The First Ku Klux Klan
The Creation of the First Ku Klux Klan
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) as derived from the Greek “kuklos,” meaning “circle”, and in the English word, “clan” is known to be a white society that was organized in the South immediately after the Civil War to protect the whites that belonged to the Southern States against the wicked Northern whites and the Negros. Apart from the restoration of the whites supremacy, this group was also against Semitism, anti-Catholicism and nativism. The KKK group was formed in Pulaski Tunnesse, in May 1866. At first, it was a secret humorous social organization that concentrated their activities in practical jokes and hazing rituals. It consisted of the former Confederate Civil War veterans meant to resist Reconstruction and focusing in intimidating the “carpetbaggers” and the “scalawags ” as on putting down the freed slaves in the United States of America but later, they turned out to be a terrorist organization responsible for the postwar rebellious violence. What the group could do was to interrupt the conducted black players meetings and also invade the homes of the blacks during the night thus stealing the firearms.
This came about after their meeting in Nashville in 1867 as a group where they established an “Invisible Empire of the South”. Their main target was to protect the weak, the innocent and the defenseless from anything to do with the indignities, wrongs and outrages of those people who had no law within them, the violent and the brutal, to relieve those who had been injured and oppressed and also to protect the Confederate solder’s widows and orphans. Another thing was to protect the constitution of the United States.
It is here, their leader, General Nathan Bedford Forest, the famed cavalry commander who used to instruct his soldiers to murder and capture the blacks at Ford Pillow was chosen to lead the group. However, as their leader, he presided over a hierarchy of grand dragons, grand titans, and grand cyclopses.
The Ku Klux Klan had their own dressing code or costumes whereby they wore robes, hoods and high conical pointed hats which were meant to instill some fear to the superstitious victims and to not being identified by the Federal troops. This clan became popular and spread beyond Tennessee to every state of the South and members such as the mayors, judges, and sheriffs not forgetting the common criminals joined and became part of it.
The Klan’s Activities
The clan’s activities were targeted in controlling the political and social status of the freed slaves. Nevertheless, they targeted the blacks. To bear the blunt was the black politicians and political leaders who were killed through beating and whipping. Thousands of the American citizens especially the Republican ones were also killed and ten thousand of voters were threatened from the freedom of voting. This led to the blacks in trying to resist this kind of movement by fighting back but they were outnumbered thus leading to them being gunned down. To them, it never mattered whom their target was apart from the political and social leaders but, men, women, children, aged and crippled became victims of that group. For an instant, in Georgia, an organizer and the leader in the black community, Abraham Colby, was whipped for some hours in front of his family without any mercy. His daughter tried to beg to KKK not to kill her dad but the group could not hear any. This affected the young girl’s psychology completely and due to this trauma, she never recovered from what she had seen happening to her dad, instead, she died afterward. The worst of it all was the cutting off of Jack Dupree’s throat and putting in front of her wife who had just given birth to twins.
This brutality never ended there, they also torched down churches and schools, beating up those teachers and those blacks who were known to be very well educated. Snatching of the black owner’s properties also took place and for those who did not allow that to happen, death was the only option. They turned the black into slaves and for those who refused to work for the whites, they were whipped. Other than working for the whites, having intimate relations with the whites, arguing with the whites, taking up jobs that could be done by the whites or those jobs the whites wanted, reading newspapers or having books in their homes and worst of it all being black, the above mentioned could lead to a bigger punishment of being whipped.
The Size and Power of the First Klan
In 1868, a newspaper interview was carried out on Forrest, a non-member, and a sympathetic man. This man was willing to corporate with them when there was a need, kept on claiming during the interview that the KKK had become a nationwide organization comprising of 550,000 men. This man was known to muster about 40,000 Klansmen within a period of five days if told to do so. The group was known to take the law into their own hands. Interestingly, the KKK group had the support of the prominent men of which many of them, later on, turned out to be senators, representatives, governors, judges, businessmen, and even the clergy. Furthermore, as a group they decided to come up with their own laws, orders and the regulation of the morals of the citizens by punishing the drunks, vagrants, ne’er-do-wells and the occasional strangers.
