The Ku Klux Klan, or KKK as known today, was started in the spring of 1866.
Six Confederate veterans formed a social club in Pulaski, Tennessee. This KKK only
lasted a short six years, but left tactics and rituals that later started in generations.
(Ingalls, 9) The Klan was a small group very much in secrecy at first. The exact date of
the beginning is unknown. Despite all of the secrecy the six KKK members initiated new
members to join their social club. (Ingalls, 9)
A year after the creation of the KKK, the onetime social club joined the raising
campaign against the Republican Reconstruction. The new direction of the Klan was
well planned and organized. The Klan was now ready to expand to a bigger group. The
Klan adopted a prescript. This was an organizational structure allowing the Klan to
spread across the south. New members had to be over 18, pay $1, sworn to secrecy,
recruits pledged to protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless, from the
indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal. The highly
centralized plan for expanding the KKK spread so rapidly that most chapters operated
alone. The founders of the KKK lost control, and it became impossible to talk about a
single KKK. Yet Klan activities still followed a common pattern throughout the south.
The Klan now started to spread across Tennessee. At first the Klan used tricks to
keep blacks in their place. At first, the Klan would ride around on horses, and with their
white robes, and white pointed masks, try to scare blacks. They would try to act like
ghost with their white uniforms. Unfortunately, the Klan quickly moved to more violent
pranks. (Ingalls, 12)
The Klan would now suppress blacks. The Klan leaders proved unable to control
their followers. Although the violence was often random, there was a method in the
madness. The victims were almost always black or if white, associated with the hatred of
the Republican party. The Klan had fear of black equality and sparked attacks on schools
setup for freed slaves. The Klan would warn the blacks not to attend school, and would
scare the teachers, most from out of state, to leave town. (Ingalls 12-13)
Many groups started forming around the south called the Ku Kluxers. The Klan was
being noticed as The Invisible Empire. However and wherever Klan’s were formed they
all followed the same pattern set by the Tennessee Klan. The Klan became the greatest
terror in 1868, when their attacks were against Republicans and elect democrats.
Thousands of blacks and whites fell victim to the murders and beatings given by the
KKK. (Ingalls, 13)
In 1869, General Forrest, the Grand Wizard of the KKK ordered Klansmen to
restrict their activities. The Klan was getting out of control, and Congress passed a Ku
Klux Klan Act in 1871. By the end of 1872, the federal crackdown had taken control of
the KKK. Because of the restriction and the Act passed, violence was isolated but still
continued. The KKK was dead, and Reconstruction lived on in southern legend . This
would not be the last of the KKK.
On the night of Thanksgiving in 1915, sixteen men from Atlanta, Georgia
climbed to the top of Stone Mountain and built an altar of stones on which they placed an
American flag. They then stood up a sixteen foot long cross and burned it. One week
later, this group applied for a state charter making it The Knights of the KKK, Inc. This
was put in effect during the Reconstruction. The new Klan at first received little
attention. Only in time, it became the biggest and most powerful Klan in history. Klan
membership was limited to native-born, white, Protestant American Men. The Klan
message was clearly to appeal to people who were troubled by abrupt changes in
American Society. (Ingalls, 16-17)
Many believe that the biggest growth of the KKK began when Colonel Simmons,
considerably the founder of the new KKK, linked up with Edward Young Clarke and
Elizabeth Tyler. In June 1920, Clarke and Simmons signed a contract that guaranteed
Clarke a share of Klan profits. Clarke and Tyler would receive a good amount of money
for every new KKK member, which the fee would be $10.00, $4.00 went to the Kleagle
(an official in the KKK), $1 went to the King Kleagle (state leader of the Klan), $.50 to
the Grand Goblin, and $2.50 to Clarke and Tyler. The final $2.00 went to Colonel
Simmons. This promotion brought over 85,000 new Klan members, and over $85,000 in
Klan profits. The KKK was still due for more publicity, in the 1920s many Americans
felt threatened by the variety of recent changes , and in 1920 most Americans were living
in cities. Many Americans were scared that cities would be dominated by Jewish and
Catholic immigrants. Americans also thought their country was coming apart at the
seams. The KKK presented itself as the 100 percent Americanism. This slogan proved
popular because it meant everything to the frightened man who flew into the Klan. By the
end of 1922 there were approximately 1,200,000 members in the Klan. This time was
supposedly the highest number of Klan members ever. (Ingalls, 24-25)
One of the greatest Klan strengths came in 1925 when Klan members from all
directions poured into the nations capitol Washington DC on August 8th, 1925 a
mammoth parade began. At the head the Imperial Wizard Hirem Wesley Evans, and
40,000 Klan members followed in their robes and hoods, but no masks. 200,000 friendly
spectators lined the parade and applauded as the Klan made their way to a rally at the
Washington Monument. The impressive demonstration was intended to show the
Invisible Empire never lost any of its strengths. (Ingalls 63-64)
Even though the parade was grander then expected, it could not conceal the fact
that the Klan was diminishing, the empire was collapsing. The peak of the Klan was
actually in 1924. The Klan was forced to admit its growing weakness. Time answered
quickly, by 1930, the Klan was almost invisible, less than 40,000 members nationally.
