History: American/ Ku Klux Klan term paper 17747

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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 it’s beginning. Although many people know the Ku Klux Klan exists, they do not understand its purpose or how it has changed throughout its life.

Background of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States

After the Civil War ended, the Southern States wen 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 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 for 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 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 at 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, since they were frustrated and bored with the inactivity in the aftermath of war. One of the men suggested that they should start a club and the rest of the men agreed with the idea. After discussing the new idea, the men decided to meet again later and they 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 the club’s need for a name. After many hours of deliberating, they decided on the name derived from the Greek work kuklos, meaning circle Ku Klux (Knights of the KKK, p. 2). The group later added “Klan” to the work to make the phrase complete (The Klan, p. 3).

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 new group, and they decided to show everyone their new creation. The members wrapped themselves and their horses in a sheet and rode through the small town and terrified everyone, especially the Negroes (Invisible Empire, p. 12). 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 to simply 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 ghosts, 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 (Knights of the KKK, p. 3).

While the Negroes were busy avoiding the Ku Klux Klan, its main purpose changed. The Ku Klux Klan began aiming its violent actions toward Negroes, Jews, Oriental, 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 just used this fact as a way to keep their “enemies” under control (Hooded Americanism, p. 8). 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 clubs must go through changes, but many of these 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 (Invisible Empire, p. 11).

At this point in time, any “roughouser” could joint the Ku Klux Klan for only ten dollars. By 1879 the membership of the Ku Klux Klan had exceeded eighty-five thousand members (Knights of the KKK, p. 3). Many people believed this is the point when the Ku Klux Klan became uncontrollable and its ramifications 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 setting up their own dens and branches of the Ku Klux Klan. More than a dozen kindred groups were set up during this period. All of these groups were deeply entrenched in the Southern States (Imperial Klans of America, p. 2).

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 (Knights of the KKK, p. 4). 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. 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 (Hooded Americanism, p. 9).

It was at the National Convention 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, formerly an officer in the Confederate army, was the group’s choice for the position and he gladly accepted. The Empire of the Grand Wizard was divided into realms, dominions, provinces, and dens, headed by Grand Dragons, Titans, Giants, and Cyclopes, and composed of Ghouls. Under the command of General Forrest the Ku Klux Klan became a greater choice in society than it had ever been (Hooded Americanism, p. 10).

Since their new leader was in place, the final objective of the conventions 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 the totality of the White race (Invisible Empire, p. 13).

Admittedly, the Ku Klux Klan still had problems, but after their national convention many of its activities were more effective and organized. Almost every group that has ever come about has had its share of 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, many incidents occurred and no investigation ever followed.

The Ku Klux Klan was finally slowed when the Federal Bureau of Investigations 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 many people decided to join the Ku Klux Klan movement. 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 (Knights of the KKK, p. 6).

Not all of the members joined the Ku Klux Klan 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 of the election. General Forrest tried to be strict on membership requirements, but his objective failed (Invisible Empire, p. 14).

One of the Ku Klux Klan’s strong attractions to the average American was its secrecy, which was also one of the weak points which led to its undoing. The mystery of the white sheet made control of the members a virtual impossibility, which resulted in the perpetration of all types of crimes by the Klansmen. Because of this, the leaders officially broke up the organization in 1869, tore up their Klan insignia, and destroyed their records. Nevertheless, white-robed nightriders continued to terrorize communities until the United States Congress passed laws in 1871-1872 aimed at the disbanding of the Klan and other secret societies (The Reference Shelf, p. 85).

Despite the 1871-1872 legislation, the American people had not seen the end of the hooded Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. William Joseph Simmons of Atlanta, Georgia revived it in November 1915. For the first few years, the revived Klan was confined to Alabama and Georgia and was, in fact, another fraternity. In 1920, its membership was less the two thousand, and showed no indication of becoming a sociological phenomenon in the United States (The KKK in the City 1915-1930, p. 120)

It was then that two promoters, Edward Young Clarke and Mrs. Elizabeth Tyler, were attracted to the Ku Klux Klan. Although they had participated in promotional drives for respectable organizations, such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Anti-Saloon League, Clarke and Tyler had distasteful reputations. When they offered to put this experience in manipulating human emotions at the disposal of the Klan, Simmons readily accepted. Therefore, in three months 48,000 persons joined the Klan; and within a few years, Klan membership was being estimated in the millions (The KKK: A Study of the American Mind, p. 3)

In the winter of 1920-1921, the Ku Klux Klan crossed the Mason-Dixon line into the northern States, and by 1923 the older Northwest had become the “center and source of greatest power” for the organization. In May 1923, a survey of Klan membership discovered that Indiana claimed 294,000, Ohio 300,000, and Illinois 131,000. Other Midwestern states had memberships ranging from 30,000 to 75,000. Therefore, by the middle of 1923, the Klan had claimed approximately three million members (The KKK: A Study of the American Mind, p. 96)

The Ku Klux Klan in Canada

The first attempt of the Ku Klux Klan to organize into Canada began in Montreal in September 1921. “The famous Ku Klux Klan is organizing in Montreal,” reported the Montreal Daily Star. The report said that a secret meeting was held and attended by “masked, hooded and silent men,” who planned to provide “proof of their existence in the form of some demonstration.” The Klan continued to operate throughout the 1920’s in Montreal. British Columbia appears to have been the second province in Canada to have a branch of the Ku Klux Klan.

