Black started a bulletin board on the internet, but it morphed into the most prominent hate speech site in the world as it became the spot for all White nationalists.
The KKK was becoming irrelevant in the 80s, but then the internet gave them a new life, not because they got a new influx of members, but the Ku Klux Klan ranks got a new way to reach the mass without spending much money. Their membership didn’t grow, but the internet magnified their voices which were consumed by even more people than they could ever muster in the 70s and 80s.
The reason for the KKK’s declining membership was people lost interest in the whole secret handshake and the ritual thing that KKK was built on. No young person in good conscious is going to put on a pointy hat and wear a bed sheet to cover themselves. White Supremacists are right around the corner, and racist youth are more attracted to the pressed khaki and nazi salute than the whole burning cross thing.
The Ku Klux Klan is not like other hate organization, the Klan is generational, fathers and mothers passing down the robes and rituals to children and recently SPLC said the KKK chapters grew from 72 to 190 in 2015 which is clear indication the group won’t be eradicated totally, even with competitions the Klan’s survival hinged on generational passing of the torch which resulted in the Klan never really leaving prominence. The white robes and the pointy hats are not seen in as much in public anymore, but everyone knows some people keep it pressed and ready and keep the regalia locked in their cupboard. Like we said at the start, we live in a post-truth world, and this is exactly the type of situation where hate groups can shine.
The Ku Klux Klan Rank Or Hierarchy
Grand Wizard – National Head of the Klan also the “Invisible Empire.”
Grand Dragon – The head or ruler of a state under the “Invisible Empire” known as “Realm.”
Grand Titan – The real is divided further into “Dominion” ruled by Grand Titan
Grand Giant – Under the “Dominion” heading a particular county
Grand Cyclops – Presiding officer of a Den (a den is a basic level of organization)
Grand Magi – The subordinate of Grand Cyclops
Grand Monk – The third officer of Grand Cyclops
Klaliff – Vice President
Klokard – Lecturer
Kludd – Chaplain
Kligrapp – Secretary
Klabee – Treasurer
Kladd – Conductor
Klarogo – Sergeant at Arms (Inner Guard)
Klexter – Outer Guard
Nighthawks – Couriers
The official’s works in a simple way add Imperial in front for Empire level, Grand in front for Realm Level and Great in front for Province level.
Ayak – Are you a Klansman?
Akia – A Klansman I am
Kigy – Klansman, I greet you
Sanbog – Strangers are near, be on guard
Itsub – In the sacred unfailing bond
Sor – Sign of recognition
Lotie – Lady of the Invisible Empire
Grand Wizard or Imperial Wizards
Nathan Bedford Forrest – Grand Wizard, 1st Klan, 1867-1869
William Joseph Simmons – Imperial Wizard, 2nd Klan, 1915-1922