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Ku Klux Klan – Wikipedia for Schools

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1The current version had some 152 independent chapters as of 2010.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically expressed through terrorism. Since the mid-20th century, the KKK has also been anti-communist. The current manifestation is splintered into several chapters with no connections between each other; it is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Centre. It is estimated to have between 5,000 and 8,000 members as of 2012.

The first Klan flourished in the Southern United States in the late 1860s, then died out by the early 1870s. Members adopted white costumes: robes, masks, and conical hats, designed to be outlandish and terrifying, and to hide their identities. The second KKK flourished nationwide in the early and mid-1920s, and adopted the same costumes and code words as the first Klan, while introducing cross burnings. The third KKK emerged after World War II and was associated with opposing the Civil Rights Movement and progress among minorities. The second and third incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan made frequent reference to the USA’s ” Anglo-Saxon” blood, harking back to 19th-century nativism and claiming descent from the original 18th-century British colonial revolutionaries.

The first Klan was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, by six veterans of the Confederate Army. The name is probably from the Greek word kuklos ( ) which means circle, suggesting a circle or band of brothers.

Although there was no organizational structure above the local level, similar groups arose across the South adopted the same name and methods. Klan groups spread throughout the South as an insurgent movement during the Reconstruction era in the United States. As a secret vigilante group, the Klan targeted freedmen and their allies; it sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against black and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871, the federal government passed the Force Acts, which were used to prosecute Klan crimes. Prosecution of Klan crimes and enforcement of the Force Acts suppressed Klan activity. In 1874 and later, however, newly organized and openly active paramilitary organizations, such as the White League and the Red Shirts, started a fresh round of violence aimed at suppressing blacks’ voting and running Republicans out of office. These contributed to segregationist white Democrats regaining political power in all the Southern states by 1877.

In 1915, the second Klan was founded in Atlanta, Georgia. Starting in 1921, it adopted a modern business system of recruiting (which paid most of the initiation fee and costume charges as commissions to the organizers) and grew rapidly nationwide at a time of prosperity. Reflecting the social tensions of urban industrialization and vastly increased immigration, its membership grew most rapidly in cities, and spread out of the South to the Midwest and West. The second KKK preached “One Hundred Percent Americanism” and demanded the purification of politics, calling for strict morality and better enforcement of prohibition. Its official rhetoric focused on the threat of the Catholic Church, using anti-Catholicism and nativism. Its appeal was directed exclusively at white Protestants. Some local groups took part in attacks on private houses and carried out other violent activities. The violent episodes were generally in the South.

The second Klan was a formal fraternal organization, with a national and state structure. At its peak in the mid-1920s, the organization claimed to include about 15% of the nation’s eligible population, approximately 45 million men. Internal divisions, criminal behaviour by leaders, and external opposition brought about a collapse in membership, which had dropped to about 30,000 by 1930. It finally faded away in the 1940s. Klan organizers also operated in Canada, especially in Saskatchewan in 1926-28, where members of the Klan attacked immigrants from Eastern Europe.

The “Ku Klux Klan” name was used by many independent local groups opposing the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, they often forged alliances with Southern police departments, as in Birmingham, Alabama; or with governor’s offices, as with George Wallace of Alabama. Several members of KKK groups were convicted of murder in the deaths of civil rights workers and children in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Today, researchers estimate that there may be 150 Klan chapters with upwards of 5,000 members nationwide.

Today, many sources classify the Klan as a “subversive or terrorist organization”. In April 1997, FBI agents arrested four members of the True Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Dallas for conspiracy to commit robbery and to blow up a natural gas processing plant. In 1999, the city council of Charleston, South Carolina passed a resolution declaring the Klan to be a terrorist organization. In 2004, a professor at the University of Louisville began a campaign to have the Klan declared a terrorist organization in order to ban it from campus.

Six well-educated Confederate veterans from Pulaski, Tennessee created the original Ku Klux Klan on December 24, 1865, during the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War. The name was formed by combining the Greek kyklos (, circle) with clan. The group was known for a short time as the “Kuklux Clan”. The Ku Klux Klan was one among a number of secret, oath-bound organizations using violence, including the Southern Cross in New Orleans (1865) and the Knights of the White Camelia (1867) in Louisiana.

Historians generally see the KKK as part of the post Civil War insurgent violence related not only to the high number of veterans in the population, but also to their effort to control the dramatically changed social situation by using extrajudicial means to restore white supremacy. In 1866, Mississippi Governor William L. Sharkey reported that disorder, lack of control and lawlessness were widespread; in some states armed bands of Confederate soldiers roamed at will. The Klan used public violence against blacks as intimidation. They burned houses, and attacked and killed blacks, leaving their bodies on the roads.

At an 1867 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Klan members gathered to try to create a hierarchical organization with local chapters eventually reporting up to a national headquarters. Since most of the Klan’s members were veterans, they were used to the hierarchical structure of the organization, but the Klan never operated under this centralized structure. Local chapters and bands were highly independent.

Former Confederate Brigadier General George Gordon developed the Prescript, or Klan dogma. The Prescript suggested elements of white supremacist belief. For instance, an applicant should be asked if he was in favour of “a white man’s government”, “the reenfranchisement and emancipation of the white men of the South, and the restitution of the Southern people to all their rights.” The latter is a reference to the Ironclad Oath, which stripped the vote from white persons who refused to swear that they had not borne arms against the Union. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest became Grand Wizard, claiming to be the Klan’s national leader.

In an 1868 newspaper interview, Forrest stated that the Klan’s primary opposition was to the Loyal Leagues, Republican state governments, people like Tennessee governor Brownlow and other carpetbaggers and scalawags. He argued that many southerners believed that blacks were voting for the Republican Party because they were being hoodwinked by the Loyal Leagues. One Alabama newspaper editor declared “The League is nothing more than a nigger Ku Klux Klan.”

Despite Gordon’s and Forrest’s work, local Klan units never accepted the Prescript and continued to operate autonomously. There were never hierarchical levels or state headquarters. Klan members used violence to settle old feuds and local grudges, as they worked to restore white dominance in the disrupted postwar society. The historian Elaine Frantz Parsons describes the membership:

Lifting the Klan mask revealed a chaotic multitude of antiblack vigilante groups, disgruntled poor white farmers, wartime guerrilla bands, displaced Democratic politicians, illegal whiskey distillers, coercive moral reformers, sadists, rapists, white workmen fearful of black competition, employers trying to enforce labor discipline, common thieves, neighbors with decades-old grudges, and even a few freedmen and white Republicans who allied with Democratic whites or had criminal agendas of their own. Indeed, all they had in common, besides being overwhelmingly white, southern, and Democratic, was that they called themselves, or were called, Klansmen.

Historian Eric Foner observed:

In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired restoration of white supremacy. Its purposes were political, but political in the broadest sense, for it sought to affect power relations, both public and private, throughout Southern society. It aimed to reverse the interlocking changes sweeping over the South during Reconstruction: to destroy the Republican party’s infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, reestablish control of the black labor force, and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern life.

To that end they worked to curb the education, economic advancement, voting rights, and right to keep and bear arms of blacks. The Ku Klux Klan soon spread into nearly every southern state, launching a ” reign of terror against Republican leaders both black and white. Those political leaders assassinated during the campaign included Arkansas Congressman James M. Hinds, three members of the South Carolina legislature, and several men who served in constitutional conventions.”

Klan members adopted masks and robes that hid their identities and added to the drama of their night rides, their chosen time for attacks. Many of them operated in small towns and rural areas where people otherwise knew each other’s faces, and sometimes still recognized the attackers. “The kind of thing that men are afraid or ashamed to do openly, and by day, they accomplish secretly, masked, and at night.” With this method both the high and the low could be attacked. The Ku Klux Klan night riders “sometimes claimed to be ghosts of Confederate soldiers so, as they claimed, to frighten superstitious blacks. Few freedmen took such nonsense seriously.”

The Klan attacked black members of the Loyal Leagues and intimidated southern Republicans and Freedmen’s Bureau workers. When they killed black political leaders, they also took heads of families, along with the leaders of churches and community groups, because these people had many roles in society. Agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau reported weekly assaults and murders of blacks. “Armed guerrilla warfare killed thousands of Negroes; political riots were staged; their causes or occasions were always obscure, their results always certain: ten to one hundred times as many Negroes were killed as whites.” Masked men shot into houses and burned them, sometimes with the occupants still inside. They drove successful black farmers off their land. “Generally, it can be reported that in North and South Carolina, in 18 months ending in June 1867, there were 197 murders and 548 cases of aggravated assault.”

Klan violence worked to suppress black voting. More than 2,000 persons were killed, wounded and otherwise injured in Louisiana within a few weeks prior to the Presidential election of November 1868. Although St. Landry Parish had a registered Republican majority of 1,071, after the murders, no Republicans voted in the fall elections. White Democrats cast the full vote of the parish for Grant’s opponent. The KKK killed and wounded more than 200 black Republicans, hunting and chasing them through the woods. Thirteen captives were taken from jail and shot; a half-buried pile of 25 bodies was found in the woods. The KKK made people vote Democratic and gave them certificates of the fact.

In the April 1868 Georgia gubernatorial election, Columbia County cast 1,222 votes for Republican Rufus Bullock. By the November presidential election, however, Klan intimidation led to suppression of the Republican vote and only one person voted for Ulysses S. Grant.

Klansmen killed more than 150 African Americans in a county in Florida, and hundreds more in other counties. Freedmen’s Bureau records provided a detailed recounting of Klansmen’s beatings and murders of freedmen and their white allies.

