For example, Confederate veteran John W. Morton founded a chapter in Nashville, Tennessee. In and , the federal government passed the Enforcement Acts , which were intended to prosecute and suppress Klan crimes. The first Klan had mixed results in terms of achieving its objectives. It seriously weakened the black political establishment through its use of assassinations and threats of violence; it drove some people out of politics. On the other hand, it caused a sharp backlash, with passage of federal laws that historian Eric Foner says were a success in terms of "restoring order, reinvigorating the morale of Southern Republicans, and enabling blacks to exercise their rights as citizens".
Rable argues that the Klan was a political failure and therefore was discarded by the Democratic leaders of the South. More fundamentally, it declined because it failed to achieve its central objective — the overthrow of Republican state governments in the South. After the Klan was suppressed, similar insurgent paramilitary groups arose that were explicitly directed at suppressing Republican voting and turning Republicans out of office: They were described as acting as the military arm of the Democratic Party and are attributed with helping white Democrats regain control of state legislatures throughout the South.
While Simmons relied on documents from the original Klan and memories of some surviving elders, the revived Klan was based significantly on the wildly popular film, The Birth of a Nation. The earlier Klan had not worn the white costumes or burned crosses; these were aspects introduced in the film. When the film was shown in Atlanta in December of that year, Simmons and his new klansmen paraded to the theater in robes and pointed hoods — many on robed horses — just like in the movie.
These mass parades would become another hallmark of the new Klan that had not existed in the original Reconstruction-era organization.
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Beginning in , it adopted a modern business system of using full-time paid recruiters and appealed to new members as a fraternal organization, of which many examples were flourishing at the time. The national headquarters made its profit through a monopoly of costume sales, while the organizers were paid through initiation fees.
It grew rapidly nationwide at a time of prosperity. Reflecting the social tensions pitting urban versus rural America, it spread to every state and was prominent in many cities.
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The second KKK preached "One Hundred Percent Americanism" and demanded the purification of politics, calling for strict morality and better enforcement of Prohibition. Its official rhetoric focused on the threat of the Catholic Church , using anti-Catholicism and nativism. The second Klan was a formal fraternal organization , with a national and state structure. During the resurgence of the second Klan during the s, its publicity was handled by the Southern Publicity Association —within the first six months of the Associations national recruitment campaign, Klan membership had increased by 85, Internal divisions, criminal behavior by leaders, and external opposition brought about a collapse in membership, which had dropped to about 30, by It finally faded away in the s.
The "Ku Klux Klan" name was used by numerous independent local groups opposing the civil rights movement and desegregation , especially in the s and s. During this period, they often forged alliances with Southern police departments, as in Birmingham, Alabama ; or with governor's offices, as with George Wallace of Alabama. As of , researchers estimate that there are just over 30 active Klan groups exist in the United States,  with about chapters.
Today, many sources classify the Klan as a "subversive or terrorist organization". Historians generally classify the KKK as part of the post-Civil War insurgent violence related not only to the high number of veterans in the population, but also to their effort to control the dramatically changed social situation by using extrajudicial means to restore white supremacy. In , Mississippi Governor William L. Sharkey reported that disorder, lack of control, and lawlessness were widespread; in some states armed bands of Confederate soldiers roamed at will.
The Klan used public violence against black people and their allies as intimidation. They burned houses and attacked and killed black people , leaving their bodies on the roads.
At an meeting in Nashville, Tennessee , Klan members gathered to try to create a hierarchical organization with local chapters eventually reporting to a national headquarters. Since most of the Klan's members were veterans, they were used to such military hierarchy, but the Klan never operated under this centralized structure.
Local chapters and bands were highly independent. For instance, an applicant should be asked if he was in favor of "a white man's government," "the reenfranchisement and emancipation of the white men of the South, and the restitution of the Southern people to all their rights. Despite Gordon's and Forrest's work, local Klan units never accepted the Prescript and continued to operate autonomously.
There were never hierarchical levels or state headquarters. Klan members used violence to settle old personal feuds and local grudges, as they worked to restore general white dominance in the disrupted postwar society. The historian Elaine Frantz Parsons describes the membership:. Lifting the Klan mask revealed a chaotic multitude of antiblack vigilante groups, disgruntled poor white farmers, wartime guerrilla bands, displaced Democratic politicians, illegal whiskey distillers, coercive moral reformers, sadists, rapists, white workmen fearful of black competition, employers trying to enforce labor discipline, common thieves, neighbors with decades-old grudges, and even a few freedmen and white Republicans who allied with Democratic whites or had criminal agendas of their own.
