Posted On March 5, 2017
To What Extent Did the Ku Klux Klan Manage to Hinder the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s
What is the Ku Klux Klan
The Ku Klux Klan, or KKK for short, is a very right wing extremist white supremacy group. It was originally founded in 1865, but it has been re-created three times since then. The first clan was formed in 1865 on Christmas Eve, in Pulaski Tennessee by six well educated middle class federate veterans. It was just after the end of the civil war and the main purpose was just to intimidate blacks and regain white supremacy. the name was constructed by taking the greek word ???kyklos??? meaning circle and adding clan, they later changed it to klan for abbreviation purposes.
The KKK soon spread into nearly every state, launching a reign of terror against republican leaders both black and white. In 1867 they tried to introduce a hierarchy in which local chapters would report to county leaders, counties to districts, districts to states and states reporting to a national headquarters. The proposals were written by a man called George Gordon. It included a list of the goals of the klan and a list of questions to be asked of applicants for membership, which confirmed the focus on resisting reconstruction and the republican party. He wanted the applicants to be asked if they were a republican, a Union army veteran, or a member of the Loyal League. He would also be asked if he was opposed to black equality both social and political and whether he was in favour of a white man??™s government. Despite all the work put towards this proposal, it was never accepted by any local units. They continued to act almost separately and there never were county, district or state headquarters. Gordon went to former slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest and told him about the Klan, According to one report Forrest replied ???that??™s a good thing, that??™s a damn good thing. We can use that to keep the Negros in their place.??? A few weeks later, Forrest was selected as, ???Grand Wizard,??? the Klan??™s National leader. However later Forrest went on to deny the leadership role and stated he never had any effective control over the Klan.
The Ku Klux Klan did many things throughout its three ???reigns???. It attempted to curb black education, black economic advances, black voting rights, and black??™s rights to bear arms. Southern republicans also became the target of intimidation tactics. Hence the fact that only one person from Columbia County voted for the republican candidate in the presidential election of 1868. Klan intimidation often targeted schoolteachers and black members of the Union Leagues were frequent targets of Klan raids. There are several reports of members the Klan breaking into schoolteachers houses during the night, dressed in long white robes and a loose mask with scarlet stripes. Ordering the teachers to get out of bed and dress as quickly as possible, then the captain and his lieutenant, dressed exactly the same but with long horns on their heads, they supposedly treated them ???gentlemanly and quietly??? but complained of the heavy school tax, said that they must stop teaching and leave the country immediately, they also warned that they never gave a second notice. After every reported example of this, the victim stopped teaching and left the country very soon after. The KKK killed over 150 African Americans in a single county in Florida and hundreds more in other counties. In 1868 Gordon made a speech demonstrating several Klan claims:
??? Many black men were veterans of the Union army and were armed. From the beginning, the klan confiscated weapons from the blacks. Gordon also stated that the klan had been ???fired into??? three times, and that if the blacks wanted to ???make war upon them, they must abide by the awful retribution that will follow.???
??? He said that the Klan was a peaceful organization. The Klan often came out with things like this, and used them as a way to protect themselves from prosecution. However in 1869 a grand jury confirmed that the Klan was a ???terrorist organization???. Hundreds of convictions for crimes of violence and terrorism were issued. Klan members were prosecuted and many fled the country, especially in South Carolina.
??? He warned that lots of people carried out violent acts in the name of the Klan. It was true that many people not formally part of the Klan used the Klan??™s uniform to hide their identities when committing violent crimes. However it was very easy for the higher levels to avoid responsibility for crimes like these. The secretive nature of the Klan made membership difficult to prove. In a lot of ways the Klan was just a military force serving the democratic party and those who desired the restoration of white supremacy.
By 1868, two years after the Klan was originally formed, its activity was beginning to decrease and, as Gordon??™s speech shows, to become less political and more simply a way of avoiding prosecution. Many Southern democrats were beginning to see the Klan as an excuse for the federal government to retain its power over the south. In a 1868 newspaper interview with Forrest he boasted that the Klan was nationwide organization of 550,000 men, and although he was not a member, he was ???in sympathy??? and would cooperate with them, and he could muster 40,000 Klansmen with five days notice. He said that the Klan did not see blacks as its enemy so much as the Union leagues, and other carpetbaggers and scalawags. Although one of the main reasons for targeting these groups was they were ???impediments??? against former slaves. The Klan went after white members of these groups, especially the schoolteachers. One Alabama newspaper claimed that ???the league is nothing more than a black Ku Klux Klan.???
Obviously the KKK was not completely successful in stopping the civil rights movement in the United States of America, but they did manage to slow to it down a bit. The lynching that went on and the visiting of people??™s houses and all the other threats, direct or indirect, obviously put a lot of people off voting for the Republican Party. Also, a lot of people were just simply too terrified to speak out about what changes they believed should be made to the way that America was run, and how coloured people were treated. Another big factor was the fact that not many white people were directly affected by how black people were treated, and had no problems to do with it themselves so they weren??™t prepared to risk anything for the cause, especially not their own lives.
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