Keen to learn but short on time? Get to grips with the operations of The Ku Klux Klan in next to no time with this concise guide.
50MINUTES.com provides a clear and engaging analysis of The Ku Klux Klan’s activity over the past 150 years. This notorious organisation was founded in 1865 in the wake of the American Civil War, but although its stated aim was to protect the war-torn Southern states, it soon became a vehicle for brutal violence committed against the country’s black population and was disbanded as a result. However, it was revived by William J. Simmons in the early 20th century, and the second incarnation of the organisation proved more popular, more prejudiced and more bloodthirsty than ever before. Although its power waned in the following decades, and only isolated, depleted local cells can still be found today, the KKK remains a byword for prejudice, extremism and white supremacy worldwide.
In just 50 minutes you will:
• Learn about the circumstances that led to the KKK being founded in the wake of the American Civil War
• Find out about the various attempts to revive the organisation since it was first disbanded
• Understand the roles played by several key members of the KKK throughout the organisation’s history
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Nowadays, the first thing that springs to mind when the KKK is mentioned is the memory of the acts of violence committed against black Americans and against the civil rights movement of the 1960s. However, other facts about the organisation are less well known, such as the fact that it first emerged over a century before the assassination of Martin Luther King (American minister and civil rights activist, 1929-1968). Similarly, it is difficult to reconcile the group’s actions with the fact that its origins can be partially traced back to the myth of Southern chivalry and the goal of protecting widows and orphans, and few people realise that the riots of the 1960s, which left such indelible scars on the collective imagination, were far from the most brutal acts of violence perpetrated by the KKK. On the other hand, the scandals and conspiracies that the KKK and the world of American politics were embroiled in during the 1920s have faded somewhat from our memory, as has the fact that President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), who was renowned for his role in drafting the Treaty of Versailles (1919) and founding the League of Nations, publically praised the KKK and claimed that they were acting in the country’s best interests. Today, it seems difficult to believe that there was once a time when five million Americans claimed to believe in and support white supremacy. So how can all of this be explained? The KKK’s name still strikes fear into the hearts of anyone who hears it, but what is the real story of this group, which claims to uphold chivalry and aim to protect widows and orphans, but which has committed countless atrocities, gained a particular reputation for public lynchings, and become synonymous with brutal, active racism?
The KKK was born in Pulaski, Tennessee, as is indicated by the commemorative plaque which was unveiled in 1921 by John B. Kennedy (1839-1921), who was the only one of the founding members who was still alive at the time. This plaque reads as follows: “Ku Klux Klan organized in this, the law office of Judge Thomas M. Jones, December 24th, 1865. Names of original organizers: Calvin E. Jones. John B. Kennedy. Frank O. McCord. John C. Lester. Richard R. Reed. James R. Crowe.” However, the current owner of this building has reversed the plaque to face the wall, so while the plaque remains, and serves as a reminder of the town’s history, these words are no longer visible, symbolising the town’s present-day rejection of this ideology.
The six founders were old friends and former soldiers in the Confederate army, who found themselves at a loose end when they returned home after four years of intense fighting. It was a mere six months after the end of the Civil War, and with no better ideas for how to occupy their time, the men decided to found a club. Their group did not have any specific goals other than meeting up, echoing the concept of the fraternies which were becoming popular among university students. John B. Kennedy suggested calling this club Kuklos (from the Greek kuklos, meaning “circle”). James Crowe then suggested splitting the word in half and replacing “os” with “ux” to form the word lux (meaning “light” in Latin). Finally, John Lester pointed out that they were all of Scottish descent and had read Walter Scott’s (Scottish novelist, 1771-1832) novels about the legendary clans that had ruled over Scotland in bygone eras. They decided to spell the word “clan” with a “K” for alliterative effect, and the Ku Klux Klan was born.
The American Civil War
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