Milder encounters also occurred. In Mississippi, according to the Congressional inquiry:

One of these teachers (Miss Allen of Illinois), whose school was at Cotton Gin Port in Monroe County, was visited … between one and two o’clock in the morning on March 1871, by about fifty men mounted and disguised. Each man wore a long white robe and his face was covered by a loose mask with scarlet stripes. She was ordered to get up and dress which she did at once and then admitted to her room the captain and lieutenant who in addition to the usual disguise had long horns on their heads and a sort of device in front. The lieutenant had a pistol in his hand and he and the captain sat down while eight or ten men stood inside the door and the porch was full. They treated her “gentlemanly and quietly” but complained of the heavy school-tax, said she must stop teaching and go away and warned her that they never gave a second notice. She heeded the warning and left the county.

By 1868, two years after the Klan’s creation, its activity was beginning to decrease. Members were hiding behind Klan masks and robes as a way to avoid prosecution for freelance violence. Many influential southern Democrats feared that Klan lawlessness provided an excuse for the federal government to retain its power over the South, and they began to turn against it. There were outlandish claims made, such as Georgian B. H. Hill stating “that some of these outrages were actually perpetrated by the political friends of the parties slain.”

Union Army veterans in mountainous Blount County, Alabama, organized “the anti-Ku Klux”. They put an end to violence by threatening Klansmen with reprisals unless they stopped whipping Unionists and burning black churches and schools. Armed blacks formed their own defense in Bennettsville, South Carolina and patrolled the streets to protect their homes.

National sentiment gathered to crack down on the Klan, even though some Democrats at the national level questioned whether the Klan really existed or believed that it was just a creation of nervous Southern Republican governors. Many southern states began to pass anti-Klan legislation.

In January 1871, Pennsylvania Republican Senator John Scott convened a Congressional committee which took testimony from 52 witnesses about Klan atrocities. They accumulated 12 volumes of horrifying testimony. In February, former Union General and Congressman Benjamin Franklin Butler of Massachusetts introduced the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Ku Klux Klan Act). This added to the enmity that southern white Democrats bore toward him. While the bill was being considered, further violence in the South swung support for its passage. The Governor of South Carolina appealed for federal troops to assist his efforts in keeping control of the state. A riot and massacre in a Meridian, Mississippi, courthouse were reported, from which a black state representative escaped only by taking to the woods. The 1871 Civil Rights Act allowed President Ulysses S. Grant to suspend Habeas Corpus.

In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant signed Butler’s legislation. The Ku Klux Klan Act was used by the Federal government together with the 1870 Force Act, another act that President Grant signed, to enforce the civil rights provisions for individuals under the constitution. Under the 1871 Klan Act, after the Klan refused to voluntarily dissolve, President Grant issued a suspension of Habeas Corpus, and sent Federal troops into 9 South Carolina counties. The Klansmen were arrested and prosecuted in Federal court. Judges Hugh Lennox Bond and George S. Bryan presided over the trial of Ku Klux Klan members in Columbia, South Carolina during December 1871. The defendants were sentenced to five years to three months incarceration with fines. More African Americans served on juries in Federal court than were selected for local or state juries, so they had a chance to participate in the process. In the crackdown, hundreds of Klan members were fined or imprisoned.

Although Forrest boasted that the Klan was a nationwide organization of 550,000 men and that he could muster 40,000 Klansmen within five days’ notice, as a secret or ” invisible” group, it had no membership rosters, no chapters, and no local officers. It was difficult for observers to judge its actual membership. It had created a sensation by the dramatic nature of its masked forays and because of its many murders.

In 1870 a federal grand jury determined that the Klan was a “terrorist organization”. It issued hundreds of indictments for crimes of violence and terrorism. Klan members were prosecuted, and many fled from areas that were under federal government jurisdiction, particularly in South Carolina. Many people not formally inducted into the Klan had used the Klan’s costume for anonymity, to hide their identities when carrying out acts of violence. Forrest ordered the Klan to disband in 1869, stating that it was “being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace”. Historian Stanley Horn writes “generally speaking, the Klan’s end was more in the form of spotty, slow, and gradual disintegration than a formal and decisive disbandment”. A reporter in Georgia wrote in January 1870, “A true statement of the case is not that the Ku Klux are an organized band of licensed criminals, but that men who commit crimes call themselves Ku Klux”.

While people used the Klan as a mask for nonpolitical crimes, state and local governments seldom acted against them. African Americans were kept off juries. In lynching cases, all-white juries almost never indicted Ku Klux Klan members. When there was a rare indictment, juries were unlikely to vote for a conviction. In part, jury members feared reprisals from local Klansmen.

Others may have agreed with lynching as a way of keeping dominance over black men. In many states, officials were reluctant to use black militia against the Klan out of fear that racial tensions would be raised. When Republican Governor of North Carolina William Woods Holden called out the militia against the Klan in 1870, it added to his unpopularity. Combined with violence and fraud at the polls, the Republicans lost their majority in the state legislature. Disaffection with Holden’s actions led to white Democratic legislators’ impeaching Holden and removing him from office, but their reasons were numerous.

The Klan was destroyed in South Carolina and decimated throughout the rest of the South, where it had already been in decline. Attorney General Amos Tappan Ackerman led the prosecutions.

In some areas, other local paramilitary organizations such as the White League, Red Shirts, saber clubs, and rifle clubs continued to intimidate and murder black voters.

In 1874, organized white paramilitary groups were formed in the Deep South to replace the faltering Klan: the White League in Louisiana and the Red Shirts in Mississippi, North and South Carolina. They campaigned openly to turn Republicans out of office, intimidated and killed black voters, tried to disrupt organizing and suppressed black voting. They were out in force during the campaigns and elections of 1874 and 1876, contributing to the conservative Democrats regaining power in 1876, against a background of electoral violence.

Shortly after, in United States v. Cruikshank (1875), the Supreme Court ruled that the Force Act of 1870 did not give the Federal government power to regulate private actions, but only those by state governments. The result was that as the century went on, African Americans were at the mercy of hostile state governments that refused to intervene against private violence and paramilitary groups.

Whereas the number of indictments across the South was large, the number of cases leading to prosecution and sentencing was relatively small. The overloaded federal courts were not able to meet the demands of trying such a tremendous number of cases, a situation that led to selective pardoning. By late 1873 and 1874, most of the charges against Klansmen were dropped although new cases continued to be prosecuted for several more years. Most of those sentenced had either served their terms or had been pardoned by 1875. The Supreme Court of the United States eviscerated the Ku Klux Act in 1876 by ruling that the federal government could no longer prosecute individuals although states would be forced to comply with federal civil rights provisions. Republicans passed a second civil rights act (the Civil Rights Act of 1875) to grant equal access to public facilities and other housing accommodations regardless of race. Ironically, the Klan during this period served to further Northern reconstruction efforts, as Ku Klux violence provided the political climate needed to pass civil rights protections for blacks. Although the Ku Klux Act of 1871 dismantled the first Klan, Southern whites formed other, similar groups that kept blacks away from the polls through intimidation and physical violence. Reconstruction ended with the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes, who suspended the federal military occupation of the South; yet blacks still found themselves without the basic civil liberties that Congressional Republicans had sought to secure.

In 1882, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Harris that the Klan Act was partially unconstitutional. It ruled that Congress’s power under the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend to the right to regulate against private conspiracies.

Klan costumes, also called ” regalia”, disappeared by the early 1870s (Wade 1987, p.109). The fact that the Klan did not exist for decades was shown when Simmons’s 1915 recreation of the Klan attracted only two aging “former Reconstruction Klansmen.” All other members were new. By 1872, the Klan was broken as an organization. Nonetheless, the goals that the Klan had failed to achieve itself, such as suppressing suffrage for Southern blacks and driving a wedge between poor whites and blacks, were largely accomplished by the 1890s by militant Southern whites. Lynchings of African Americans, far from being ended by the Klan’s disintegration, instead peaked in 1892 with 161 deaths.

Three events in 1915 acted as catalysts to the revival of the Klan:

Director D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation glorified the original Klan. His film was based on the book and play The Clansman and the book The Leopard’s Spots, both by Thomas Dixon, Jr. Dixon said his purpose was “to revolutionize northern sentiment by a presentation of history that would transform every man in my audience into a good Democrat!” The film created a nationwide Klan craze. At the official premier in Atlanta, members of the Klan rode up and down the street in front of the theatre.

Much of the modern Klan’s iconography, including the standardized white costume and the lighted cross, are derived from the film. Its imagery was based on Dixon’s romanticized concept of old England and Scotland, as portrayed in the novels and poetry of Sir Walter Scott. The film’s influence was enhanced by a purported endorsement by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner. A Hollywood press agent claimed that after seeing the film Wilson said, “It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” Historians doubt he said it. Wilson’s remarks generated controversy, and he tried to remain aloof. On April 30, his staff issued a denial. Wilson’s aide, Joseph Tumulty, said, “the President was entirely unaware of the nature of the play before it was presented and at no time has expressed his approbation of it.”

The new Klan was inaugurated in 1915 by William J. Simmons on top of Stone Mountain. It was a small local organization until 1921. Simmons said he had been inspired by the original Klan’s Prescripts, written in 1867 by Confederate veteran George Gordon, but they were never adopted by the first Klan.

The Second Klan saw threats from every direction. A religious tone was apparent in its activities; “two-thirds of the national Klan lecturers were Protestant ministers,” says historian Brian R. Farmer. Much of the Klan’s energy went to guarding “the home;” the historian Kathleen Bleeits said its members wanted to protect “the interests of white womanhood.”

