Why were the KKK seen as heroes

Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan


1. Introduction ^

The Ku Klux Klan (abbreviated to KKK) is a racist secret society that still exists today in the southern states of the USA. He calls himself "The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan". The clan has close ties to other racist groups, such as the World Church of the Creator, a racist denomination that in the past has, among others. attracted attention through the spread of racist computer games over the Internet and to the "W.A.R.- White Aryan Resistance" (White Aryan Resistance). There are of course countless other groups who sympathize with the KKK.


2. Etymology


The name Ku Klux Klan comes from kyklos, the Greek word for circle - the corresponding English word "circle" can also stand for a secret association, a "circle" of initiates. The word was separated into two syllables. Since all the founding members were of Scottish descent, Clan was added, but written with K for alliteration. A few years after the founding of the KKK, one of the founders said that they liked the name because it sounded "like the rattle of bones". There are still many theories about how the name came about, but the first is arguably the real one.


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3.1. The original KKK


In 1865 the civil war in the USA between the southern states and the northern states came to an end. The defeated southern soldiers returned to their devastated hometowns. Particularly humiliating for the southerners was the fact that former slaves strutted through the streets without cuddling in front of their former "owners" or other white "supermen". The presence of the Yankee soldiers, who had to keep order, was not particularly pleasing either. On top of that, entrepreneurs from the north spread to the south who were called >> carpet excavators << because they had arrived with padded travel bags to do business in the devastated country. These were the circumstances when, on December 24, 1865, six young ex-officers (namely: Calvin E. Jones, John B. Kennedy, Frank O. Mc Cord, John C. Lester, Richard R. Reed, James R. Crowe ) in the small town of Pulaski, Tennessee, about 80 miles south of Nashville, got together to find something to do to escape their deadly boredom. They came up with the idea of ​​founding an association, a fun association, so to speak, and came up with amusing titles for themselves: One should be the >> Great Warlock <<, the other >> Great Dragon, << Great Magician,> "Great Cyclops" etc. They agreed on Ku Klux Klan as the name for their club. (see etymology). As I said, the aim of the clan was to have fun, and in 1865 that meant primarily to abuse new members through an >> entrance exam << and harass >> negroes <<. One of the original Klanmen, James R. Crowe, came up with the idea of ​​wrapping himself in white sheets and wearing masks made from white pillows. There are two theories about the use of the white hooded robes: · The robes represent spirits of the Confederate soldiers who fell in the American Civil War and who rose from the dead to take revenge on their enemies. · The white hooded robes symbolize purity and cleanliness, in contrast to the groups perceived by KKK members as dirty and inferior, such as the blacks.

The war veterans rode through Pulaski at night in these costumes to intimidate the black population. Soon they also thought of a charitable purpose for the association: They would scare the local black people until they went back to working for the whites on the plantations. Word of the existence of the Ku Klux Klan quickly got around, and after a short time many young men from the area asked for admission. The white sheet quickly became something of a uniform. However, they replaced pillows with a pointed hat clad in white fabric. They also wore a mask. This headgear was reminiscent of a witch's hat, which should scare the blacks even more. The >> Ku-Klux << quickly caught on. In just a few months, clubs were formed across Tennessee; In no time the clan had spread to the south. But: it was still exclusively a fun club.

Perhaps he would have stayed that way if the political situation in the southern states had not deteriorated so dramatically in 1867. What happened? When newly elected southern MPs traveled to Washington to attend Congress earlier this year, learned that the government had invalidated their election. The reason: All of them held political offices in the southern states during the war and were in fact considered traitors. So she was sent home again. On top of that, the government in Washington responded to the ensuing outrage with martial law, which is why even more soldiers came to the south to maintain order. Now the will to resist reawakened in many southerners. Although they did not want to get involved in a new war against the "Yankees" - the enemy was too powerful for that - there was no longer any question of a reconciliation in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln. Another problem in the south was that for centuries the whites had oppressed the blacks. And now the former slaves ran around as free people and even had the right to vote. The new power of blacks appeared to the whites as a threat, as blacks made up the majority of the population in many places. It was not without reason that many of the whites feared that the blacks would take revenge on the former tormentors. The only conceivable solution: the blacks had to be put back in their place. Another annoyance: For the southerners, the presence of the carpet baggers was still a humiliation. You felt prayed. These were the prerequisites for the clan's transformation. It increasingly became an underground army that was ready to wage a partisan war (partisan = armed resistance fighter in the enemy-occupied hinterland) against rebellious blacks, >> carpetbaggers << and Yankee soldiers.


