History of the Ku Klux Klan, what is the set of racist and supremacist groups active in the USA

Today the Ku Klux Klan (often abbreviated to KKK) consists of a set of groups racists and white supremacistsbut in the past it was a unitary organization, active mainly in south of the United States of America, where it was born in the 19th century from the union of several secret organizations with political and terrorist objectives based on white supremacism. Its history can be divided into three phases: the first one fits in the 1860s, when the organization was founded as a reaction to the end of slavery in the USA. The second phase, from 1915 to 1930 approximately, was the one in which the Klan gathered millions of members. The third phase, from the end of the Second World War to todayis characterized by the birth of numerous racist organizations that are inspired by the Klan and sometimes take its name.

Throughout their history, the organizations united under the label Ku Klux Klan have unfortunately accomplished attacks and murders to impose the supremacy of whites of Anglo-Saxon origin on other ethnic groups residing in the United States.

What is the Ku Klux Klan and the meaning of the name

The Ku Klux Klan is aracist and supremacist organization active in the United States. The origin of the name is uncertain, but it probably comes from word Greek kyklos (cycle), associated with the term clan.

The ideology of the Klan is centered on the concept of the superiority of the Americans Wasp (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, i.e. white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant). Based on this idea, the organization intends to impose the discrimination of all non-Wasp citizens: first of all African Americans, but also Jews, Catholics, European immigrants and Hispanics.

The first Ku Klux Klan

The first Klan was founded in the state of Tennessee in the aftermath of the Civil War. As we know, the war put an end to slavery, which until then was legal and widely practiced in the Southern States. On December 24, 1865, some former officers of thesouthern army they founded the KKK as a welfare organization, which aimed to provide aid to the widows and orphans of fallen soldiers. However, the founders were driven by a strong racist spirit and they did not accept former slaves becoming citizens of the United States. The Klan, therefore, soon took on another function: to counter with violent actions and with the terrorism the emancipation of the black population. The KKK established itself in many Southern states.

Murder of GW Ashburn in 1868
Murder of GW Ashburn in 1868

At the end of the 1960s the government decided to suppress the organization. Two laws of 1870 and 1871 they declared the Klan illegal and forced its dissolution. After 1877, when the Southern States became fully part of the United States, it came into force throughout the area a system of racial segregationknown as read Jim Crowwhich would only be abolished in the 1960s.

The Rebirth of the Organization: The Second Klan

After the dissolution of the first Klan, several supremacist organizations arose in the Southern states. The KKK, however, was reborn only in 1915 on the initiative of a preacher originally from Alabama, William J. Simmons. The push for the refoundation came from movie Birth of a nation by David W. Griffith, who narrated in apologetic terms the story of the first KKK. The film also contributed to the affirmation of the rituals of the “klaners”, such as the use of white hooded robes and the custom of burn the crossesonly partly inspired by the traditions of the first KKK.

Birth of a Nation Poster

The second Klan intended to spread hatred for everyone who wasn't Wasp and he wanted to impose a rigid and retrograde morality: he was against divorce, adultery and fought for a rigorous application of Prohibition, the ban on drinking alcohol in force in the United States from 1920 to 1933.

The Klan equipped itself with a centralized structure and was skilled in exploiting the concerns of the middle classes and poorer white citizens. Some sectors of the population feared that their economic position could be challenged by Catholics and Jews, also due to the extensive immigration from Europe that had taken place in previous decades. The Klan, while continuing to have its “stronghold” in the Southern States, spread throughout the country, came to count six million members and a significant electoral weight was guaranteed.

The “klaners” organized murders, lynchings and assaults to the detriment of African Americans and citizens who, in their opinion, did not respect the racial laws. The fortunes of the organization ended in the second half of the 1920s, because journalistic investigations brought to light the mafia-style systems in use in the Klan, the sexual scandals and rapes that took place within it and the corruption of many managers. Furthermore, immigrants integrated into American society and made a great contribution to its development, demonstrating that the ideology of the KKK was based on completely unfounded foundations. The influence of the organization declined rapidly. By 1930, membership had dwindled to 30,000 and in the 1940s the organization disappeared.

The Second Klan
The Second Klan

The fragmentation of the Ku Klux Klan and the struggle against civil rights

After the Second World War, the battle for the emancipation of the African-American population increased in intensity and in the 1960s the federal government put end racial segregation across the country. To oppose emancipation, several arose in the Southern states groups inspired by the Klan and, in some cases, they took their name. The “klaners” were responsible for numerous attacks and murders. Their objectives included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and white activists who fought for an end to discrimination. The groups inspired by the KKK, however, reached a maximum of a few thousand members and were unable to prevent the African-American population from gaining equal rights.

KKK members in 1958

Even after the end of racial segregation, many remained active organizations inspired by the Ku Klux Klan. Today they no longer use the white hoods, but they have not changed the racist ideology and are often linked to neo-Nazi organizations. Supremacist groups try to leverage public concerns, typically by throwing misleading messages and fake newsbut fortunately they enjoy very little consensus.