The second Klan arose during the nadir of American race relations, but much of its growth was in response to new issues of urbanization, immigration and industrialization. The massive immigration of Catholics and Jews from eastern and southern Europe led to fears among Protestants about the new peoples, and especially about job and social competition. The Great Migration of African Americans to the North stoked job and housing competition and racism by whites in Midwestern and Western industrial cities. The second Klan achieved its greatest political power in Indiana; it was active throughout the South, Midwest, especially Michigan; and in the West, in Colorado and Oregon. The migration of both African Americans and whites from rural areas to Southern and Midwestern cities increased social tensions.

The Klan grew most rapidly in urbanizing cities that had high growth rates between 1910 and 1930, such as Detroit, Memphis, and Dayton in the Upper South and Midwest; and Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston in the South. In Michigan, more than half of the Klan members lived in Detroit, where they numbered 40,000; they were concerned about urban issues: limited housing, rapid social change, and competition for jobs with European immigrants and Southerners both black and white. Stanley Horn, a Southern historian sympathetic to the first Klan, was careful in an oral interview to distinguish it from the later “spurious Ku Klux organization which was in ill-reputeand, of course, had no connection whatsoever with the Klan of Reconstruction days”.

In an era without Social Security or widely available life insurance, men joined fraternal organizations such as the Elks or the Woodmen of the World to provide for their families in case they died or were unable to work. The founder of the new Klan, William J. Simmons, was a member of twelve different fraternal organizations. He recruited for the Klan with his chest covered with fraternal badges, and consciously modeled the Klan after fraternal organizations.

Klan organizers, called ” Kleagles”, signed up hundreds of new members, who paid initiation fees and bought KKK costumes. The organizer kept half the money and sent the rest to state or national officials. When the organizer was done with an area, he organized a huge rally, often with burning crosses, and perhaps presented a Bible to a local Protestant preacher. He left town with the money collected. The local units operated like many fraternal organizations and occasionally brought in speakers.

The Klan’s growth was also affected by the mobilization for World War I and postwar tensions, especially in the cities, where strangers came up against each other more often and competed for housing and jobs. Southern whites resented the arming of black soldiers. Black veterans did not want to return to second-class status in the South. Some black veterans in the South were lynched while still in uniform, after returning from overseas service.

Simmons initially met with little success in either recruiting members or in raising money, and the Klan remained a small operation in the Atlanta area until 1920, when he handed its day-to-day activities over to two professional publicists, Elizabeth Tyler and Edward Young Clarke. The revived Klan appealed to new members based on current social tensions, and stressed responses to fears raised by immigration and mass migrations within industrializing cities: it became anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant and later anti-Communist. It presented itself as a fraternal, nativist and strenuously patriotic organization; and its leaders emphasized support for vigorous enforcement of prohibition laws. It expanded membership dramatically; by the 1920s, most of its members lived in the Midwest and West. It had a national base by 1925.

Religion was a major selling point. Baker argues that Klansmen seriously embraced Protestantism as an essential component of their white supremacist, anti-Catholic, and paternalistic formulation of American democracy and national culture. Their cross was a religious symbol, and their ritual honored Bibles and local ministers. However no nationally prominent religious leader said he was a Klan member.

Historians agree that the Klan’s resurgence in the 1920s was aided by the national debate over prohibition. The historian Prendergast says that the KKKs “support for Prohibition represented the single most important bond between Klansmen throughout the nation”. The Klan opposed bootleggers, sometimes with violence. In 1922, two hundred Klan members set fire to saloons in Union County, Arkansas. The national Klan office was established in Dallas, Texas, but Little Rock, Arkansas was the home of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan. The first head of this auxiliary was a former president of the Arkansas WCTU. Membership in the Klan and in other prohibition groups overlapped, and they often coordinated activities.

A significant characteristic of the second Klan was that it was an organization based in urban areas, reflecting the major shifts of population to cities in both the North and the South. In Michigan, for instance, 40,000 members lived in Detroit, where they made up more than half of the state’s membership. Most Klansmen were lower- to middle-class whites who were trying to protect their jobs and housing from the waves of newcomers to the industrial cities: immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, who tended to be Catholic and Jewish in numbers higher than earlier groups of immigrants; and black and white migrants from the South. As new populations poured into cities, rapidly changing neighborhoods created social tensions. Because of the rapid pace of population growth in industrializing cities such as Detroit and Chicago, the Klan grew rapidly in the U.S. Midwest. The Klan also grew in booming Southern cities such as Dallas and Houston.

In the medium-size industrial city of Worcester, Massachusetts in the 1920s, the Klan ascended to power quickly but declined as a result of opposition from the Catholic Church. There was no violence and the local newspaper ridiculed Klansmen as “night-shirt knights”. Half of the members were Swedish American, including some first-generation immigrants. The ethnic and religious conflicts among more recent immigrants contributed to the rise of the Klan in the city. Swedish Protestants were struggling against Irish Catholics, who had been entrenched longer, for political and ideological control of the city.

For some states, historians have obtained membership rosters of some local units and matched the names against city directory and local records to create statistical profiles of the membership. Big city newspapers were often hostile and ridiculed Klansmen as ignorant farmers. Detailed analysis from Indiana showed the rural stereotype was false for that state:

Indiana’s Klansmen represented a wide cross section of society: they were not disproportionately urban or rural, nor were they significantly more or less likely than other members of society to be from the working class, middle class, or professional ranks. Klansmen were Protestants, of course, but they cannot be described exclusively or even predominantly as fundamentalists. In reality, their religious affiliations mirrored the whole of white Protestant society, including those who did not belong to any church.

The Klan attracted people but most of them did not remain in the organization for long. Membership in the Klan turned over rapidly as people found out that it was not the group they wanted. Millions joined, and at its peak in the 1920s, the organization included about 15% of the nation’s eligible population. The lessening of social tensions contributed to the Klan’s decline.

The second Klan adopted a burning Latin cross primarily as a symbol of intimidation. No such crosses had been used by the first Klan. It was also used as a symbol of Christian fellowship, and its lighting during meetings was steeped in Christian prayer, the singing of hymns, and other overtly religious symbolism.

The practice of cross burning had been loosely based on ancient Scottish clans’ burning a St. Andrew’s cross (an X-shaped cross) as a beacon to muster forces for war. In The Clansman (see above), Dixon had falsely claimed that the first Klan had used fiery crosses when rallying to fight against Reconstruction. Griffith brought this image to the screen in The Birth of a Nation; he portrayed the burning cross as an upright Latin cross rather than the St. Andrew’s cross. Simmons adopted the symbol wholesale from the movie, prominently displaying it at the 1915 Stone Mountain meeting. The symbol has been associated with the Klan ever since.

In 1921, in an attempt to gain a foothold in education, the Klan bought Lanier University, a struggling Baptist university in Atlanta. Nathan Bedford Forrest, grandson of the Confederate general by the same name, was appointed its business manager. The school was to teach “pure, 100 percent Americanism”. Enrollment was dismal, and the school closed after the first year of Klan ownership.

By the 1920s, the KKK developed a women’s auxiliary, with chapters in many areas. Its activities included participation in parades, cross lighting, lectures, rallies, and boycotts of local businesses owned by Catholics and Jews. The Women’s Klan were active in promoting prohibition, stressing liquor’s negative impact on wives and children. Their efforts in public schools included distributing Bibles and working for the dismissal of Roman Catholic teachers. Texas would not hire Catholic teachers in public schools. As scandals rocked the Klan leadership late in the 1920s, the organization’s popularity among both men and women dropped off sharply.

The members of the first Klan in the South were exclusively Democrats. The second Klan expanded with new chapters in the Midwest and West, where for a time, its members were courted by both Republicans and Democrats. The KKK state organizations endorsed candidates from either party that supported its goals; Prohibition in particular helped the Klan and some Republicans to make common cause in the Midwest.

The Klan had numerous members in every part of the United States, but was particularly strong in the South and Midwest. At its peak, claimed Klan membership exceeded four million and comprised 20% of the adult white male population in many broad geographic regions, and 40% in some areas. The Klan also moved north into Canada, especially Saskatchewan, where it opposed Catholics.

With expanded membership came election of Klan members to political office. In Indiana, members were chiefly American-born, white Protestants of many income and social levels. In the 1920s, Indiana had the most powerful Ku Klux Klan in the nation. It had a high number of members statewide (over 30% of its white male citizens), and in 1924 elected the Klan member Edward Jackson as governor.

Given success in state and local elections, the Klan issue contributed to the bitterly divisive 1924 Democratic National Convention in New York City. The leading candidates were William Gibbs McAdoo, a Protestant with a base in areas where the Klan was strong, and New York Governor Al Smith, a Catholic with a base in the large cities. After weeks of stalemate, both candidates withdrew in favour of a compromise. Anti-Klan delegates proposed a resolution indirectly attacking the Klan; it was narrowly defeated.

