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Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is one of several white-supremacist organizations in the United States, which are dedicated to opposing civil rights for Blacks, Jews, and other ethnic, racial, social or religious groups. They also oppose Catholicism, and 'left' groups such as the IWW, and the gay rights movement.

In recent years a spin-off organization came into existence in the United Kingdom. However, the British Ku Klux Klan is a tiny movement with no real influence.


The name Ku Klux Klan comes from kuklos, the Greek word for circle. A persistent myth has existed in the United States which alleges that the name comes from the sound of the hammer of a rifle being cocked.

Members of the Klan are easily recognizable by their distinctive white robes and hoods, which represent the ghosts of the Confederate soldiers returned from the dead to search for revenge against their enemies. They also often give themselves fanciful titles such as "Grand Wizard" to indicate status.

The Klan is associated with acts of terrorism such as lynchings and burning of homes, and a consciously mystical and grandiose aesthetic involving wearing white robes and hoods and burning crosses. In fact, the Klan adopted Christian symbolism throughout their rituals. An account of one Klan initiation ceremony describes a Bible opened to Romans 12, telling Christians to engage in "godly conduct." The fiery cross was accompanied by a sword, representing the battle against the enemies of the Christian way, and an American flag. In a reference to baptism, new initiates were sprinkled with water to "cleanse" them of alien influences. Both the opening and closing prayers declared: "The living Christ is the Klansman's criterion of character."


The original Ku Klux Klan was first established in Pulaski, Tennessee after the end of the American Civil War on December 24, 1865 by General Nathan Bedford Forrest and other Confederate veterans. In addition to aiding Confederate widows and orphans of the war, many members of the new group sought to oppose the extension of voting rights to Blacks, and other measures to end segregation, that were introduced as part of Reconstruction. But as federal control of the ex-Confederate states was withdrawn, the local white population re-established their power and with it segregation laws. Additionally, Nathan Bedford Forrest officially disbanded the organization in 1869 because it had evolved into an entity which he believed had strayed from its original mission and had instead grown increasingly violent and antagonistic.

In 1871 President Ulysses S. Grant put what was believed to be the final nail in the Klan's coffin, and signed The Klan Act and Enforcement Act. The Klan became an illegal terrorist group, and the use of force was authorized to suppress and disrupt the organization's activities.

The second Ku Klux Klan was re-established during World War I, a feat which arguably would not have been possible without D. W. Griffith's skillful propaganda film The Birth of a Nation, based on the play The Clansmen and the book The Leopard's Spots, both by Thomas Dixon. Many poor whites were drawn to the idea that their economic woes were caused by Blacks, or by Jewish bankers, or by other such groups. This Klan was operated as a profit-making venture by its leaders, and participated in the boom for fraternal organizations at the time. It differed from the first Klan; the first Klan was Democrat and Southern; this Klan was Republican and Midwestern, and had major political influence on the Republicans in several Midwestern states. It collapsed largely as a result of a scandal involving David Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of Indiana, who was convicted of rape and murder in a sensational trial.

After World War II, there was a revival of several Ku Klux Klan organizations which were established to counter the Civil rights movement of the 1960s. This is the Klan that is still seen today, though as American society has become more racially tolerant the Klan has once more shrunk dramatically and fractured. The major factions currently include the Imperial Klans of America, the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and Knights of the White Kamelia.


The KKK organizations hold themselves to be Protestant Christian organizations. From the early 1900s through the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of Protestants, primarily in the South, saw the KKK as a part of their faith. Millions more viewed the KKK's tactics as morally reprehensible and extreme, but nonetheless saw its members as valid Christians and generally agreed that white Protestants were inherently superior to other groups. At that time, oppressing black people, as well as Jews and Catholics, was seen by many as part of "God's plan". A much smaller number of Americans still have such views today. Many people hold that the Klan's members were not really Christian, as they didn't follow the nonviolent, "turn the other cheek" teachings of classical Christianity. Others hold that this is a case of the No true Scotsman fallacy.

Political Influence

The Ku Klux Klan rose to great prominence and spread from the South into the Midwest and Northern states, and at this time counted many politicians among its members. According to some accounts, even future president Harry Truman was briefly a member of the Klan, though he soon left because of their anti-Catholicism. Another former Klansman to rise to national prominence was the Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who repudiated the racist views of the Klan. However, with the recovery from the Great Depression and the onset of World War II, the Klan again faded; it has never recaptured the number of members it held then, although it still exists.

Similar organizations include the Aryan Nations, the National Alliance, and the Silent Brotherhood.

See also : Jim Crow laws, League of the Holy Court, Silent Brotherhood, Neo-Nazism.

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