Ku Klux Klan: Research Paper
One of the most infamous terrorist organizations in the world, Ku Klux Klan took its origin in the American South, gradually expanding its activity to other states. With violent and often dehumanizing methods, it attempted to oppose segregation and equal-right movement for black people. Close examination of Ku Klux Klan’s history, leadership, and goals over the course of two centuries demonstrates its role in growing racial attitudes, white supremacy, and anti-Semitic movements worldwide.
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Brief History of Ku Klux Klan
The history of Ku Klux Klan should be discussed in three stages for an in-depth analysis.
The first wave of the Klux Klan was formed in Tennessee in 1866 with the name inspired by the Greek word kuklos, translated as circle or band of brothers (United States House of Representatives, 2020). The organization became political in 1867 after the passage of the Military Reconstruction Act and the prospect of free voting in the southern states as a result of the Civil War. Early leadership is attributed to the former Confederate general Nathan Forrest who adapted a title of the Grand Wizard (US House of Representatives, 2020). In 1870s the activity of the terrorist organization declined, waiting for the next wave.
The second movement of the Ku Klux Klan came 40 years later in the early 20th century as a response to the massive immigration to America. In the 1920s, the emphasis was put on preserving conservative American values and strengthening the position of the US as a dominating global superpower after the World War I (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2020). The third wave of the terrorist organization started in the 1960s in response to the Civil Rights movement (SPLC, 2020). It was the last massive gathering of the Ku Klux Klan: from there on, the activity of the group decreased to local party rather than a nationwide movement.
The latest leader of the Ku Klux Klan movement in the US is David Ernest Duke. Born in 1950, Duke made a reputation of an American far-right politician as a former Republican State Representative in Louisiana (SPLC, 2017). He founded Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKKK) after graduating from college in 1974, becoming the youngest Grand Wizard who was not scared to openly express his racist and anti-Semite attitudes. As a leader, Duke revolutionized the face of the terrorist organization, shifting focus from “anti-black” to “pro-white” and “pro-Christian” (SPLC, 2017). He formally accepted women as members and condemned physical violence as a tool to achieve the group’s goals. Unable to control cruelty of its members, the man dropped out of KKKK in 1980s, attempting to make a career in politics. Yet, after a series of losses for national-level governmental positions, the man turned to his electorate supporters with a request to sponsor his basic needs, backing his plead under a precedent of a failed campaign (SPLC, 2017). Apart from supporting the movement aimed at white supremacy, the man advocated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, denied Holocaust, and promoted Neo-Nazi views.
Eventually, KKKK was renamed in “The Knights Party” after Thomas Robb took over the terrorist organization, espousing racism and antisemitism. Propagandizing his group as friendly and harmless, Robb refused from initiation rites and compared membership to “The Knights Party” to a traditional business circle (SPLC, 2017). Frequently labeled as white nationalist and supporter of Jewish genocide, Robbs tried to gain support during Trump’s presidential campaign, publishing the article “Make America great again” (SPLC, 2017). Yet, instead of endorsing the organization’s message, Trump campaign denounced it greatly.
Goals of the Terrorist Group
Over the course of its operation, Ku Klux Klan evolved both in its function and desirable objectives. The first wave of the terrorist organization focused primarily on two goals, combining political and social approaches (O’Donnell, 2018). From the political perspective, the Klan members wanted to achieve the defeat of the Republican Party. The victory of the Democratic party in the South in the 1870s would lead to the reestablishment of white supremacy, one of the central social goals of the group (O’Donnell, 2018). Such objectives were formed after southern blacks gained civil and political rights after the Civil War (1861-1865). With an unofficial campaign of violence and intimidation aimed at Republican leaders, Ku Klux Klan opposed the proclaimed course of equal rights for the black (SPLC, 2020). During the Reconstruction era, the terrorist organization achieved most of their political goals while their social aims remained unfulfilled.
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The second and third waves of Ku Klux Klan was much more massive and exuberant in nature. In the early 20th century, Protestant nativist groups revived the terrorist organization and extended its missionary requirements (US House of Representatives, 2020). The hostility which was directed toward the black and Republican in the 19th century now was aimed at Catholics, Jews, organized laborers, Afro-Americans, and denouncing immigrants. Inspired by the romanticized view of the Old South, Dixon’s book “The Clansman,” and Griffith’s film “Birth of a Nation,” Ku Klux Klan set a goal of eradicating any foreigners to preserve the “good Old South” (US House of Representatives, 2020). Partly, such goals were influenced by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and engrossing fear of the communist expansion. Another reason for the rise of the Klan was Civil Rights movement, as members of the terrorist organization wanted to preserve segregation.
Impact of Ku Klux Klan on Community
The impact of Ku Klux Klan’s activity on US political system is frequently underestimated. Anti-black and anti-Semitic movement greatly influenced the electorate in the American South. Statistically speaking, southern states tend to vote for Republican candidates more likely than for Democratic governmental officials (O’Donnell, 2018). Conservative racial attitudes are also often observed in the counties where KKK operated the most. Unfortunately, the voting behavior is not the only aspect of US social life which was detrimentally hurt by the Ku Klux Klan. Increased racism, gender discrimination, and bullying in schools and at workplaces are among few adverse consequences of the terrorist organization.
Globally, the activity of Ku Klux Klan led to the expansion of racial attitudes, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Neo-Nazi movements, and support of the white supremacy. Ku Klux Klan also left an irretraceable impact on the civil rights movement, supporting segregation and advocating against equal rights for people regardless of the gender, race, and ethnicity (O’Donnell, 2018). Despite the interconnectedness of the world today, the legacy of the terrorist organization still extends far beyond its initial purpose. Examples include discriminatory policies at work, prejudiced attitudes toward women and people of color, unequal treatment of immigrants. While Ku Klux Klan did not achieve full white supremacy, it definitely managed to separate the world based on demographic characteristics.
In conclusion, Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist organization which originated from Tennessee, US, in the mid-19th century as a response to the equal rights movement for black people. In its actions, Ku Klux Klan promoted white supremacy, segregation, discrimination against women, people of color, and immigrants. Despite the decreased activity of the organization now, the movement left an immense impact on the national and global community growing racial attitudes and hostility among people.
O’Donnell, J. (2018). The Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror during Reconstruction: Effects, motives, and composition. Line by Line: A Journal of Beginning Student Writing, 5(1), 1-8. Web.
Southern Poverty Law Center. (2017). David Duke. Web.
Southern Poverty Law Center. (2020). Ku Klux Klan. Web.
United States House of Representatives. (2020). The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. History, Art & Archives. Web.