In some states, such as Alabama and California, KKK chapters had worked for political reform. In 1924, Klan members were elected to the city council in Anaheim, California. The city had been controlled by an entrenched commercial-civic elite that was mostly German American. Given their tradition of moderate social drinking, the German Americans did not strongly support prohibition lawsthe mayor had been a saloon keeper. Led by the minister of the First Christian Church, the Klan represented a rising group of politically oriented non-ethnic Germans who denounced the elite as corrupt, undemocratic and self-serving. The historian Christopher Cocoltchos says the Klansmen tried to create a model, orderly community. The Klan had about 1200 members in Orange County, California. The economic and occupational profile of the pro and anti-Klan groups shows the two were similar and about equally prosperous. Klan members were Protestants, as were most of their opponents, but the latter also included many Catholic Germans. Individuals who joined the Klan had earlier demonstrated a much higher rate of voting and civic activism than did their opponents. Cocoltchos suggests that many of the individuals in Orange County joined the Klan out of that sense of civic activism. The Klan representatives easily won the local election in Anaheim in April 1924. They fired known city employees who were Catholic and replaced them with Klan appointees. The new city council tried to enforce prohibition. After its victory, the Klan chapter held large rallies and initiation ceremonies over the summer.

The opposition organized, bribed a Klansman for the secret membership list, and exposed the Klansmen running in the state primaries; they defeated most of the candidates. Klan opponents in 1925 took back local government, and succeeded in a special election in recalling the Klansmen who had been elected in April 1924. The Klan in Anaheim quickly collapsed, its newspaper closed after losing a libel suit, and the minister who led the local Klavern moved to Kansas.

In the South, Klan members were still Democratic, as it was a one-party region for whites. Klan chapters were closely allied with Democratic police, sheriffs, and other functionaries of local government. Since disfranchisement of most African Americans and many poor whites around the start of the 20th century, the only political activity for whites took place within the Democratic Party.

In Alabama, Klan members advocated better public schools, effective prohibition enforcement, expanded road construction, and other political measures to benefit lower-class white people. By 1925, the Klan was a political force in the state, as leaders such as J. Thomas Heflin, David Bibb Graves, and Hugo Black tried to build political power against the Black Belt planters, who had long dominated the state. In 1926, with Klan support, Bibb Graves won the Alabama governor’s office. He was a former Klan chapter head. He pushed for increased education funding, better public health, new highway construction, and pro-labor legislation. Because the Alabama state legislature refused to redistrict until 1972, and then under court order, the Klan was unable to break the planters’ and rural areas’ hold on legislative power. Scholars and biographers have recently examined Hugo Black’s Klan role. Ball finds regarding the KKK that Black “sympathized with the group’s economic, nativist, and anti-Catholic beliefs.” Newman says Black “disliked the Catholic Church as an institution” and gave over 100 anti-Catholic speeches in his 1926 election campaign to KKK meetings across Alabama. Black was elected US senator in 1926 as a Democrat. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 appointed Black to the Supreme Court without knowing how active in the Klan he had been in the 1920s. He was confirmed by his fellow Senators before the full KKK connection was known; Justice Black said he left the Klan when he became a senator.

Many groups and leaders, including prominent Protestant ministers such as Reinhold Niebuhr in Detroit, spoke out against the Klan, gaining national attention. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League was formed in the early 20th century after the lynching of Leo Frank, and in response to attacks against Jewish Americans and the Klan’s campaign to outlaw private schools. Opposing groups worked to penetrate the Klan’s secrecy. After one civic group began to publish Klan membership lists, there was a rapid decline in members. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People created public education campaigns in order to inform people about Klan activities and lobbied in Congress against Klan abuses. After its peak in 1925, Klan membership in most areas began to decline rapidly.

Specific events contributed to the decline as well. In Indiana, the scandal surrounding the 1925 murder trial of Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson destroyed the image of the KKK as upholders of law and order. By 1926 the Klan was “crippled and discredited.” D. C. Stephenson was the Grand Dragon of Indiana and 22 northern states. In 1923 he had led the states under his control to separate from the national KKK organization. In his 1925 trial, he was convicted for second degree murder for his part in the rape and subsequent death of Madge Oberholtzer. After Stephenson’s conviction, the Klan declined dramatically in Indiana. The historian Leonard Moore says that a failure in leadership caused the Klan’s collapse:

Stephenson and the other salesmen and office seekers who maneuvered for control of Indiana’s Invisible Empire lacked both the ability and the desire to use the political system to carry out the Klan’s stated goals. They were uninterested in, or perhaps even unaware of, grass roots concerns within the movement. For them, the Klan had been nothing more than a means for gaining wealth and power. These marginal men had risen to the top of the hooded order because, until it became a political force, the Klan had never required strong, dedicated leadership. More established and experienced politicians who endorsed the Klan, or who pursued some of the interests of their Klan constituents, also accomplished little. Factionalism created one barrier, but many politicians had supported the Klan simply out of expedience. When charges of crime and corruption began to taint the movement, those concerned about their political futures had even less reason to work on the Klan’s behalf.

By 1920 Klan membership in Alabama dropped to less than 6,000. Small independent units continued to be active in the industrial city of Birmingham. In the late 1940s and 1950s, members launched a reign of terror by bombing the homes of upwardly mobile African Americans. Activism by such independent KKK groups increased as a reaction against the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

In Alabama, KKK vigilantes launched a wave of physical terror in 1927. They targeted both blacks and whites for violation of racial norms and for perceived moral lapses. This led to a strong backlash, beginning in the media. Grover C. Hall, Sr., editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, began publishing a series of editorials and articles that attacked the Klan for its “racial and religious intolerance”. Hall won a Pulitzer Prize for his crusade. Other newspapers kept up a steady, loud attack on the Klan, referring to the organization as violent and “un-American”. Sheriffs cracked down on activities. In the 1928 presidential election, the state voters overcame initial opposition to the Catholic candidate Al Smith, and voted the Democratic Party line as usual.

Although in decline, a measure of the Klan’s influence was its march along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC in 1928.

In southern cities such as Birmingham, Alabama, Klan members kept control of access to the better-paying industrial jobs and opposed unions. During the 1930s and 1940s, Klan leaders urged members to disrupt the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which advocated industrial unions and accepted African-American members, unlike earlier unions. With access to dynamite and using the skills from their jobs in mining and steel, in the late 1940s some Klan members in Birmingham used bombings in order to intimidate upwardly mobile blacks who moved into middle-class neighborhoods. “By mid-1949, there were so many charred house carcasses that the area [College Hills] was informally named Dynamite Hill.” Independent Klan groups remained active in Birmingham and violently opposed the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1939, after years of the Great Depression, the Imperial Wizard Hiram Wesley Evans sold the national organization to James Colescott, an Indiana veterinarian, and Samuel Green, an Atlanta obstetrician. They could not revive the declining membership. In 1944, the IRS filed a lien for $685,000 in back taxes against the Klan, and Colescott dissolved the organization that year. Local Klan groups closed over the following years.

Due in part to lynchings and Klan terror directed against them, from the early 1900s to 1940, 1.5 million blacks left the South in the Great Migration to northern and midwestern industrial cities. Many were recruited by expanding industries in the North, such as the Pennsylvania Railroad and industries in Chicago and Omaha. Although Southern violence had declined, better economic, education and voting opportunities in other areas attracted another 5 million blacks to migrate out of the South from 1940-1970, with many going to West Coast cities, a centre of defense industry jobs.

After World War II, the folklorist and author Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Klan; he provided internal data to media and law enforcement agencies. He also provided secret code words to the writers of the Superman radio program, resulting in episodes in which Superman took on the KKK. Kennedy stripped away the Klan’s mystique and trivialized its rituals and code words, which may have contributed to the decline in Klan recruiting and membership. In the 1950s, Kennedy wrote a bestselling book about his experiences, which further damaged the Klan.

The following table shows the change in the Klan’s estimated membership over time. (The years given in the table represent approximate time periods.)

The name “Ku Klux Klan” began to be used by several independent groups. Beginning in the 1950s, for instance, individual Klan groups in Birmingham, Alabama, began to resist social change and blacks’ improving their lives by bombing houses in transitional neighborhoods. There were so many bombings in Birmingham of blacks’ homes by Klan groups in the 1950s that the city’s nickname was “Bombingham”.

During the tenure of Bull Connor as police commissioner in the city, Klan groups were closely allied with the police and operated with impunity. When the Freedom Riders arrived in Birmingham, Connor gave Klan members fifteen minutes to attack the riders before sending in the police to quell the attack. When local and state authorities failed to protect the Freedom Riders and activists, the federal government established effective intervention.

In states such as Alabama and Mississippi, Klan members forged alliances with governors’ administrations. In Birmingham and elsewhere, the KKK groups bombed the houses of civil rights activists. In some cases they used physical violence, intimidation and assassination directly against individuals. Many murders went unreported and were not prosecuted by local and state authorities. Continuing disfranchisement of blacks across the South meant that most could not serve on juries, which were all white.

According to a report from the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta, the homes of 40 black Southern families were bombed during 1951 and 1952. Some of the bombing victims were social activists whose work exposed them to danger, but most were either people who refused to bow to racist convention or were innocent bystanders, unsuspecting victims of random violence.

Among the more notorious murders by Klan members:

There was also resistance to the Klan. In 1953, newspaper publisher W. Horace Carter received a Pulitzer prize for reporting on the activities of the Klan. In a 1958 incident in North Carolina, the Klan burned crosses at the homes of two Lumbee Native Americans who had associated with white people, and they threatened to return with more men. When the KKK held a nighttime rally nearby, they were quickly surrounded by hundreds of armed Lumbees. Gunfire was exchanged, and the Klan was routed at what became known as the Battle of Hayes Pond.

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had paid informants in the Klan, for instance in Birmingham in the early 1960s, its relations with local law enforcement agencies and the Klan were often ambiguous. The head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, appeared more concerned about Communist links to civil rights activists than about controlling Klan excesses against citizens. In 1964, the FBI’s COINTELPRO program began attempts to infiltrate and disrupt civil rights groups.