It was not until 1925, however, that organization of the Klan began with the importation of three Klansmen from Oregon, Major Luther E. Powell, Captain W. B. Laycock, and Dr. Keith Allan. Within a short time, local organizations were established at Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Ladysmith, and Duncan. A Klan rally held in North Vancouver attracted five hundred people and was addressed by Klansmen is full dress (White Hoods: Canada’s KKK, p. 22).

For the first few weeks of the Klan’s activities under the leadership of American organizers, the newspapers gave full coverage. Other reactions brought the Klan added publicity: in Victoria, a “black hooded gentry” was organized to combat the white hooded knights of the Klan; a Labor member of the Legislature, Mr. Tom Uphill, received a note from the order, during proceedings of the House, saying, “You are known;” and on the 26th of November 1925, the Klan announced its intention of holding a grand demonstration in Victoria (White Hoods, p. 24)

The Klan continued to be active in British Columbia for at least another twelve years. In 1927, Vancouver claimed a membership of eight thousand, Victoria three thousand, New Westminster five hundred, and White Rock two hundred. There were at least another one thousand at scattered points throughout the province (White Hoods, p. 25)

In British Columbia, the Klan could easily fasten itself to an anit-orientalist tradition. In February 1927, for example, the Vancouver Klan passed a resolution supporting the “complete prohibition of Asiatic immigration into Canada, repatriation of all Asiatics at present domiciled in this country, and expropriation of their property…with fair recompense.”(Shades of Right: Nativist and Facist Politics in Canada, p. 42) This resolution was sent to the New Westminster District Trades and Labor Council, the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, and the local provincial and federal governments. The British Columbia Klan continued this practice of petitioning government members for such reforms of Canadian life until at least 1932 (White Hoods, p. 26)

The Ku Klux Klan conducted, however, other more stunning activities. On June 18, 1927, the organization requested and received the permission of Vancouver City Council to hold a parade in that city. The parade was widely advertised and ten thousand citizens attended on the streets of Vancouver to cheer the marchers. Of the five thousand Klansmen, dressed in full regalia, which were advertised as participants in the affair, only two hundred appeared. The reason for this was that the police prohibited the wearing of masks shortly before the parade was scheduled, and it might also have been caused by an exaggeration of Klan membership (White Hoods, p. 26-27)

It would appear the Maritime Provinces were next in line for the Ku Klux Klan. One of the Klansmen, C. L. Fowler, wrote, “As I see the situation we shall have no trouble at all along the border land. The entire territory from Nova Scotia which is richly and predominantly Protestant and all along Via Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto should be fine territory and should make it possible for us to gather in large numbers at once.” A few weeks later, Fowler again wrote to inform someone, that he had a friend in New Brunswick who was already engaged in the work and who reported that they would have no trouble establishing the Klan as “the men up there are wild for the organization.” (White Hoods, p. 55)

The Ku Klux Klan penetrated other parts of the Maritime Provinces but, it seems, without much success, as there is little evidence of the order’s activities. Prince Edward Island also appears to have witnessed some Klan activity, as stories of the Klan apparently circulated among the people, but no reliable or specific information on its activities has been discovered or documented.

As early as September 1923, the Ku Klux Klan had begun recruiting in Ontario. The campaign for membership was to be continued under the leadership of King Kleagle R. Eugene Farnsworth of Portland, Maine, who was a former itinerant hypnotist, lecturer, promoter, and photographer. A meeting was held, in March 1925, at the Iroquois Hotel. The purpose of this meeting was to set up and establish the Ku Klux Klan in Canada. The official name of the organization adopted was The Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Kanada, and the chief officers appointed were R. L. Cowan, Imperial Wizard (President), J. H. Hawkins, Imperial Klaliff (vice-president), and C. L. Fowler, Imperial Kligrapp (Secretary) (Shades of Right, p. 46)

By May 16th 1,102 members had been recruited. But within six weeks, Hawkins, the Imperial Klaliff, resigned and was demanding $2,836.00 in back salary, and threatening to go to court if not paid. Hawkins, however, did not remain at rest; he quickly met with Klansmen at London and Hamilton and won them to his side. On July 17th, 1925, Hawkins organized a completely independent branch of the Klan, the Ku Klux Klan of the British Empire, the upholding of the womanhood of the nations and its protection against colored or foreign peoples, the abolition of the yellow peril, and the abolition of anything tending to bring ridicule on the Protestant church. The new regalia for the “reorganized” Klan was to be the same as the original body except that the Union Jack was to be worn on the right breast, instead of the left. Within a few weeks, however, Hawkins was forced out of the Ku Klux Klan of the British Empire and returned to the United States (White Hoods, p. 56-58).