3.2. Federal Congress in Nashville, 1867


The founding members soon lost control of the clan. In order to combine the numerous local groups as a common organization and to put them under uniform leadership, a federal congress of the KKK was organized in early 1867 in the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The former Southern State General was appointed to the >> Grand Dragon << (>> Great Warlock <<). D. Nathan Bedford Forrest elected. Forrest's actual power was more symbolic in nature, as the individual sound groups continued to operate independently of one another. Nevertheless, the Klan was now a secret society, and it was dedicated to the "liberation" of the whites in their own homeland. It is true that nowhere in the statutes of the new clan stated that the club had turned to terrorism. On the contrary: Officially, the Klan was supposed to protect the weak and innocent from injustice. The Klanmen believed they were the true patriots (someone who stands up for his country). But in 1868 the Klan had developed into a highly dangerous "invisible empire" with around 500,000 followers and countless sympathizers. The funny >> night riding << from earlier became a ritual. The white-clad partisans galloped through the night to attack black citizens. Above all, it was the self-employed black farmers, business people and politicians who were attacked, threatened and often murdered under cover of the night. The same fate befell whites who made common cause with the occupying power. The worst form of high treason was racial mixing. A black man who got involved with a white woman was castrated after his capture and then hanged. The woman also paid with her life - actually incomprehensible when you consider that the former slave owners themselves had regularly in the past offended their >> property <<. The number of those murdered must have been very high. During the two weeks leading up to the 1868 presidential election alone, the Klan killed around 1,800 mostly black people to prevent them from voting. Black houses, schools, and churches were systematically destroyed. Today we call it 'ethnic cleansing'.


The freed slaves are again enslaved and exploited


Ex-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, naturally an advocate of racial segregation, appeared before Congress in 1868, defended his clan as a "defensive, political, military organization" and protested that he opposed all violations of the law. When presented with evidence of the clan's involvement in horrific crimes, he was outraged. Perhaps he really wasn't informed about what was going on in the name of his "noble" movement. The "Grand Dragon" immediately ordered the disbandment of the clan, but it was too late. The clan continued to rage in the south. His orders were obeyed only in Arkansas and Tennessee, and violent crimes even increased in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina. In 1870 the Washington government sent army units to fight partisans. These army units did a good job and the clan soon ceased to exist. Or not? Historians are divided on the breaking up of this first clan. Some see the army's crackdown as a victory for the US government over a widespread terrorist organization. Other historians are less optimistic about the facts. They suspect that the Ku Klux Klan broke up because it had achieved its goals: · The Union soldiers withdrew to the north · The blacks almost completely lost their freedom in the southern states · The carpetbaggers had become rarer

a victory across the board for the terrorists


But that wasn't the end of the KKK. Even if it no longer existed after 1871, it lived on in the hearts of many southerners. Over the years, the racists of the southern countries also had to rearrange their enemy images. The >> carpetbaggers << had disappeared, the north was no longer an occupying power, and the blacks lived again as >> subhumans << according to the rules of racial segregation. At the end of the 19th century a new threat emerged: it was the time of mass immigration. Europeans in search of wealth spread across America. Sometimes they also settled in the south. Many southerners - and not a few northerners - viewed these immigrants as a danger. It was feared that white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant America would become extinct. The greatest threat was believed to have been recognized in the Jews and Catholics from southern Europe - Jews because they could undermine Christian America, Catholics because they had sworn allegiance to the Pope.


4. The Klan in the 20th Century


In 1905, Thomas Dixon, a North Carolina novelist, published an adventure story called "The Clansman." It wasn't his first book. His clan was, of course, the epitome of propriety and virtue in an evil world. The material of this novel inspired a young filmmaker named David W. Griffith, also a southerner. In 1914 he acquired the rights to make a film out of the book. This resulted in the three-hour long cinema epic >> The Birth of a Nation << in English >> The Birth of a Nation <<. That was unusual at the time, because back then the films only lasted an hour at the most. >> The Birth of a Nation << became a box office hit. Although entry to the cinema cost an average of five cents back then, Griffith charged two dollars for his work - and he got it! Between 1915 and 1927, 50 million Americans had seen the film. Only: the heroes of his film were men of the Ku Klux Klan, the villain, on the other hand, a greedy black man who wanted to rob a white girl of innocence. Griffith demonized black people with similar means as the Nazi filmmaker Veit Harlan, who incited against the Jews in Germany. That was fatal.


