research compiled by Angela L MSSPI
The Ku Klux Klan has struck fear in the hearts of thousands of people since it's formation on December 24, 1865. Many sources site that the organization was originally formed by Confederate Officers as a social club and to help support the widows and orphans of the Civil War. However, other sources dispute this as being a cover for it's original intention which is said to have been political and racist in nature. The original six founders of the Ku Klux Klan were Confederate Veterans of the Civil War, Capt. John C. Lester, Maj. James.R.Crowe ,Adj. Calvin Jones, Capt. John B. Kennedy, Frank O. McCord and Richard Reed.
Frank O. McCord, born Jan. 14, 1839, Giles County, TN. Died Aug. 19, 1895, Fayetteville, TN. Buried Rosehill Cemetery, Fayetteville. Served as a private in the Confederate Army and later became editor of the Pulaski Citizen. He was a member of the Methodist Church South.
Richard Reed, was a lawyer in Pulaski, TN. and served in the 3rd Tenn. Infantry. He was a Presbyterian.
The Ku Klux Klan was formerly recognized in May of 1867 near Nashville, Tn. and it was at this time that General Nathan Bedford Forrest was elected Grand Wizard. Groups of the Klan began to form all over the South. However, it was soon to be recognized as a society of terror as racist violence began to escalate by klansmen.
Ku Klux Klan Costumes, 1868, The KKK's hooded costumes were meant to protect the anonymity of its members and promote fear of an "unknown" terror among blacks. The costumes were also crucial to the KKK's desire to invoke the rituals and traditions of secret white, male brotherhoods of the past. Source: Stanley Horn, Invisible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan, 1861-1877 (1964).
Other sources say that they had adopted the wardrobe of a spook or ghost as a scare tactic to frighten superstitious freedmen and it was said that this idea was attributed to being the ghosts and spirits of the Confederates soldiers who had died during the Civil War, come back to seek their revenge. Some sources say that this scare tactic was intended to deter newly freedmen from exorcising their new rights to vote and to run the Republican Party out of the offices of the Southern States.
In 1868 the State of Alabama Congress documented 109 murders by Grand Wizard John Morgan's Knights. Klansmen also burned the County Courthouse in Greene County and 3 African American schools.
Georgia in the same year reported 31 killed, 43 shot, 5 stabbings, 55 whippings and 8 floggings of 300 to 500 lashes given to individuals alone. In Camellia Ga, 7 dead and 30 injured.
Mississippi's Grand Dragon James George, targeted African American schools and carpetbag teachers. The Meridian Riots of 1871 started at the County Courthouse, killing one judge and 8 African American witnesses. Texas klansmen collaborated with the Knights of the White Camellia and the Knights of the Rising Sun. Union General John Reynolds found murders of freedmen in Texas " so common as to render it impossible to keep an accurate record of them.
South Carolina klansmen killed 12 Republicans in the Lauren Riots of 1870 on the eve of the State elections. York County klansmen killed at least 11 people and flogged 600, burning 5 schools and churches.
In Columbia County Arkansas, under the direction of Grand Dragon Robert Shaver, 10 were reported dead in a 3 week time span. Lafayette County Ga, saw 20 murders in one month.
In Louisiana the numbers were staggering with 1,081 murders, 135 shot or wounded and 507 assaulted. In Jackson County Florida, 179 murdered including 2 Republican Clerks and the Klan's first Jewish target, liberal merchant Samuel Fleshman.
Ulysses S. Grant launched a campaigne which indicted 1849 persons in South Carolina, 1180 persons in North Carolina and 930 persons in Mississippi. Lesser numbers were indicted in 4 other states. But in Tennessee, only one person was ever convicted, 14 faced trial in Florida with only one conviction . Alabama and Georgia together faced 160 Klan indictments in 1871, but none of them ever went to trial. 262 were convicted in Mississippi including 28 who plead guilty to murder. All of them recieved suspended prison sentences after promising to quit the Klan. 57 were imprisioned in South Carolina's York County but 162 of those indicted for serious crimes were never tried.
In 1873, although the group had been formerly disbanded, scattered Klan violence continued by various groups. In Colfax Louisiana, the courthouse was burned and more than 60 were slaughtered. In 1874 60 Republicans were massacred at Coushatta. In New Orleans 27 murdered, 105 wounded. In August of 1874, 16 were lynched in Tennessee and in December of that same year 75 Republicans were massacred at Vicksburg.
Between 1883 and 1915, over 3200 were lynched. Not a single indictment was returned during this time against killers, who often boasted of their crimes and posed for photographs with their victims.
In 1913, Mary Phagan, a thirteen year old girl, was murdered in Atlanta at the pencil factory where she worked for Leo Frank. Leo Frank was a Jewish businessman from New York. An African American man was originally suspected of the crime. But he saved himself from lynching by incriminating Leo Frank.
On September 2 1915, Thomas Watson called for a new KKK in Georgia. the Knights of Mary Phagan climbed to the top of Stone Mountain in Ga and lit America's first fiery cross. But the honors for the rebirth of the Klan would be given to William Joseph Simmons 10 days after the cross burning on Stone Mountian.