Klaverns were organized at various points in Ontario, such as, St. Thomas, Exeter, Sault Ste Marie, Ottawa, Kingston, Richmond, and Belleville. There is some evidence of vigilante activity by the Klan in Ontario. At Barrie, for example, a member was convicted of blowing-up a Roman Catholic Church, and at Oakville, a group of Klansmen rode into town, burned a cross on Main Street, and separated a young man thought to be of Negro ancestry from his fiancee and warned him to keep away from white girls (White Hoods, p. 59). Although, it seems that the Ontario Ku Klux Klan of the 1920’s faded away as quickly as it had appeared.

When Fowler and Hawkins organized the Ku Klux Klan of Kanada in Toronto, they attempted to enlist experienced organizers for the other provinces. Manitoba was one of these provinces. Fowler wrote to Hawkins on February 18th, 1925, “Colonel Machin has done some good work in Manitoba. He will get a Charter there also after Parliament adjourns April 1st.” (Shades of Right, p. 51) However, this was not to be, and the “good work” seems to have suddenly stopped when Colonel Machin moved his base of operations to Kenora, Ontario, within two months of the letter (Shades of Right, p. 52).

The first attempt to organize the Klan in Manitoba was in Winnipeg on June 1st, 1928. Organizer, D. C. Grant, conducted a meeting in the Royal Templars Hall on Young Street. On July 7th, Dr. Hawkins lectured at Virden, and on October 19th, Grant held a rally in St. Boniface (White Hoods, p. 61). The Klan’s campaign apparently brought some results.

There is evidence that D. C. Grant continued to organize in Manitoba at least until 1929, and perhaps in to the early 1930’s, for the Winnipeg Klan passed a resolution protesting bilingualism in January 1930. The organization does not appear to have reached beyond Winnipeg in the east. But in general, Manitoba did not prove to be a fertile field for the Klan; meetings were poorly attended and the membership does not seem to have been large at any time (White Hoods, p. 61-62).

Ku Klux Klan organizers from British Columbia entered the province of Alberta in 1926 and 1927, and began recruiting members at ten dollars per head. Within a short time, one thousand members were in the order, with locals at Calgary, Milo, Vulcan, Red Deer, Taber, Rosebud, Edmonton, and many other smaller centers. The order seemed to be making good progress until the organizers disappeared with the Klan funds in the fall of 1927. Two years later, however, in the fall of 1929, organizers from Saskatchewan revived the Klan. Within six months, the Alberta Klan called a provincial convention for March 2nd, 1930, in Calgary, where officers would be elected and a course of action planned for the coming election (White Hoods, p. 64).

In the fall of 1927, most of the Ku Klux Klan bodies in eastern and western Canada merged together, under the name of “The Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Canada,” leaving as separate organizations only the Ku Klux Klan of the British Empire and the Saskatchewan organization. Four principal officials were appointed for the dominion-wide organization: Rev. George Marshall, Imperial Wizard, and J. S. Lord, Imperial Scribe, for eastern Canada with headquarters in Toronto; and Rev. Charles E. Batzold, Imperial Wizard, and A. J. England, Imperial Scribe, for western Canada with headquarters in Vancouver. However, it seems that the merging was never perfected, as most of the provincial Klan bodies were split by constant internal bickering, failing to attain stability for any length of time, and unable to organize dominion-wide conventions (White Hoods, p. 65-67).

By 1926, the Klan had, although never with spectacular success, penetrated most parts of Canada, feeding on traditions of prejudice that were not new to the nation.

The Ku Klux Klan Today

Even though 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. It is today, an institution of chivalry, humanity, mercy, and patriotism, which are all characteristics of the original Klan. Also, the 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. 2).

The activities of the modern Ku Klux Klan vary from den to den depending of the inclination of its members. Some dens of the Klan tend to use more violence to express their viewpoints than do other dens. Some groups use threats, arson, and other forms of violence to force their ideas on modern society, while others simply choose 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 that 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. This is what the original founders intended the group to become and they achieved their goal. Even though the Klan is sometimes looked upon as a “hate group,” the characteristics of the group are a positive for society.

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 Klan has broken up into many groups, no one knows the exact number of members or its affiliated groups. Although the Klan’s members have changed their appearance and the membership has declined, no one can deny that that 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. The Klan also intends on stopping abortion, reverse discrimination, and welfare for those who do not need it. 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 (Imperial Klans of America, p. 2). The Klan agrees that everyone should be proud of their race, which means that White people have the right to be proud as well.

Any new members of the Ku Klux Klan have to take a pledge not to commit any crime against anyone. The Klan’s motto printed on propaganda is “Not for self, But for others;” this is the main focus of the Klan today (Imperial Klans of America, p. 2)

Even though 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 Klan has gone through many changes since it’s beginning, the present Klan is not very different from the original organization. And though the 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 exists, 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.

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