The new enemies are called: Jews, Catholics and Communists


One of the first to watch the epic was an unsuccessful Georgia preacher named William Joseph Simmons (he referred to himself as "Colonel" Simmons, even though he was not actually a colonel). Griffith's work had impressed Simmons so much that he decided to resurrect the Ku Klux Klan. On Thanksgiving Day 1915, he made a pilgrimage with 19 followers to Stone Mountain, a mountain near Atlanta, Georgia, and lit a wooden cross there to celebrate the founding of the clan. How did he get the idea to set a cross on fire? It's simple: Simmons saw such a scene in the Griffith film. This custom was unknown in the clan of the 1860s. Simmons railed against immigrants from Europe, especially Jews and Catholics. He denounced communism and preached the superiority of the white race over blacks and Orientals. His message was not only well received in the south. Many Northerners also felt threatened by the influx of European immigrants. And because too many black people had looked for a new home in the north, racial hatred had broken out there too. This new clan enjoyed a brisk influx, especially because the atrocities of the reconstruction period (the time of the restoration of unity) were forgotten and the "heroic", the illusion that was shown in Griffith's film, lived on. In 1915 the "Colonel", with the help of the Atlanta journalist Albert Pike, drafted a new constitution for the Klan that extolled God, America and racial segregation as the highest values. For fun, Simmons and Pike invented >> K << words to describe the rulership structure of the club. Right at the top was the << Imperial Wizard <<, followed by >> Imperial Klaliff <<, >> Imperial Klazik <<, >> Imperial Klokard << etc. You can find countless such words in the statutes of the secret order. A >> Kleagle << should act as a personnel manager (= perform an office, manage; active, be effective). It was his job to attract members. They referred to the law itself as >> Kloran <<. The chief of protocol was the >> Kligrapp <<.


At the height of its power, the clan has five million members


Simmons had only one problem: until 1920 there were only 5,000 Klanmen. So the Imperial Wizard turned to the Southern Publicity Association in Atlanta, run by a certain Edward Clarke and his business partner Bessie Tyler, and made the following arrangements with them: Clarke, now the new "Imperial Kleagle," and Tyler should withhold 80% of the $ 10 entry fee for new members. Of these eight dollars, the "Imperial Kleagle" was allowed to keep four dollars for himself and Bessie Tyler. The rest went to the local kleagles and officers. Simmons also benefited. For each new member he paid two dollars into the "Imperial Treasury". Clarke and Tyler marketed the Klan as a secret, patriotic "brotherhood." And: Griffith's film made the idea of ​​being a member of such a noble (= sublime; holy) club palatable. Through Clarke's well-organized plan, the clan experienced astronomical growth. By 1927 the new clan had a whopping five million members. The clubs were found in all 48 states of the United States. Simmons, Clarke, and Tyler got very, very rich. But the Klan wasn't just business, it was organized terror. The number of acts of violence against blacks and other enemies increased steadily. Worse still, the Klan gained political power in various states through targeted blackmail. Five states had a majority of MPs sympathetic to the Klan. But the clan leaders often argued. Further disagreements between the clan leaders led to the fact that first Simmons, later Clarke (who then founded his own clan, the "Supreme Kingdom"), left the KKK and a dentist from Dallas, Wesley Hiram Evans, took over the clan leadership. Under him, the clan rose to become a powerful secret organization that, through bribery, managed to make hundreds of judges, sheriffs and mayors friendly to the clan. In addition, the Klan had around 5 million active members, who also played a role in elections. Some active Kluxers were even eminent politicians in the Senate, Congress, or a subordinate level. Under Evans, the clan was politically most active, and the terrorist acts increased immensely. The KKK had defied existing laws and acted as a separate power in the state. On September 15, 1923, the US state of Oklahoma even imposed martial law as a measure against terrorism and the murder of the secret society, a measure which, however, could not diminish the influence of the KKK.Strangely, it was the clan's own fault for its renewed end: There were more and more disputes, splits and separate “Klan” foundations. Evans had to go to civil courts several times, which further declined the reputation of the clan. The murder of the D.C. Sephenson broke the barrel: dropped by the clan, he threatened revelations if convicted. As a result of his revelations, numerous politicians had to resign. Evans’ power sank. Ordinary members were deterred by the betrayal and within a few months around 60 percent of the Klansmen resigned, the number of members dropped to two million. Then there was the global economic crisis, which hit the clan badly. Ultimately, Evans was forced to sell the clan. In 1930 the ghost was over, only a small part of the old club remained. The two buyers, James H. Colescott and Samuel Green, tried to ally with the Nazis, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war by Hitler's Germany thwarted them. After tax demands by the state, they had to officially dissolve the Klan a second time in 1944. But in 1954 the next resurrection came. The occasion this time was a Supreme Court ruling that America's schools could no longer be segregated by race. The outcry that followed woke the Ku Klux Klan from the realm of the dead. Only this time everything was suddenly different. There was no longer a national association, only individual clans. What kept them together was hatred of blacks, Jews, Catholics, communists and of course the desegregation.