The Resistance of the KKK
At some point, this group decided to lead one black man into writing, “We have very dark days here. The colored people are in despair. The rebels boast that the Negroes shall not have as much liberty now as they had under slavery. If things go on thus, our doom is sealed. God knows it is worse than slavery.” The idea of being forced provoked a few states who decided to fight back. The Republicans who were the main target by the KKK decided to take action through Governor Edmund Davis.They organized a police force to patrol the streets so as to protect the homes of the blacks. 40 percent of this police force was the blacks which arrested 6,000 of the Klansmen and went ahead to carry out the executions in Texas. In North and Southern Carolina, an armed group of both the blacks and the whites also threatened or fight the KKK group. This led to some democrats at the national level wanting to know the creation of the Southern Republican governors. The democrats claimed that they were afraid which lead to many- questioning on whether the KKK existed or not. This was to stop them from whipping the Unionist and burning churches and schools. With time the federal government became part of those opposing to the group hence empowering the federal authorities with the Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871. This made the clan’s activities to end by the year 1872 until its revival again in 1915.
The decline of the first Ku Klux Klan
Furthermore, as much as Forrest’s was proud of the Klan being a nationwide organization comprising of 550,000 men and had the ability to muster 40,000 Klansmen within five days’ notice, being a secret invisible group, they were known to have no organization at all. This is because it lacked membership rosters, no levies, no newspapers, nor a spokesman, no chapters, no local officers, no state or national officials. This became a challenge to them in trying to judge its actual membership. It’s bad activities they carried out such as threats and murder made the group become more popular. Their dressing code also contributed to them being known by many.
With the determination of the federal grand jury that the Klan was a terrorist organization in 1870, many of its members were indicted for crimes to do with violence and terrorism which led to their prosecution hence scaring many who decided to flee away from those areas they believed to be under the control of the federal government of jurisdiction especially in South Carolina. Surprisingly, many people who were not members used their costumes for the anonymity purposes in carrying out their criminal activities. The Klan was done away with that is in the year 1869 after the orders from Forrest who claimed that the group was, “being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace”. With this disbandment, it led to the Klan being done away with in all parts of the South Carolina hence leading to their decline as compared to what caused their emergence. When it came to the judgment of the cases against the Klan, some of the white juries never accused the white Klan members and in case the accusation was they’re, some white juries could not vote for the conviction of their fellow whites.
In 1871, 52 witnesses came to testify in a committee organized by Pennsylvania Republican Senator John Scott about the Klan killings. Interestingly, the many Southern States where the Klan came from had already passed an anti-Klan legislation of which, later it was followed by the legislation introduced by Benjamin Franklin Butler of Massachusetts. In the same year, the legislation, Ku Klux Klan Act, was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant. With the combination of this Ku Klux Klan Act with that one of the 1870 Force Act, they both enforced the civil rights provided by the constitution.
In the Klan Act, instead of using the state militias, the Federal troops were used of which the Klansmen were prosecuted in the Federal courts where juries were regularly black. Those found guilty were either imprisoned or fined. this affected this movement in the South Carolina where its origin was even though in some areas, under the sponsorship of the local organizations such as the White League, Red Shirts, saber clubs and rifle clubs continued with activities like those ones of KKK such as intimidation and the killing of the black people. All these activities moved on despite the absence of the Klan.The achievement those groups had made were the denial of the voting rights to the Southern blacks.
In conclusion, since the formation of the first Ku Klux Klan organization in the South to maintain the whites’ supremacy, it created a lot of tension across the United States of the America especially to the North people whom most of them were the blacks and the group was against them. They promoted racism across the states with their criminal activities of snatching the land by force, lynching and even killing. These criminal activities provoked the black especially after the forced statement on a black man which made some troops comprising of 40 percent to be sent to go and calm the KKK activities. One thing led to another until it declined completely yet coming back some years later.