Over the years many people have created groups to support their beliefs. These groups allow people with the same ideas to gather together and work out plans to advance their ideas. All of the groups that have been established have not necessarily gained a positive image from the public. One example is the Ku Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan originated over one hundred years ago and has gone through many eras and changes since its beginning. Although many people know the Ku Klux Klan exists, they do not understand its purpose or how it has changed throughout its life.
After the Civil War ended, the Southern states went through a time known as Reconstruction. Ex-Confederate soldiers had returned home now, and they were still upset about the outcome of the war. It is at this point in time that the Ku Klux Klan became a part of everyday life for many Southerners. In the beginning the Ku Klux Klan was started to be a way for people who had the same views to spend time together. The original members meant of the Ku Klux Klan to be a “hilarious social club” that would be full of aimless fun (Invisible Empire, p.9), though in later years the Ku Klux Klan became known for their violence against people outside the white race and people who associated with them. Contrary to what most people believe, the Ku Klux Klan was started because of a few people wanted to have some innocent fun, not because they were intending to start a chain of violence on anyone outside the white race.(The Klan, p.2)
The Ku Klux Klan began in Pulaski, Tennessee, a small town south of Nashville. On the night of December 24, 1865 six ex-confederate soldiers were sitting around a fireplace it the law office of Judge Thomas M. Jones.(Invisible Empire, p.9) These six friends were having a discussion and were trying to come up with an idea to cheer themselves up. One of the men suggested that they should start a club and the rest of the men agreed with the idea. After discussing the mew idea, the men decided to meet again and retired for the night. The second meeting was again at Judge Thomas M. Jones’ law office and was attended by the same six men. During this meeting the group decided it need a name. After many hours of deliberating they decided on the name derived from the Greek word kuklos, meaning circle Ku Klux.(“Intro. to the Knights of the KKK”, p.2) The group later added “Klan” to the word to make the phrase complete. At this time the group decided what to call the different ranks of the members, starting with the leader, the Grand Cyclops, all the way down to the ghouls, or members of no rank. When the men had finished organizing, they were overjoyed about their group, and they decided to show everyone their creation. The members wrapped themselves and their horses in sheet and rode through the small town and terrified everyone, especially Negroes. No doubt, this is the harmless little club that later would be taken to extremes by its members.
Admittedly, the Ku Klux Klan did become out of control in later years, but when it was first created it had no specific meaning; it was a way just to have fun. After the members saw the effect the group’s appearance had on people, they began to use the results to their advantage. Because the Klan resembled ghost, many of the citizens of Pulaski believed them to be dead soldiers of the Confederate Army when they saw them riding on their horses through the small town. While Negroes were busy avoiding the Ku Klux Klan, its purpose changed. The Ku Klux Klan began aiming its violent actions toward Negroes, Jews, Orientals, and various other members of society that did not belong to the white race. Although violence was already occurring against non-whites before the organization of the Ku Klux Klan, the Klan used this fact as a way to keep their “enemies” under control. No one denies that the Ku Klux Klan became a brutal force over the years, but the fact remains that violence was not the reason the group was founded.
It is true that all groups and club must go through changes, but many changes of the changes which the Ku Klux Klan endured were not necessarily the best for everyone. Shortly after the Ku Klux Klan’s first ride, its members began to cause a major impact on society. Many members decided that the Klan could be used as a way of discrimination. Many members also saw the Ku Klux Klan as a way for the South to regain control and keep the “Northern folk” out. Another reason the Ku Klux Klan changed is that members broke off from the original den and created their own dens. At this point in time any “roughouser” could join the Ku Klux Klan for only ten dollars. By 1879 the membership of the Ku Klux Klan had exceeded eighty-five thousand members. Many people believe this is the point when the Ku Klux Klan became uncontrollable and its remifications engulfed the entire nation. Visitors to the town of Pulaski also inspired the growth of the Ku Klux Klan. These visitors went back home after their trips and began sitting up their own dens and branches of the Ku Klux Klan. More that a dozen kindred groups were set up during this period. All of these groups were deeply entrenched in the Southern states. Though the growth of the Klan was steady, it was undirected and undisciplined causing many of the dens to become violent and unruly. The Ku Klux Klan had a great deal of external help in outgrowing the small town of Pulaski. Newspaper and magazine articles added fuel by publishing propaganda and stories about the mysterious order which had taken over the south. Indeed the Ku Klux Klan had surpassed the expectations of the original members.
Members of the Ku Klux Klan saw the great increase in growth of the group and decided to have a national convention to help maintain order within the group. The Ku Klux Klan National Convention was held in April of 1867 at the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. (Hooded Americanism, p.9) Here the Grand Cyclops from all the dens met to discuss and set the general guidelines for the Ku Klux Klan’s different dens across the United States, and the group also set specific rules for members. Also at the convention the group drafted and approved a constitution so everyone would be aware of the group’s rules and regulations. It was at this meeting the Ku Klux Klan decided to appoint a Grand Wizard to head and control all of the dens of the Klan across the United States. General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the group’s choice for the position and he gladly accepted. Under the command of General Forrest the Ku Klux Klan became a greater voice in society than it had ever been. Since their new leader was in place, the final objective of the convention was reached by creating an official symbol of the Ku Klux Klan. The symbol is a cross with a drop of blood(representing the blood of Jesus Christ) within a circle. This symbol was meant to represent to totality of the White race. Admittedly, the Ku Klux Klan still had problems, but after their national convention may of its activities were more effective and organized.