As 20th-century Supreme Court rulings extended federal enforcement of citizens’ civil rights, the government revived the Force Acts and the Klan Act from Reconstruction days. Federal prosecutors used these laws as the basis for investigations and indictments in the 1964 murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner; and the 1965 murder of Viola Liuzzo. They were also the basis for prosecution in 1991 in Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic.

Once African Americans secured federal legislation to protect civil and voting rights, the KKK shifted its focus to opposing court-ordered busing to desegregate schools, affirmative action and more open immigration. In 1971, KKK members used bombs to destroy 10 school buses in Pontiac, Michigan.

On November 3, 1979, five protesters were killed by KKK and American Nazi Party members in the Greensboro massacre in Greensboro, North Carolina. This incident was the culmination of attempts by the Communist Workers Party to organize industrial workers, predominantly black, in the area.

Jerry Thompson, a newspaper reporter who infiltrated the KKK in 1979, reported that the FBI’s COINTELPRO efforts were highly successful. Rival KKK factions accused each other’s leaders of being FBI informants. Bill Wilkinson of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was revealed to have been working for the FBI.

Thompson also related that KKK leaders who appeared indifferent to the threat of arrest showed great concern about a series of civil lawsuits filed by the Southern Poverty Law Centre for damages amounting to millions of dollars. These were filed after KKK members shot into a group of African Americans. Klansmen curtailed activities to conserve money for defense against the lawsuits. The KKK also used lawsuits as tools; they filed a libel suit to prevent publication of a paperback edition of Thompson’s book.

In 1980, three KKK members shot four elderly black women (Viola Ellison, Lela Evans, Opal Jackson and Katherine Johnson) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, following a KKK initiation rally. A fifth woman, Fannie Crumsey, was injured by flying glass in the incident. Attempted murder charges were filed against the three KKK members, two of whomBill Church and Larry Paynewere acquitted by an all-white jury, and the other of whomMarshall Thrashwas sentenced by the same jury to nine months on lesser charges. He was released after three months. In 1982, a jury awarded the five women $535,000 in a civil rights trial.

After Michael Donald was lynched in 1981 in Alabama, the FBI investigated his death and two local KKK members were convicted of having a role, including Henry Francis Hays, who was sentenced to death. With the support of attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph J. Levin of the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), Donald’s mother, Beulah Mae Donald, sued the KKK in civil court in Alabama. Her lawsuit against the United Klans of America was tried in February 1987. The all-white jury found the Klan responsible for the lynching of Donald and ordered the Klan to pay US$7 million. To pay the judgment, the KKK turned over all of its assets, including its national headquarters building in Tuscaloosa. After exhausting the appeals process, Hays was executed for Donald’s death in Alabama on June 6, 1997. It was the first time since 1913 that a white man had been executed in Alabama for a crime against an African American.

In 1995, Don Black and Chlo Hardin, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke’s ex-wife, began a small bulletin board system (BBS) called Stormfront. Today, Stormfront has become a prominent online forum for white nationalism, Neo-Nazism, hate speech, racism, and antisemitism. Duke has an account on Stormfront which he uses to post articles from his own website, as well as polling forum members for opinions and questions, in particular during his internet broadcasts. Duke has worked with Don Black on numerous projects including Operation Red Dog in 1980.

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How One Man Convinced 200 Ku Klux Klan Members To Give Up …

For 30 years, Daryl Davis has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. He says 200 Klansmen have given up their robes after talking with him. Courtesy of Daryl Davis hide caption

For 30 years, Daryl Davis has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. He says 200 Klansmen have given up their robes after talking with him.

Daryl Davis is a blues musician, but he also has what some might call an interesting hobby. For the past 30 years, Davis, a black man, has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan.

He says once the friendship blossoms, the Klansmen realize that their hate may be misguided. Since Davis started talking with these members, he says 200 Klansmen have given up their robes. When that happens, Davis collects the robes and keeps them in his home as a reminder of the dent he has made in racism by simply sitting down and having dinner with people.

On the first time he befriended a member of the Ku Klux Klan

I was playing music it was my first time playing in this particular bar called the Silver Dollar Lounge and this white gentleman approached me and he says, “I really enjoy you all’s music.” I thanked him, shook his hand and he says, “You know this is the first time I ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.” I was kind of surprised that he did not know the origin of that kind of music and I said, “Well, where do you think Jerry Lee Lewis learned how to play that kind of style?” He’s like, “Well, I don’t know.” I said, “He learned it from the same place I did. Black, blues, and boogie-woogie piano players.” That’s what that rockabilly, rock ‘n roll style came from.” He said, “Oh, no! Jerry Lee invented that. I ain’t ever heard no black man except for you play like that.” So I’m thinking this guy has never heard Fats Domino or Little Richard and then he says, “You know, this is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man?”

Daryl Davis first befriended a member of the Ku Klux Klan in a bar where he was performing. He says they bonded over liking the same type of music. Courtesy of Jonathan Timmes hide caption

Daryl Davis first befriended a member of the Ku Klux Klan in a bar where he was performing. He says they bonded over liking the same type of music.

Well, now I’m getting curious. I’m trying to figure out, now how is it that in my 25 years on the face of this earth that I have sat down, literally, with thousands of white people, had a beverage, a meal, a conversation or anybody else, and this guy is 15 to 20 years older than me and he’s never sat down with a black guy before and had a drink. I said, “How is that? Why?” At first, he didn’t answer me and he had a friend sitting next to him and he elbowed him and said, “Tell him, tell him, tell him,” and he finally said, “I’m a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”

On his reaction on hearing he was talking a member of the Klan

I just burst out laughing because I really did not believe him. I thought he was pulling my leg. As I was laughing, he pulled out his wallet, flipped through his credit cards and pictures and produced his Klan card and handed it to me. Immediately, I stopped laughing. I recognized the logo on there, the Klan symbol and I realized this was for real, this guy wasn’t joking. And now I’m wondering, why am I sitting by a Klansman?

But he was very friendly, it was the music that brought us together. He wanted me to call him and let him know anytime I was to return to this bar with this band. The fact that a Klansman and black person could sit down at the same table and enjoy the same music, that was a seed planted. So what do you do when you plant a seed? You nourish it. That was the impetus for me to write a book. I decided to go around the country and sit down with Klan leaders and Klan members to find out: How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?

On what he says to a Klansman

The best thing you do is you study up on the subject as much as you can. I went in armed, not with a weapon, but with knowledge. I knew as much about the Klan, if not more than many of the Klan people that I interviewed. When they see that you know about their organization, their belief system, they respect you. Whether they like you or not, they respect the fact that you’ve done your homework. Just like any good salesman, you want a return visit and they recognized that I’d done my homework, which allowed me to come back again.

That began to chip away at their ideology because when two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting. It’s when the talking ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence. If you spend five minutes with your worst enemy it doesn’t have to be about race, it could be about anything…you will find that you both have something in common. As you build upon those commonalities, you’re forming a relationship and as you build about that relationship, you’re forming a friendship. That’s what would happen. I didn’t convert anybody. They saw the light and converted themselves.

On what the Klansmen thought when he asked them why they hated him

Initially, they feel that if you’re not white, you are inferior. [They believe] that black people have smaller brains, we’re incapable of higher achievement. I’ll give you an example of one. This guy was an exalted cyclops sitting in my car in my passenger seat. He made the statement, which I’d heard before, “Well we all know that all black people have within them a gene that makes them violent.” I turned to him and I’m driving and I said, “Wait a minute. I’m as black as anybody you’ve ever seen. I have never done a carjacking or a driveby, how do you explain that?” He didn’t even pause to think about it. He said, “Your gene is latent. It hasn’t come out yet.”

So how do you argue with somebody who is that far out in left field? I was dumbfounded. I’m just driving along. He’s sitting over here all smug and secure, like “See you have no response?” And I thought about it for a minute. Then I used his point of reference. I said, “Well, we all know that all white people have a gene within them that makes them a serial killer.” He says, “What do you mean?” And I said,”Well, name me three black serial killers.” He thought about it he could not do it. I said, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy. All whites. I said, “Son, you are a serial killer.” He says “Daryl, I’ve never killed anybody.” I said, “Your gene is latent. It hasn’t come out yet.” He goes, “Well, that’s stupid!” I said, “Well, duh. Yes, but you know what, you’re right. What I said was stupid, but no more stupid than what you said you me.” Then he got very, very quiet and changed the subject. Five months later, based on that conversation he left the Klan. His robe was the first robe I ever got.

Matthew Schwartz produced the audio for this story. Wynne Davis adapted it for web.

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Disturbing photos of the modern-day Ku Klux Klan

The number of hate groups in the U.S. rose for a second straight year in 2016, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump,” the SPLC said in a February 2017 news release.

The Ku Klux Klan is the oldest American hate group, and while the number of active KKK chapters declined in 2016, members of the Klan are trying to regain ground. The SPLC estimates there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members nationwide, split between many factions.

Here, a member of the Ku Klux Klan salutes during American Nazi Party rally at Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge National Park in September 2004.

_________________________________________________

White supremacists have a new strategy to camouflage their rhetoric and enter the mainstream. Learn more on CBSN: On Assignment.

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Virginia priest steps down after revealing he was a Ku Klux …

A Catholic priest in Arlington, Va., is temporarily stepping down after revealing he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and burned crosses more than 40 years ago before joining the clergy.