Even without a masquerade - the ghost is not over yet


Today the number of clans in the USA is around 200. Most of them no longer call themselves Ku Klux Klan, but >> New Minuteman << or >> New Sons of Liberty <<, >> Aryan Brotherhood <<, >> Knights of the White Camelia << etc. Since 1995 the clan has been fighting against black parishes. More than 180 churches in African American congregations have been destroyed by arson attacks by the KKK in recent years. The Klan also hit the headlines when former member David Duke ran for president. You can find it on the Internet at kkk.com and come across an allegedly Christian association that only wants the >> best << for everyone - black or white. However, the new KKK sees the world as a rainbow. That means: clearly separated in different colors! In many places, clan members have mixed up with fundamentalist Christians and neo-Nazis. They all pursue the same goal: the supremacy of whites in an increasingly colorful world. In Germany the >> Imperial Klans of Germany << chant the >> Protection of the white families << and >> the preservation of the white Aryan race <<. Membership costs $ 45 a year, which is sent to Kentucky headquarters. The white robes and masks have disappeared from the wardrobe because they are unfashionable. In the computer and information age, white sheets appear medieval. But the struggle has remained the same: you want to isolate yourself from a threatening outside world and you are ready to use violence to achieve this goal. Basically, these are the remains of an archaic (= from very early times [coming from], ancient) tribal mentality. It never dies out completely, it is part of our character, the character of every human being. But cultivated in excess and elevated to a substitute religion, this aggressive tribal mentality is the cause of senseless suffering. Every reasonable and cultured person learns to tame this impulse - as much as possible.


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Signs and symbols

In contrast to the Klan in its original 19th century manifestation, which is known to have no flags or symbols, the 1915 version focused on the use of the American and Christian flags, which is materials and photographs from the 1920s, the climax of this clan, testify. In the 50s and 60s, some sound groups tried to appropriate the war flag of the Confederation (the Andreasskreuz) in order to use it in the fight against the desegregation and racial integration in the southern USA. This identification with southern symbols has largely not been recognized by historical activists in the midwest, which dominates the clan. In its current, fragmented form, some instances of the KKK still use the war flag and the American flag, but without official recognition. The most famous type of flag is the "Omega-apollus" flag. An important and relatively well-known symbol of the KKK is the burning cross, as the Klan sees itself as a radical Christian organization. It is supposed to represent the light of Jesus Christ.

Political influence

The second Ku Klux Klan grew in importance and spread from the Midwest to the South and Northeast, and at that time counted many politicians among its members. The 29th President Warren G. Harding is said to have become a clan member in the White House, the 33rd President Harry S. Truman was on his way to becoming a member of the clan, but soon changed his mind due to the anti-Catholic stance of the KKK. Another former clan member of national importance was Hugo Black, a Supreme Court judge, who later rejected the clan's racist views and often ruled against the majority of the courts in favor of blacks. Carl Sagan said of Black: "As a young man he wore white robes and scared blacks, as an old man he wore black robes and scared whites."

West Virginia's Democratic Senator Robert Byrd is also a former member of the KKK. He renounced the Klan on several occasions and describes his entry as a "greatest mistake".

In Canada's mid-western province of Saskatchewan, the Klan also influenced the government of 1929-1934 under James T.M. Anderson.

Copyright: Aileen Rebozo