INTERESTING FACTS: Ku Klux Klan

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The Ku Klux Klan, commonly shortened to the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist terrorist hate group whose primary targets are African Americans as well as Jews, immigrants, leftists, homosexuals, Catholics, Muslims, and atheists. The Klan has existed in three distinct eras at different points in time during the history of the United States. Each has advocated extremist reactionary positions such as white nationalism, anti-immigration and – especially in later iterations – Nordicism, antisemitism, anti- Catholicism, Prohibition, right-wing populism, anti-communism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-atheism. Historically, the first Klan used terrorism – both physical assault and murder – against politically active blacks and their allies in the Southern United States in the late 1860s. All three movements have called for the “purification” of American society and all are considered “right-wing extremist” organizations. In each era, membership was secret and estimates of the total were highly exaggerated by both friends and enemies.

    The first Klan was established in the wake of the Civil War and was a defining organization of the Reconstruction era. Organized entirely in the Southern United States, it was suppressed through federal intervention in the early 1870s. It sought to overthrow the Republican state governments in the South, especially by using voter intimidation and targeted violence against African-American leaders. Each chapter was autonomous and highly secret as to membership and plans. Its numerous chapters across the South were suppressed around 1871, through federal law enforcement. Members made their own, often colourful, costumes: robes, masks and conical hats, designed to be terrifying and for hiding their identities.

    The second Klan started small in Georgia in 1915. It grew after 1920 and flourished nationwide in the early and mid-1920s, including urban areas of the Midwest and West. Taking inspiration from D. W. Griffith’s 1915 silent film The Birth of a Nation, which mythologized the founding of the first Klan, it employed marketing techniques and a popular fraternal organization structure. Rooted in local Protestant communities, it sought to maintain white supremacy, often took a pro-Prohibition stance, and it opposed Catholics and Jews, while also stressing its opposition to the alleged political power of the pope and the Catholic Church. This second Klan flourished both in the south and northern states. It was funded by initiation fees and selling its members a standard white costume. The chapters did not have dues. It used K-words which were similar to those used by the first Klan, while adding cross burnings and mass parades to intimidate others. It rapidly declined in the later half of the 1920s.

    The third and current manifestation of the KKK emerged after 1950, in the form of localized and isolated groups that use the KKK name. They have focused on opposition to the civil rights movement, often using violence and murder to suppress activists. It is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. As of 2016, the Anti-Defamation League puts total KKK membership nationwide at around 3,000, while the Southern Poverty Law Center puts it at 6,000 members total.

    The second and third incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan made frequent references to America’s “Anglo-Saxon” blood, hearkening back to 19th-century nativism. Although members of the KKK swear to uphold Christian morality, the group is widely denounced by Christian denominations.

    The first Klan was founded in Pulaski, on December 24, 1865, by six former officers of the Confederate army: Frank McCord, Richard Reed, John Lester, John Kennedy, J. Calvin Jones and James Crowe. It started as a fraternal social club inspired at least in part by the then largely defunct Sons of Malta which is a private society. It borrowed parts of the initiation ceremony from that group, with the same purpose: “ludicrous initiations, the baffling of public curiosity, and the amusement for members were the only objects of the Klan”, according to Albert Stevens in 1907. The manual of rituals was printed by Laps D. McCord of Pulaski.

In 1915, the second Klan was founded atop Stone Mountain, Georgia, by William Joseph Simmons.

From 1923 there were two Ku Klux Klan organizations: that founded by Simmons, and a splinter group founded by D.C. Stephenson.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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