Indeed, all they had in common, besides being overwhelmingly white, southern, and Democratic , was that they called themselves, or were called, Klansmen. Historian Eric Foner observed: Its purposes were political, but political in the broadest sense, for it sought to affect power relations, both public and private, throughout Southern society.
It aimed to reverse the interlocking changes sweeping over the South during Reconstruction: Those political leaders assassinated during the campaign included Arkansas Congressman James M. Hinds , three members of the South Carolina legislature, and several men who served in constitutional conventions". Klan members adopted masks and robes that hid their identities and added to the drama of their night rides, their chosen time for attacks. Many of them operated in small towns and rural areas where people otherwise knew each other's faces, and sometimes still recognized the attackers by voice and mannerisms.
Few freedmen took such nonsense seriously. When they killed black political leaders, they also took heads of families, along with the leaders of churches and community groups, because these people had many roles in society. Agents of the Freedmen's Bureau reported weekly assaults and murders of blacks. They drove successful black farmers off their land. Klan violence worked to suppress black voting, and campaign seasons were deadly. More than 2, people were killed, wounded, or otherwise injured in Louisiana within a few weeks prior to the Presidential election of November Landry Parish had a registered Republican majority of 1,, after the murders, no Republicans voted in the fall elections.
White Democrats cast the full vote of the parish for President Grant's opponent. The KKK killed and wounded more than black Republicans, hunting and chasing them through the woods. Thirteen captives were taken from jail and shot; a half-buried pile of 25 bodies was found in the woods. The KKK made people vote Democratic and gave them certificates of the fact.
By the November presidential election , Klan intimidation led to suppression of the Republican vote and only one person voted for Ulysses S. Klansmen killed more than African Americans in a county [ which? Milder encounters, including some against white teachers, also occurred. In Mississippi , according to the Congressional inquiry:. Each man wore a long white robe and his face was covered by a loose mask with scarlet stripes.
She was ordered to get up and dress which she did at once and then admitted to her room the captain and lieutenant who in addition to the usual disguise had long horns on their heads and a sort of device in front. The lieutenant had a pistol in his hand and he and the captain sat down while eight or ten men stood inside the door and the porch was full. They treated her "gentlemanly and quietly" but complained of the heavy school-tax, said she must stop teaching and go away and warned her that they never gave a second notice.
She heeded the warning and left the county. By , two years after the Klan's creation, its activity was beginning to decrease. Many influential Southern Democrats feared that Klan lawlessness provided an excuse for the federal government to retain its power over the South, and they began to turn against it. Hill stating "that some of these outrages were actually perpetrated by the political friends of the parties slain. They put an end to violence by threatening Klansmen with reprisals unless they stopped whipping Unionists and burning black churches and schools.
Armed blacks formed their own defense in Bennettsville, South Carolina and patrolled the streets to protect their homes. National sentiment gathered to crack down on the Klan, even though some Democrats at the national level questioned whether the Klan really existed, or believed that it was a creation of nervous Southern Republican governors.
In January , Pennsylvania Republican Senator John Scott convened a Congressional committee which took testimony from 52 witnesses about Klan atrocities, accumulating 12 volumes. This added to the enmity that Southern white Democrats bore toward him. The Governor of South Carolina appealed for federal troops to assist his efforts in keeping control of the state. A riot and massacre occurred in a Meridian, Mississippi courthouse, from which a black state representative escaped by fleeing to the woods.
In , President Ulysses S.
Grant signed Butler's legislation. The Ku Klux Klan Act and the Enforcement Act of were used by the federal government to enforce the civil rights provisions for individuals under the constitution. The Klan refused to voluntarily dissolve after the Klan Act, so President Grant issued a suspension of habeas corpus and stationed federal troops in nine South Carolina counties.
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The Klansmen were apprehended and prosecuted in federal court. Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest boasted that the Klan was a nationwide organization of , men and that he could muster 40, Klansmen within five days notice. However, the Klan had no membership rosters, no chapters, and no local officers, so it was difficult for observers to judge its membership. In , a federal grand jury determined that the Klan was a " terrorist organization"  and issued hundreds of indictments for crimes of violence and terrorism.
Ku Klux Klan
Klan members were prosecuted, and many fled from areas that were under federal government jurisdiction, particularly in South Carolina. Forrest called for the Klan to disband in , arguing that it was "being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace". In many states, officials were reluctant to use black militia against the Klan out of fear that racial tensions would be raised. This and extensive violence and fraud at the polls caused the Republicans to lose their majority in the state legislature.
Disaffection with Holden's actions contributed to white Democratic legislators impeaching him and removing him from office, but their reasons for doing so were numerous. Klan operations ended in South Carolina  and gradually withered away throughout the rest of the South.