The Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist organization that was started in 1866 in Pulaski, Tennessee (Bessette & Pitney 212). The organization was started by five Confederate Civil War soldiers. According to the organizations manifesto, the KKK objectives were; to protect the weak and the defenseless from the wrongs of lawlessness, to protect and defend the constitution of the United States and to assist in the execution of all the constitutional laws (Bessette & Pitney 212). However, the organization was created to address the fears of the southern whites after the civil war. These were fears emanating from the rapid social and economic changes that occurred after the civil war in the southern states.
Contrary to the stated objectives, the KKK was renowned for terror directed at the freed colored people, the whites who supported them and Republican state government. The clan was most active in rural areas where it operated with little or no central command. It drew its membership from local land holders and professional elites. In 1867, the KKK held its first convention at Nashville where it elected Bedford Forrest, a former Confederate General, as the Imperial Wizard. In 1870, Congress passed four laws against KKK (Finkelman 687). It opened investigations into the activities of the movement and called Bedford and others to testify. Bedford distanced himself from the organization. Soon the organization fizzled out in the early 1870s
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The second KKK was started in 1915 by Joseph Simmons. It grew to become the largest in history with membership of between four and five million by 1925. This clan was opposed to minority groups such as Jews, Catholics and African-Americans. They were also opposed to unionization. Its membership decreased in the late twenties and it died out. The third clan started soon after the Second World War. It was opposed to civil rights for the colored people and other minorities. The Klan activities decreased significantly in the 1950s after the passage of antimask laws and gathering up of members in North Carolina in 1952. In the1960s, the Klan experienced renewed activity in response to the passage of civil laws in response to civil rights movement.
Afterwards the Klan’s became increasingly fragmented. One of the most controversial Klansmen is David Duke, the leader of the Knights of the KKK who won a Louisiana congressional seat in 1989 (Chapman 614). The Klan has remained divided into smaller organizations which practice the original Klan rituals dating back to the 1860s. Other more confrontational groups adopt neo-Nazi symbols and ideology. Currently, Ku Klux is just one organization among many that are fighting for white supremacy.