In an editorial published Monday in the Arlington Catholic Herald, the Rev. William Aitcheson described himself as “an impressionable young man” when he became a member of the hate group. He wrote that images from the deadly white supremacist and white nationalist rally in Charlottesville “brought back memories of a bleak period in my life that I would have preferred to forget.”

“My actions were despicable,” wrote Aitcheson, 62. “When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else. It’s hard to believe that was me.”

In a statement, Catholic Diocese of Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge called Aitcheson’s past with the Ku Klux Klan “sad and deeply troubling.”

Aitcheson served with the Catholic church in Nevada before being transferred to Arlington, where he is originally from, church officials said in a statement. He was ordained in 1988 and has served in a variety of positions at parishes in Nevada; Arlington; Fredericksburg, Va.; and Woodstock, Md. His latest assignment was as parochial vicar, or assistant to the pastor, at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax City.

The Arlington diocese said Aitcheson would not be available for comment. Attempts to reach him Tuesday were unsuccessful.

According to a March 1977 story in The Washington Post, Aitcheson, then a 23-year-old University of Maryland student, was identified as an “exalted cyclops” of a KKK lodge. He was charged in several cross-burnings in Prince George’s County, Md., and other counts, including making bomb threats and manufacturing pipe bombs.

According to the 1977 Post story, state police in Maryland said Aitcheson was a leader of the Robert E. Lee Lodge of the Maryland Knights of the KKK, which had planned to recruit people to blow up facilities at Fort Meade near Laurel.

When officers searched his home in the 1970s, they found 9pounds of black powder, weapons and bomb parts in Aitcheson’s bedroom and basement. His parents told authorities they didn’t know the explosives and weapons were in their home.

At the time of his arrest, Aitcheson’s father, William W. Aitcheson, said his son was a member of the hate group, adding, “My son, along with others, are just caught up in it. … I don’t know what their thoughts are.”

Aitcheson pleaded guilty to several cross burnings, including one in the front yard of an African-American family in the College Park Woods neighborhood and others at B’nai B’rith Hillel at the University of Maryland and the Beth Torah Congregation in Hyattsville. He was convicted and sentenced to 90 days, and ordered to pay a judgment of about $20,000.

The African-American couple, who were newlyweds at the time of the incident, declined to talk Tuesday about the burning cross from 40 years ago. A woman who answered the door at their home said it was so long ago, and thinking about it would bring back difficult memories.

Five years after Aitcheson’s involvement in the cross-burning incident at their home, President Ronald Reagan visited the couple and their young daughter, saying the incident “is not something that should have happened in America,” according to a May 4, 1982, article in the Post.

Aitcheson also pleaded guilty to charges that he threatened to kill Coretta King, the widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. He told a U.S. District Court judge that he wrote to King in February 1976, telling her to “stay off the University of Maryland campus or you will die.” According to a Post story, investigators said he wrote “Africa or death by lynching, take your pick, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” He was a University of Maryland. student studying broadcasting at the time.

Aitcheson was described in a 1977 Post article as “speaking calmly, with his head bowed slightly” at a hearing on the King case. He told a judge he was pleading guilty because “well, ah, because I’m guilty.” He also faced charges in Maryland’s Howard and Carroll counties of illegal possession of firearms and manufacturing explosives.

He was convicted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore of mailing threatening communications. A judge sentenced him to 60 days in prison and four years of probation.

In his editorial published this week, Aitcheson apologized and said the recent violence in Charlottesville prompted him to share information about his past. He called the images from Charlottesville “embarrassing,” adding that “for those who have repented from a damaging and destructive past, the images should bring us to our knees in prayer.”

Aitcheson went on: “Racists have polluted minds, twisted by an ideology that reinforces the false belief that they are superior to others.” Aitcheson also wrote that “the irony that” he “left an anti-Catholic hate group to rejoin the Catholic Church is not lost on me.”

“It is a reminder of the radical transformation possible through Jesus Christ in his mercy,” he wrote.

Billy Atwell, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, said the diocese had received information about Aitcheson’s history when he was accepted for ministry under Bishop John Keating. He didn’t provide details on what information was known.

Aitcheson attended seminary at the North American College in Rome from 1984 to 1988, according to the diocese.

Atwell said he didn’t know if a criminal-background check was conducted when Aitcheson came to the Arlington diocese in 1993, although he said more in-depth background reviews have been done routinely on staff and priests since the mid-2000s.

Since the mid-2000’s “all staff and clergy have had in-depth background checks” under policies of the Virginia State Police, according to Atwell. The checks are also done using a national criminal check system of the FBI and fingerprinting tracking databases. It wasn’t clear if his criminal record would have eliminated his ability to become a priest, either in Nevada or Virginia.

Atwell said Tuesday that Aitcheson’s “story of repentance is authentic.”

Al Leightley, head usher at Saint Leo the Great, said Aitcheson never discussed his past involvement with the KKK. Leightley found out about his past Tuesday morning, but said Aitcheson repented appropriately in his Monday letter.

“He is a very good priest, very dedicated to his profession,” he said. “It’s hard to see all the commotion going on with the gentleman.”

Some public Catholic figures began speaking out on Aitcheson on Tuesday, including conservative legal scholar Matthew Franck, a Princeton University lecturer.

“I hope this evidently good man returns to active ministry,” Franck tweeted. “He could do important work, especially with his history.”

On the diocese’s Facebook page, multiple supporters of the priest praised his decision to go public, and called him a gifted pastor. “A true story of redemption. May God continue to work in and through Fr. Aitcheson,” one wrote.

In a phone interview, Franck said, “Sometimes people get involved in a hate group and then have been reborn, and have an interesting story to tell. … It would be a loss for him to just vanish.”

A note at the bottom of Aitcheson’s editorial on Monday said he had “voluntarily asked to step away from public ministry, for the well being of the Church and parish community.”

Burbidge said “there have been no accusations of racism or bigotry against [Aitcheson] at the Arlington diocese during his time.” He said Aitcheson’s request to step away from public ministry was approved.

The Washington Post’s Peter Hermann, Ellie Silverman, Justin Jouvenal and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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Priest urges haters to repent; reveals his Ku Klux Klan past …

McLEAN, Va. Forty years ago he was a Ku Klux Klan “wizard,” burning crosses on black families’ lawns. Now, after decades as a Catholic priest, he’s coming forward about his past.

While Father William Aitcheson’s racist past was a matter of public record, it wasn’t widely known in the diocese of Arlington, until this week. Prompted by images of violence during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Aitcheson described his transformation in a column published Monday in The Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper, and urged white supremacists to repent.

“While I firmly believe God forgave me — as he forgives anyone who repents and asks for forgiveness — forgetting what I did would be a mistake,” wrote Aitcheson, who is taking a leave of absence from active ministry. “My actions were despicable. When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else.”

Aitcheson, 62, said 40 years have passed since he was in the Klan, but the violence he saw last week compelled him to describe his journey.

The diocese noted that Aitcheson “voluntarily asked to temporarily step away from public ministry, for the well being of the Church and parish community.”

In a statement, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge called Aitcheson’s past with the Klan troubling, but said he hopes his story of transformation will help others.

“I pray that in our current political and social climate his message will reach those who support hate and division, and inspire them to a conversion of heart,” Burbidge wrote.

Aitcheson was ordained as a priest in 1988 by the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas, and has been assigned to the Arlington Diocese since 1993, most recently serving as parochial vicar an assistant pastor at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax.

In his article, Aitcheson wrote that his membership in the Klan is public information, but rarely comes up.

Indeed, Aitcheson was convicted on criminal charges in 1977 after the cross-burnings, one of which drew a response from President Ronald Reagan years later.

Articles from the Associated Press archives show that Aitcheson was arrested in 1977, when, as a student at the University of Maryland, authorities identified him as the “wizard” of a 12-member KKK lodge.

He was charged in state and federal court with multiple cross-burnings, and a threat to kill Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. He was convicted and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

Five years later, a judge ordered Aitcheson to pay $23,000 in damages to Philip and Barbara Butler, who were victimized by one of Aitcheson’s cross-burnings after they moved into a mostly white neighborhood in College Park, Maryland.

That prompted the visit from Reagan, who sought to reassure the Butlers that the racist attack was not representative of most Americans’ views.

Diocese spokesman Billy Atwell said Tuesday the diocese knew about Aitcheson’s past with the Klan when he arrived in 1993, but “just learned this weekend about the civil suit from 40 years ago and will be working with Fr. Aitcheson to ensure he meets all of his legal and moral obligations to make restitution.”

The diocese said Aitcheson was declining interview requests. Atwell said the diocese is confident that Aitcheson’s change of heart all those years ago was sincere, “evidenced, in part, by the fact that we have had no accusation of racism while ministering.”

In his column, Aitcheson urges white supremacists to take a different path and seek forgiveness.

“You will find no fulfillment in this ideology,” he wrote. “Your hate will never be satisfied and your anger will never subside.”

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Wisconsin Saw Its First Ku Klux Klan Activity In 1920s – Wisconsin Public Radio News


Wisconsin Public Radio News
Wisconsin Saw Its First Ku Klux Klan Activity In 1920s
Wisconsin Public Radio News
Recent white nationalist events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and elsewhere have led many states, cities and institutions to reevaluate their own history, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which was once home to Ku Klux Klan student groups.
Ku Klux Klan leader warns there could be more violence in USSky News
Ku Klux Klan leader Thomas Robb says there could be more violence after CharlottesvilleInternational Business Times UK

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Wisconsin Saw Its First Ku Klux Klan Activity In 1920s – Wisconsin Public Radio News

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Spreckels Theatre Company cancels play with a Ku Klux Klan theme – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

(1 of ) Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park (SPRECKELS PERFOMING ARTS CENTER/ FACEBOOK) (2 of ) Sheri Lee Miller (COURTESY PHOTO)

DAN TAYLOR

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | August 22, 2017, 1:31PM

| Updated 11 minutes ago.

