The Ku Klux Klan is a name that is used and adopted by a large number of small organizations, often of a violent nature. Most of these groups are viewed as the revival of the original Ku Klux Klan which started as a secret organization in the defeated Southern states after the end of the American Civil War in 1865. The original formers of the band were themselves officials of the defeated Confederate army. The original objectives of the Klan was to reverse the political and social changes that were brought about and developed by the Republican Reconstruction governments that were victorious in the war. The enemies of the Klan were the blacks, Jews, Catholics, and in general all foreigners. The Ku Klux Klan is a secret organization made up of solely white Protestants who oppose the advancement of blacks, Jews, women and minority groups and who will act to prevent such an advancement in any means possible (“Ku Klux Klan,” CD-ROM).
Through its history, the Ku Klux Klan was not always active. The major periods of activity were those in which social, economic or political unrest were witnessed. The Klan was prominent between the 1860s and 1870s, then between 1915 and 1944, then from the 1960s through the 1970s. Today, the Klan groups have once again gained political power and are very active in the United States and Canada (Fetzer, p. 336).
In general, the activities Ku Klux Klan groups are identified as “organized group violence” because such violence is agreed upon, planned and carried out by the members of the group to achieve their goals (Henslin, p. 155). The Ku Klux Klan’s charter defines the organization as “an institution of Chivalry, Humanity, Mercy, and Patriotism” and among its objectives to “protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless, from the indignities, wrongs and outrages of the lawless, the violent and the brutal; to relieve the injured and the oppressed…” These aspects do not reflect any violent intentions or behaviors by the organization.
However, the means through which the Klans have attempted to achieve their objectives were always violent. In 1869, the Grand Wizard, that is, the highest authority in the Klan, former Confederate general Nathan B. Forrest disbanded the organization because its violence was getting out of control, but this did not stop the Klan members from remaining organized and violent. Even in the twentieth century, the Klan groups remained violent and often harassed, attacked and even killed their targets, frequently known as the subversives who threatened the values of the American society. These subversives included “non Protestants, aliens, liberals, trade unionists, and striking workers” (Ku Klux Klan, CD-ROM).
Several times, the Klans came under congressional investigation, but their abilities to change their tactics quickly, the maintenance of member-secrecy through the wearing of white robes and masked hoods, and the flexibility with which the organizations modified their activities made it difficult to take serious legal action against them. The Klan finally disbanded itself in 1944 as it was unable to pay its taxes to the federal government, and following several unpopular activities, such as uniting with the German-American Bund that was financed by Nazi Germany. The organization was not revived until the start of the Civil Rights Movements, especially in the 1960s (“Ku Klux Klan, CD-ROM).
Although violence remained part and parcel of the organization’s activities, the Ku Klux Klan changed much of their behaviors in the 1980s and 1990s. They became highly politicized and changed their tactics. This can be best illustrated in what Thomas Robb, the publisher of their newsletter, The Torch wrote, “Today, we see the evil is coming out of government. To go out and shoot a Negro is foolish. It is not the Negro in the alley who’s responsible for what’s wrong with this country. It’s the traitors in Washington” (Henslin, p. 285).
Yet, values such as racial discrimination against blacks, Jews, Catholics, minorities and women remain very central in the thinking and attitudes of the Ku Klux Klan, the organization that sees itself as a representative of Protestant supremacy. This is mostly seen in the speeches and activities of the Klan, and the questions asked in interrogating candidates for membership (“Organization and principles,” CD-ROM).
The Ku Klux Klan is an organization that was born out of frustration and racial sentiments in the defeated Southern States of America. It remains until today an active organization that aims at fighting the growing influence of non-Protestant Whites and of women in the government and in society.
Scott Fetzer. “The World Book Encyclopedia.” 1996 Edition, volume 11, p. 336.
“Ku Klux Klan.” Microsoft ® Encarta ®99 Encyclopedia, 1998 Edition.
James M Henslin. “Social Problems.” New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc., 1990.