Ku Klux Klan Activity in Brunswick, Maine
The Second Klan was part of a wider Nativist movement representing a backlash against the wave of immigration, much of it from southern and eastern Europe, which was perceived as a threat to the Anglo-Saxon Protestant character of the United States. The Second Klan was also largely an opportunistic money-making scheme perpetuated by shrewed businesspeople exploiting the mood of a country seeking a return to "normalcy" following an unprecedented World War.
From 1939 to 1944 the Klan would be run by Dr. James A Colescott, a veterinarian, who increased the Klan membership, added many reforms and some say could have maintained the Klan as a legitimate fraternal order. However being unable to pay alledged back taxes, he ordered the Klan's disbandment.
Dr. Samuel Green, an obstetrician, revived the KKK on Stone Mountain, Ga. in 1944. He restructured the Klan as to avoid any claims the IRS might make concerning the more then quarter million dollars the Klan allegedly owed. He did this by claiming the Klans in each state were independent and only connected as Klans of association. To back this up Green took the title of Grand Dragon (a state leader) instead of the national title of Imperial (or Grand) Wizard and he named his revived Klan the Associations of Georgia Klans. But, he was the recognized head of the Klan's third incarnation.
Police Chief Samuel Roper, a former Atlanta policeman and head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, became leader of the Klan when Dr. Green died in 1949. His reign was the shortest passing the leadership position on to Eldon Edwards in 1950.( photo right)
When he died his family folded the National Knights. Since then the name of the National Knights has been picked up and is being used by others.
William M. Chaney, a one time deputy sheriff and constable, split from the UKA and founded the Confederation of Independent Orders, Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan which began growing to reasonable size. He ran his Klan as a republic with each state having considerable autonomy. Unfortunately for him, his Klan went defunct when he lost a court appeal in 1977, concerning a bombing incident.
William Wilkinson, ex-submariner, founded his Invisible Empire, Knights of the KKK in 1975. He was often described as a media slick southerner. He was later repudiated as an FBI informer. During the 1970's and early 1980's, his Klan was among the four largest. When Wilkinson stepped down in 1983, his Klan went defunct from fragmentation and incredibly corrupt bad leadership.
Don Black succeeded Duke as Grand Wizard and promptly went to prison when he attempted to take over the government of a small island country in the Caribbean Sea. His Klan had a brief success when they won the hotly disputed Gulf Shrimp Boat Crisis, but he proved to be a hot headed leader. While in prison, his trusted seconds in command ousted him.
President Woodrow Wilson and President McKinley. Little is known of their Klan membership. McKinley was a Union officer, but many Union men joined or affiliated with the original Klan during the Radical Republican's anti-white Reconstruction Era. Wilson would have been a member of the Klan under Simmons.
President Calvin Coolidge. He allowed cross lightings on the Capitol steps and reviewed the giant Klan parades of 1925 & 26.
Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black, his robes (with his name in them) were found in an old Klan Hall in the 1960's. Under political pressure, he superficially repudiated the Klan during its period of scandals.
Senator Robert Byrd, West Virginia, Democrat, was a Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops as a young man. He spoke favorably of the Klan during his political career.
The present day KKK is not one organized group but is composed of many independant chapters across the US. Some of these groups have adopted the the look and emblems of neo -Nazis and white skin head groups. On Nov 14, 2008, an all white jury of seven men and seven women awarded $1.5 million dollars in compensatory damages and $1 million in punative damages to plaintiff Jordan Gruver, against the Imperial Klans of America. After he was savagely beaten at the age of 16 at a Kentucky county fair in 2006.
This is just a small amount of history of the Ku Klux Klan. However there are many books and websites that contain a more detailed history of this group and the atrocitries that have been committed by its members since it began.
Further Reading and Source Materials.
The International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies & Fraternal Orders by Alan Axelrod 1997.
Hooded Americanism: the History of the Ku Klux Klan by David M Chalmers 1987.
Invisible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan by Stanley F Horn 1939.
The Ku Klux Klan: History, Organization, Language, Influence and Activities of America's Most Notorious Secret Society by Michael Newton 1957
The Modern Ku Klux Klan by Henry P Fry
The Fiery Cross, Ku Klux Klan in America by Wyn Craig Wade
Authentic History of the Ku Klux Klan by Susan Lawrence Davis 1924
Truths of History by Mildred Lewis Rutherford
Secret Societies of the South During the Period of Reconstructions by Walter Hernry Cook
The Great South Carolina KKK Trials of 1871 & 1872 The Mississippi Quarterly 1997 by Raymond Arsenault.
Attack on Terror, The FBI vs The KKK in Mississippi by D. Whitehead
The Ku Klux Klan Study of the American Mind by John Moffat Mecklin
Webster's Guide To American History, Encyclopedia Britannica 1971 pgs 253, 262, 291,377,382,414,593,596,616 & 845