The repercussions following the Aug. 12 clash between white nationalist protesters and counterdemonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, have reached the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park.

The theaters season-opening production of The Foreigner, a 1984 farce by the late Larry Shue featuring actors in Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods has been canceled by Sheri Lee Miller, the recently appointed new supervisor of the center and director of the Spreckels Theatre Company.

The show, originally scheduled to open Sept. 8, already had been cast and the production was in rehearsals when Miller decided to pull the show from the theaters schedule. There was no outside pressure, and only one person from the community had voiced concern about the production, Miller said.

My whole decision is based on my own feelings. It was my decision alone, she said. The whole climax of the play is these actors coming onstage in Klan robes. I felt this was not the time to treat domestic terrorism lightly.

I heard from absolutely no one in the city government of Rohnert Park prior to my decision, other than for them to say, Its completely up to you. Thats why they hired me is to make these decisions.

Comments posted on the Spreckels Performing Arts Center Facebook page were overwhelmingly supportive of her decision, she said.

Sebastopol actor Tice Allison, who was cast as a Klan leader in the play, said he was disappointed by the cancellation, which he termed a concession to the grievance industry, political correctness and selective moral outrage.

After four weeks of rehearsal the cast should have been allowed to portray the characters they were bringing to life from the playwrights script, he said. To deal with possible controversy, the theater could have written advisories warning the audience about the plays content, or hosted audience discussions before or after performances.

Had the show been canceled before our first rehearsal that would have been one thing, but we were right in the middle of it, Allison said. The rug was pulled out from under us. Why not let this play happen?

Miller said she consulted local theater critic Harry Duke, who reviews theater for the Sonoma County Gazette, the forallevents.com website, and KSRO and KRCB radio. Duke had expressed discomfort after seeing a Cloverdale Center for the Performing Arts production of The Foreigner, which ended its scheduled run the weekend of the Charlottesville rally, in which a 32-year-old woman was killed and two Virginia State Police officers died in a helicopter crash. Duke said he had enjoyed a Contra Costa production of The Foreigner two years ago, but found the play disturbing now in light of the Charlottesville events.

The Foreigner is a light, airy comedy, but after what happened in Charlottesville, I was stunned when the stage was overrun with actors in the robes and hoods of the Klan, he said. It just felt wrong to me.

Duke said discussion of the cancellation on several local theater websites and Facebook pages has been generally civil.

The Foreigner, and the rest of the Spreckels 2017-2018 theater season, had already been scheduled by Millers predecessor, supervisor and director Gene Abravaya, before his retirement last June. In the play, an Englishman staying at a resort in rural Georgia becomes aware of a plot to turn the lodge into a meeting place for the Klan.

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Spreckels Theatre Company cancels play with a Ku Klux Klan theme – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

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Priest takes leave after disclosing past in the Ku Klux Klan – Paradise Post

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) A Virginia priest is taking a leave of absence after disclosing he once was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Father William Aitcheson, a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, wrote about his past Klan affiliation Monday in The Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocese’s newspaper.

The 62-year-old Aitcheson said that 40 years have passed since he was in the Klan.

He apologized for his participation and said the images from this month’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville reminded him of a period in his life he’d prefer to forget.

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In a statement, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge called Aitcheson’s past with the Klan troubling, but said he hopes his story will help others turn away from hate.

Aitcheson had been serving at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax.

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‘My actions were despicable’: Catholic priest steps down after revealing he was a Ku Klux Klan member decades ago – Washington Post

A Catholic priest in Arlington, Va., is temporarily stepping down after revealing he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and burned crosses more than 40 years ago before joining the clergy.

In an editorial published Monday in the Arlington Catholic Herald, the Rev. William Aitcheson describedhimself as an impressionable young man when he became a member of the hate group. He wrote that images from the deadly white supremacist and white nationalist rally in Charlottesville brought back memories of a bleak period in my life that I would have preferred to forget.

My actions were despicable, wrote Aitcheson, 62. When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else. Its hard to believe that was me.

In a statement, Catholic Diocese of Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge called Aitchesons past with the Ku Klux Klan sad and deeply troubling.

Aitcheson served with the Catholic church in Nevadabefore being transferred to Arlington, where he is originally from, church officials said in a statement. He was ordained in 1988 and has served in a variety of positions at parishes in Nevada; Arlington; Fredericksburg, Va.; and Woodstock, Md. His latest assignment was as parochial vicar, or assistant to the pastor, at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax City.

The Arlington diocese said Aitcheson would not be available for comment. Attempts to reach him Tuesday were unsuccessful.

According to a March 1977 story in The Washington Post, Aitcheson, then a 23-year-old University of Maryland student, was identified as an exalted cyclops of a KKK lodge. He was charged in several cross-burnings in Prince Georges County, Md., and other counts, including making bomb threats and manufacturing pipe bombs.

[From 1977: Maryland student charged in 6 cross burnings]

According to the 1977 Post story, state police in Maryland said Aitcheson was a leader of the Robert E. Lee Lodge of the Maryland Knights of the KKK, which had planned to recruit people to blow up facilities at Fort Meade near Laurel.

When officers searched his home in the 1970s,they found nine pounds of black powder, weapons and bomb parts in Aitchesons bedroom and basement. His parents told authorities they didnt know the explosives and weapons were in their home.

At the time of his arrest, Aitchesons father, William W. Aitcheson, said his son was a member of the hate group, adding, My son, along with others, are just caught up in it. I dont know what their thoughts are.

Aitcheson pleaded guilty to several cross burnings, including one in the front yard of an African American family in the College Park Woods neighborhood and others at Bnai Brith Hillel at the University of Maryland and the Beth Torah Congregation in Hyattsville. He was convicted and sentenced to 90 days, and ordered to pay a judgment of about$20,000.

The African American couple, who were newlyweds at the time of the incident, declined to talk Tuesday about the burning cross from 40 years ago. A woman who answered the door at their Silver Spring home said it was so long ago, and thinking about it would bring backdifficult memories.

Five years after Aitchesons involvement in the cross-burning incident at their home, President Ronald Reagan visited the couple and their young daughter, saying the incident is not something that should have happened in America, according to a May 4, 1982, article in the Post.

[A Familys Long Ordeal]

Aitcheson also pleaded guilty to charges that hethreatened to kill Coretta King, the widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Hetold a U.S. District Court judge that he wrote to King in February 1976, telling her to stay off the University of Maryland campus or you will die. According to a Post story, investigators said he wroteAfrica or death by lynching, take your pick, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Hewas a U-Md.student studying broadcasting at the time.

Aitcheson was described in a 1977 Post article as speaking calmly, with his head bowed slightly at a hearing on the King case. He told a judge he was pleading guilty because well, ah, because Im guilty. He also faced charges in Marylands Howard and Carroll counties of illegal possession of firearms and manufacturing explosives.

He was convicted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore of mailing threatening communications. A judge sentenced him to 60 days in prison and four years of probation.

In his editorial published this week, Aitcheson apologized and said the recent violence in Charlottesville prompted him to share information abouthis past. Hecalled the images from Charlottesville embarrassing, adding that for those who have repented from a damaging and destructive past, the images should bring us to our knees in prayer.

[Recounting a day of rage, hate, violence and death]

Aitcheson went on: Racists have polluted minds, twisted by an ideology that reinforces the false belief that they are superior to others. Aitcheson alsowrote that the irony that he left an anti-Catholic hate group to rejoin the Catholic Church is not lost on me.

It is a reminder of the radical transformation possible through Jesus Christ in his mercy, he wrote.

Billy Atwell, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, said the diocese had received information about Aitchesons history when he was accepted for ministry under Bishop John Keating. He didnt provide details on what information was known.

Aitcheson attended seminary at the North American College in Rome from 1984 to 1988, according to the diocese.

Atwell said he didnt know if a criminal-background check wasconducted when Aitcheson came to the Arlington diocese in 1993, although he said more in-depth background reviews have been done routinely on staff and priests since the mid-2000s.

Since the mid-2000s all staff and clergy have had in-depth background checks under policies of the Virginia State Police, according to Atwell. The checks are also done using a national criminal check system of the FBI and fingerprinting tracking databases. It wasnt clear if his criminal record would have eliminated his ability to become a priest, either in Nevada or Virginia.

Atwell said Tuesday that Aitchesons story of repentance is authentic.

Al Leightley, head usher at Saint Leo the Great, said Aitcheson never discussed his past involvement with the KKK. Leightley found out about hispast Tuesday morning, but saidAitchesonrepented appropriately in his Monday letter.

He is a very good priest, very dedicated to his profession, he said. Its hard to see all the commotion going on with the gentleman.

Some public Catholic figures began speaking out on Aitcheson on Tuesday, including conservative legal scholar Matthew Franck, a Princeton University lecturer.

I hope this evidently good man returns to active ministry, Franck tweeted. He could do important work, especially with his history.

On the dioceses Facebook page, multiple supporters of the priest praised his decision to go public, and called him a gifted pastor. A true story of redemption. May God continue to work in and through Fr. Aitcheson, one wrote.

In a phone interview, Franck said, Sometimes people get involved in a hate group and then have been reborn, and have an interesting story to tell It would be a loss for him to just vanish.

