, Research Paper
It has been heard and talked about throughout history, that there was never such a thing as “The” Ku Klux Klan. There is traceable evidence of different movements and organizations that have used this name. The history of the K.K.K. corresponds with the history of race relations from our country. The Klan can be divided into five different eras: The Reconstruction, The End of the War (& Pulaski Six), The Klan Mobilization, The Reign of Terror, and The End of the First Era. Each stage was brought out by economic and social changes. Each stage also is at the same point in time as an escalation in racial standings.
As it was started in 1865, the Ku Klux Klan has sent a sense of terror through people s minds. A group of six white Southerners was the start of this organization. The history of violence of the K.K.K. is a result of the hatred and anger from the end of the Civil War. The reason for this hatred was because blacks had won their struggle for freedom of slavery. They fought to deny the civil rights for African Americans. They wanted the blacks to be forced into slavery once again. The K.K.K. tore apart reconstructing governments and established a reign of terror and violence throughout the whole war-torn South. The first era of the K.K.K. lasted about three or four years, than faded. The arose again after World War 1. The overall story starts with many generations of Americans learning hard lessons of life. These experiences led to fierce individualism, surprising inventiveness, and the thought that they could be whatever and go wherever they wanted to. Other things occurred along with these thoughts. “Frontier Justice” was an instant, private and violent method of settling differences without law officials. This was a large component to the motivation of the Ku Klux Klan.
To some whites the freedom of slaves meant that their social and economic ways of life had been defeated. For some white Southerners, this was a nightmare that came true. The number of slaves living around the whites were seen as threats. Night patrols were a result of bloody slave revolts. These patrols consisted of white men that were empowered and authorized by law to look enforce a curfew for slaves, look for runaways and guard rural areas. This was done to prevent any black rebellions. These patrollers were given the right to whip any violators they caught. People saw the K.K.K. as an opportunity to win what they lost in the battles. Confederate veterans were giving up their rebel grays for hoods and sheets.
There were many theories about how the Ku Klux Klan was formed. Some said it was a secret order of Chinese opium smugglers, and others said it was formed by the Confederate prisoners during the war. The thought that it was formed by the findings of ancient Jewish documents that referred to Hebrews captured by Egyptian pharaohs was even discussed. In reality, the K.K.K. was formed due to the boredom of small-town life. Six confederate veterans decided to form this “social club”, as they called it. They agreed that the club would be kept a secret. They gave their founders, or officers, crazy names. They did this for the fun of it and to avoid any military or political assumptions. The head of the group was called the Grand Cyclops. His assistant was called General Magi. The Grand Turk greeted all candidates for admission. The Grand Scribe was used as the secretary. Night Hawks were messengers, and the Lictor was the guard. All members were known as Ghouls. The only thing left to discuss was what the name of their organization would be. Richard R. Reed came up with the Greek word “Kuklos”, meaning “circle” or “cycle”. John B. Kennedy came up with the word “clam”. Using these words they came up with the now known, Ku Klux Klan. They decided to disguise themselves in sheets. They road horses through the quiet streets. These sheets became official dress for the Klan. They added horrific masks and tall, pointed hats to their costume. The next thing they came up with was an elaborated ceremony for new members. The ceremony started by blind-folding the person, exposing him to a series of oaths, and bringing him before a “royal alter”. Here he would be inaugurated with a “royal crown”. The alter was only a mirror, and the crown was two donkey ears. This ceremony was the high point of the earlier activities for the K.K.K.. The group enlarged quickly by the next year. The founders got members from other nearby towns to join. They rode to the homes of blacks and threatened them. The original intentions of the six founders is unknown, but their group became dangerous and deadly. The Klan grew very rapidly. Members of the organization met in secret and rode with their faces hidden by their sheets and masks. They continued practicing elaborate rituals and intense initiation ceremonies.
At first the Klan was known for being mischievous and starting trouble. One of the most common plots was for a Klansman to where his costume and ride up to a black s home in the middle of the night. He would demand water and claim that he had not had anything to drink since the battle in Shiloh. This made the blacks believe that these men were Confederate ghosts, riding through the towns. The Klansman would not be drinking the water. Instead, he would be pouring it down a tube that led to a bottle underneath his coat. There was no real reason to do this, except for the fact that they were wasting the water supply that the blacks had saved. This mischief eventually turned into violence. Blacks began were reminded of the pre-war slave patrols because of the sight of the armed white men walking around the towns at night. The suspicion and fears of the blacks was greatened by the Klansmen riding with their faces covered. They didn t know who these men were, and it was impossible to find out.
Throughout the months the Klan grew more violent. There were members from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The “Night Rides” were getting way out of control. It was to the point that anyone could put on a sheet and commit a crime. The Klan decided to have a meeting to try and control these night rides. They came up with a creed and a chain of command. By 1868 the Klan was known as a terrorist group. There were orders to overpower the Klan by government and army officials. Little did they know, it was too late for this. In some states the K.K.K. had become an invisible government, which no one could control. Governors of various states tried to have spies enter the Klan. In the end, these spies were mutilated and tortured. Eventually the people against the Klan were the minority.
The Klan did encounter some problems. There were fights among the members of the Klan. In Tennessee, a group of men formed their own group known as the Black Ku Klux Klan. Eventually laws were passed prohibiting the night riding under costumes and Klan members were being arrested. However, this did not destroy the Klan.
The Klan s history of violence and manipulation led to racist appeals that divided people as a whole. Most of the K.K.K. s targets were towards union and political leaders, or the people who tried to bring everyone together. They were an extremely powerful and intimidating group who terrorized the U.S..