The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded in 1866 by former confederate veterans who wished to resist the Republican Party’s reconstruction era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for African-Americans. The first chapter of the KKK was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee and its first Grand Wizard (leader) was Nathan Bradford Forrest. In order to restore White supremacy, the KKK dedicated itself to committing violence against Republican Party leaders and voters, both Black and White. Over 10% of Black legislators elected from 1867 to 1868 were victims of violence during Reconstruction, including seven Black males who were murdered.
In South Carolina in 1871, 500 masked men attacked the Union County Jail and lynched eight Black prisoners. These masked men never went to trial because the police were either members of the KKK or refused to go against them. As a result of this widespread corruption, Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant decided to pass the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which made some of the Klan’s actions federal crimes. It prohibited the deprivation of citizens’ rights to hold office, serve on juries, and enjoy equal protection under the law.
The second generation of the KKK began in 1915. During this time period the Klan’s membership reached an all-time high of approximately four million members. The Klan now focused their animosity on more than just African-American rights, but also became anti-gay, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, and anti-organized labor. Although these “issues” seemed important to the KKK, the Great Depression depleted their ranks and they had to temporarily disband before regrouping in 1944.
Little Klan action was seen until the Civil Rights Movement began in 1960. At this time, the Klan’s activities surged and triggered bombings, shootings, and beatings of both Black and White activists. After these gruesome attacks, President Lyndon B. Johnson made a speech publicly condemning the Klan.
In the most recent age of the KKK, it has become more isolated, and is currently estimated to have approximately six to ten thousand members. Recent documentaries have shed light on the Klan’s rituals and introduced viewers to the current leadership and their views on the Klan’s future. These documentaries have allowed access into the group like never before, showing the faces of Klan members and the content of their meetings. The current goal of the Klan, as stated by Klansmen, is to separate the Whites and Blacks from each other by dividing the country in half.
Back to Crime Library