Almost every group that has ever come about has had its problems and the Ku Klux Klan was no exception. As with any controversial group, the public asked the government for assistance in disposing of this violent organization. The Ku Klux Klan had become soft in enforcing its policies and this deficiency allowed its members to cause chaos throughout the Southern states. Because many of the police supported the Ku Klux Klan movement, may incidents occurred and no investigation ever followed. The Ku Klux Klan was finally slowed when the Federal Bureau of Investigation stepped in and became involved in reducing the power of the group. The major reason many incidents took place is that many ex-confederate soldiers had begun organizing their own dens. The hatred of blacks was the main reason that may people decided to join the Ku Klux Klan movement. Certainly, if the Ku Klux Klan had held to its original goals and purposes, it could have avoided many problems and negative publicity it began to have in later years.
As the Ku Klux Klan’s membership grew, it obtained a wide range of enrollees. The Ku Klux Klan had members from all social classes. Not all of the members joined to cause trouble; many joined to keep from being victims. Ku Klux Klan members admitted that they were a “rough bunch of boys” and a ten dollar joining fee had allowed anyone to join; no person was responsible for monitoring motives for joining. For instance many politicians had joined just so they would have the help of the Ku Klux Klan in campaigning for the election. General Forrest tried to be strict on membership requirements, but his objective failed. As the Ku Klux Klan began to branch out, the rules seemed to be forgotten. The spurt in growth of membership was soon disrupted, and just before the 1900’s the Ku Klux Klan broke apart and would not officially come back until the year 1915. The Ku Klux Klan never hit any significant growth period again until the 1950’s when the civil rights movement cause a large increase in membership of the group. Eventhough the Ku Klux Klan dwindled in membership, it never died in the eyes of the people who truly believed in it.
The Ku Klux Klan has not drastically changed since the origination of the group. The Ku Klux Klan today is an institution of chivalry, humanity, mercy, and patriotism which are all characteristics of the original Klan.(“Southern Cross White Knights”, p.2) Also, the Ku Klux Klan is dedicated as preserving the maintenance of White Pride and the rights of the White Race, which was also a goal of the original founders.(“North Georgia White Knights”,p.1) The activities of the modern Ku Klux Klan vary from den to den depending on the inclination of its members. Some dens of the Ku Klux Klan tend to use more violence to express their viewpoint than other dens. Some groups use threats, arson, and other forms of violence to force their ideas on modern society, while others choose just to march and protest opposing views. Regardless of the activities each den decides to participate in, the main goal of the Ku Klux Klan today is the progression of the White race and it is the same goal the original founders focused on. The main characteristic of the Ku Klux Klan throughout the years has been the group is a gathering of white Christian men and women who have joined together because of a common bond they share by blood and faith.(“Knights of the KKK”, p.1) This is what the original founders intended the group to become and it has achieved this goal. Eventhough the Ku Klux Klan is sometimes looked upon as a “hate group”, the characteristics of the group are a positive for society.
Since the late 1980’s the Ku Klux Klan’s membership has gone through a major decline. Statistics show that the Ku Klux Klan’s memberships has dropped to about five thousand compared to about forty-two thousand during the 1960’s.(St. Louis Post Dispatch, p.1) Many of the members have changed from their white robes to three piece suits. People like David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the Klan during the 1970’s and 1980’s, have changed the image of the group. Many head officials of the Klan now hold political offices and have other important roles in the nation’s government. At this point in time no single organization of the Ku Klux Klan is in existence. The Klan has splintered into several independent groups. Since the Ku Klux Klan has broken up into many groups, no one knows the exact number of members of the Klan or its affiliated groups. Although the Ku Klux Klan’s members have changed their appearance and the membership has declined, no one can deny that the Klan is still a major influence on society.
Due to some changes in the Ku Klux Klan, the organization now has new objectives. Leaders of the Klan now say they work to replace the collapsed society and push for the advancement of the White Race. Other objectives of the Klan are to start focusing on the family again and to close the United States borders to stop immigration.(“Kajun Knights of the KKK”, p.1) The Klan also intends on stopping abortion, reverse discrimination, and welfare for those who do not need it.(“Imperial Klans of America”, p.2) The most important objectives of the Klan today are to outlaw homosexuality and inter-racial marriages. They attribute the imminent down fall of modern society to these two problems. The Ku Klux Klan agrees that everyone should be proud of their race, which means White people have the right to be proud also. Therefore, the Ku Klux Klan reasons that all anti-white policies should be discarded and people be hired, promoted, and given scholarships according to their ability not for any other reason. Any new members of the Ku Klux Klan have to take a pledge not to commit any crime against anyone. The Ku Klux Klan’s motto printed on propaganda is “Not for self-But for others;” this is the main focus of the Klan today. Eventhough the Ku Klux Klan has new objectives, the main goal of the organization is to make the White race superior to all others.
Although the Ku Klux Klan has gone through many changes since its beginning, the present Klan is not very different from the original organization. Though the Ku Klux Klan is an organization like no other, it still has endured many problems as do other groups. It is impossible for people who do not study the Ku Klux Klan to understand why it exist, but some of their concepts are really based on solid ground. In fact, people are always commenting that people should stand up for what they believe in and the Ku Klux Klan is a perfect example. If more people would follow the Ku Klux Klan’s example maybe this country would have more people working to better life here.
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