The story of the collapse is very complicated. (Ingalls, 63)
In 1924, Congress responded to the growing hatred to foreigners by restricting
immigration into the U.S. Before the restriction, immigrants were pouring in at over 1
million immigrants a year before World War 1. So when the Congress restricted the
immigration it was a major reason for the collapse of the KKK. (Meltzer, 60)
Another main reason for the collapse was that Klansmen also fought amongst each other.
In 1927, Wizard Evans resorted to a lawsuit to open in the Realm of
Pennsylvania, which was the highest Klan member state in the northeast. This divided
the group deeply. The lawsuit that Evans filed was for $100,000 which sent his
Pennsylvania opponents into submission. It seemed that the Klan was falling apart in
many areas. For example, In New Jersey the Mayor of Atlantic City called for am
anti-Klan meeting. 4,000 angry rioters showed for the anti-Klan meeting. Only several
hundred Klan members came to support the Klan. The anti-Klan rioters began to maul
the Klansmen and beat them so bad the Klan barely escaped.
In Chicago a council made up of a Jew, a Catholic, and a black was appointed to
recommend legislation on the Klan. Illinois passed a state law saying that no one was
allowed to wear a mask in public. In New York there were anti-Klan acts also. However,
after all this against the Klan they still managed to stay alive as did their prejudices.
(Ingalls, 65 and 69)
The Klan fell into what is called the depression years. With the growing poverty in
America, Klan members fees became a luxury which only a few Americans could afford.
Even though it looked like everything was going all wrong for the KKK they stayed alive.
The north was almost totally diminished with the Klan. There were still some Klan rallies
on Long Island, Hudson River Valley, cities in New Jersey, Ohio, and Michigan, but only
at the most 1,000 Klan members in each area. (Meltzer 64-65)
Meanwhile in the south Klansmen still continued to resort to violence. Beating
any whites who would cater to blacks. Also to ensure white supremacy, the KKK tried to
keep blacks from voting. Klansmen would invade black sections of cities and leave
messages on cards for blacks to stay away from the voting polls. (Meltzer, 66)
By 1936, the Klan started calling communism the main enemy. During this depression
Florida’s Realm became the biggest KKK movement, with around 30,000 members and
the Klan started to show light of coming back again. In the fall of 1946 the Klan burned
its first cross atop Stone Mountain. This was showing a sign of coming back for the Klan.
From California to New York the Klan started showing signs of life. (Meltzer, 55)
Since the Klan was coming back it began to meet strong opposition again.
Attorney General Tom Clarke of Texas said he would use every law in the book to break
up the Klan. In many states and cities laws and ordinaries were designed to hamper the
Klan. The Klan continued to be violent by using terrorist acts. They planted bombs in
churches and schools that would be used be either Jews, Catholics, or blacks.
After that, the Klan went back and forth starting to gain members and then losing
them again, starting to rally in certain areas but then dying out again. The Klan always
and still does have violent attacks against Jews, Catholics, and blacks. For example, in
the 1970s and 1980s, whites began to worry about losing their jobs, and special programs
were being set up for blacks, and this concern led to new Klan activity which is still in
effect today. Today in the Klan there are approximately 10,000 Klan members. (World
Book Encyclopedia J-K, 310)
In conclusion, the Klan has formed and diminished many times in the past. If the Klan
tries to keep adding members, there will always be opponents there to try and stop them.
It seems that the Klan will never give up on trying to start up another successful Klan .
The U.S. must do something about this in our country today. People have to realize that
everyone is equal, and from now on it will always be that way. There will no longer be
white supremacy like the KKK is trying to preach along with other groups such as the