A note at the bottom of Aitchesons editorial on Monday said he had voluntarily asked to step away from public ministry, for the well being of the Church and parish community.

Burbidge said there have been no accusations of racism or bigotry against [Aitcheson] at the Arlington diocese during his time. He said Aitchesons request to step away from public ministry was approved.

Peter Hermann, Ellie Silverman, Justin Jouvenal and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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‘My actions were despicable’: Catholic priest steps down after revealing he was a Ku Klux Klan member decades ago – Washington Post

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Ku Klux Klan – Wikipedia for Schools

About this schools Wikipedia selection SOS Children have produced a selection of wikipedia articles for schools since 2005. SOS Child sponsorship is cool! 1The current version had some 152 independent chapters as of 2010. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically expressed through terrorism. Since the mid-20th century, the KKK has also been anti-communist. The current manifestation is splintered into several chapters with no connections between each other; it is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Centre. It is estimated to have between 5,000 and 8,000 members as of 2012. The first Klan flourished in the Southern United States in the late 1860s, then died out by the early 1870s. Members adopted white costumes: robes, masks, and conical hats, designed to be outlandish and terrifying, and to hide their identities. The second KKK flourished nationwide in the early and mid-1920s, and adopted the same costumes and code words as the first Klan, while introducing cross burnings. The third KKK emerged after World War II and was associated with opposing the Civil Rights Movement and progress among minorities. The second and third incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan made frequent reference to the USA’s ” Anglo-Saxon” blood, harking back to 19th-century nativism and claiming descent from the original 18th-century British colonial revolutionaries. The first Klan was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, by six veterans of the Confederate Army. The name is probably from the Greek word kuklos ( ) which means circle, suggesting a circle or band of brothers. Although there was no organizational structure above the local level, similar groups arose across the South adopted the same name and methods. Klan groups spread throughout the South as an insurgent movement during the Reconstruction era in the United States. As a secret vigilante group, the Klan targeted freedmen and their allies; it sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against black and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871, the federal government passed the Force Acts, which were used to prosecute Klan crimes. Prosecution of Klan crimes and enforcement of the Force Acts suppressed Klan activity. In 1874 and later, however, newly organized and openly active paramilitary organizations, such as the White League and the Red Shirts, started a fresh round of violence aimed at suppressing blacks’ voting and running Republicans out of office. These contributed to segregationist white Democrats regaining political power in all the Southern states by 1877. In 1915, the second Klan was founded in Atlanta, Georgia. Starting in 1921, it adopted a modern business system of recruiting (which paid most of the initiation fee and costume charges as commissions to the organizers) and grew rapidly nationwide at a time of prosperity. Reflecting the social tensions of urban industrialization and vastly increased immigration, its membership grew most rapidly in cities, and spread out of the South to the Midwest and West. The second KKK preached “One Hundred Percent Americanism” and demanded the purification of politics, calling for strict morality and better enforcement of prohibition. Its official rhetoric focused on the threat of the Catholic Church, using anti-Catholicism and nativism. Its appeal was directed exclusively at white Protestants. Some local groups took part in attacks on private houses and carried out other violent activities. The violent episodes were generally in the South. The second Klan was a formal fraternal organization, with a national and state structure. At its peak in the mid-1920s, the organization claimed to include about 15% of the nation’s eligible population, approximately 45 million men. Internal divisions, criminal behaviour by leaders, and external opposition brought about a collapse in membership, which had dropped to about 30,000 by 1930. It finally faded away in the 1940s. Klan organizers also operated in Canada, especially in Saskatchewan in 1926-28, where members of the Klan attacked immigrants from Eastern Europe. The “Ku Klux Klan” name was used by many independent local groups opposing the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, they often forged alliances with Southern police departments, as in Birmingham, Alabama; or with governor’s offices, as with George Wallace of Alabama. Several members of KKK groups were convicted of murder in the deaths of civil rights workers and children in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Today, researchers estimate that there may be 150 Klan chapters with upwards of 5,000 members nationwide. Today, many sources classify the Klan as a “subversive or terrorist organization”. In April 1997, FBI agents arrested four members of the True Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Dallas for conspiracy to commit robbery and to blow up a natural gas processing plant. In 1999, the city council of Charleston, South Carolina passed a resolution declaring the Klan to be a terrorist organization. In 2004, a professor at the University of Louisville began a campaign to have the Klan declared a terrorist organization in order to ban it from campus. Six well-educated Confederate veterans from Pulaski, Tennessee created the original Ku Klux Klan on December 24, 1865, during the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War. The name was formed by combining the Greek kyklos (, circle) with clan. The group was known for a short time as the “Kuklux Clan”. The Ku Klux Klan was one among a number of secret, oath-bound organizations using violence, including the Southern Cross in New Orleans (1865) and the Knights of the White Camelia (1867) in Louisiana. Historians generally see the KKK as part of the post Civil War insurgent violence related not only to the high number of veterans in the population, but also to their effort to control the dramatically changed social situation by using extrajudicial means to restore white supremacy. In 1866, Mississippi Governor William L. Sharkey reported that disorder, lack of control and lawlessness were widespread; in some states armed bands of Confederate soldiers roamed at will. The Klan used public violence against blacks as intimidation. They burned houses, and attacked and killed blacks, leaving their bodies on the roads. At an 1867 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Klan members gathered to try to create a hierarchical organization with local chapters eventually reporting up to a national headquarters. Since most of the Klan’s members were veterans, they were used to the hierarchical structure of the organization, but the Klan never operated under this centralized structure. Local chapters and bands were highly independent. Former Confederate Brigadier General George Gordon developed the Prescript, or Klan dogma. The Prescript suggested elements of white supremacist belief. For instance, an applicant should be asked if he was in favour of “a white man’s government”, “the reenfranchisement and emancipation of the white men of the South, and the restitution of the Southern people to all their rights.” The latter is a reference to the Ironclad Oath, which stripped the vote from white persons who refused to swear that they had not borne arms against the Union. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest became Grand Wizard, claiming to be the Klan’s national leader. In an 1868 newspaper interview, Forrest stated that the Klan’s primary opposition was to the Loyal Leagues, Republican state governments, people like Tennessee governor Brownlow and other carpetbaggers and scalawags. He argued that many southerners believed that blacks were voting for the Republican Party because they were being hoodwinked by the Loyal Leagues. One Alabama newspaper editor declared “The League is nothing more than a nigger Ku Klux Klan.” Despite Gordon’s and Forrest’s work, local Klan units never accepted the Prescript and continued to operate autonomously. There were never hierarchical levels or state headquarters. Klan members used violence to settle old feuds and local grudges, as they worked to restore white dominance in the disrupted postwar society. The historian Elaine Frantz Parsons describes the membership: Lifting the Klan mask revealed a chaotic multitude of antiblack vigilante groups, disgruntled poor white farmers, wartime guerrilla bands, displaced Democratic politicians, illegal whiskey distillers, coercive moral reformers, sadists, rapists, white workmen fearful of black competition, employers trying to enforce labor discipline, common thieves, neighbors with decades-old grudges, and even a few freedmen and white Republicans who allied with Democratic whites or had criminal agendas of their own. Indeed, all they had in common, besides being overwhelmingly white, southern, and Democratic, was that they called themselves, or were called, Klansmen. Historian Eric Foner observed: In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired restoration of white supremacy. Its purposes were political, but political in the broadest sense, for it sought to affect power relations, both public and private, throughout Southern society. It aimed to reverse the interlocking changes sweeping over the South during Reconstruction: to destroy the Republican party’s infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, reestablish control of the black labor force, and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern life. To that end they worked to curb the education, economic advancement, voting rights, and right to keep and bear arms of blacks. The Ku Klux Klan soon spread into nearly every southern state, launching a ” reign of terror against Republican leaders both black and white. Those political leaders assassinated during the campaign included Arkansas Congressman James M. Hinds, three members of the South Carolina legislature, and several men who served in constitutional conventions.” Klan members adopted masks and robes that hid their identities and added to the drama of their night rides, their chosen time for attacks. Many of them operated in small towns and rural areas where people otherwise knew each other’s faces, and sometimes still recognized the attackers. “The kind of thing that men are afraid or ashamed to do openly, and by day, they accomplish secretly, masked, and at night.” With this method both the high and the low could be attacked. The Ku Klux Klan night riders “sometimes claimed to be ghosts of Confederate soldiers so, as they claimed, to frighten superstitious blacks. Few freedmen took such nonsense seriously.” The Klan attacked black members of the Loyal Leagues and intimidated southern Republicans and Freedmen’s Bureau workers. When they killed black political leaders, they also took heads of families, along with the leaders of churches and community groups, because these people had many roles in society. Agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau reported weekly assaults and murders of blacks. “Armed guerrilla warfare killed thousands of Negroes; political riots were staged; their causes or occasions were always obscure, their results always certain: ten to one hundred times as many Negroes were killed as whites.” Masked men shot into houses and burned them, sometimes with the occupants still inside. They drove successful black farmers off their land. “Generally, it can be reported that in North and South Carolina, in 18 months ending in June 1867, there were 197 murders and 548 cases of aggravated assault.” Klan violence worked to suppress black voting. More than 2,000 persons were killed, wounded and otherwise injured in Louisiana within a few weeks prior to the Presidential election of November 1868. Although St. Landry Parish had a registered Republican majority of 1,071, after the murders, no Republicans voted in the fall elections. White Democrats cast the full vote of the parish for Grant’s opponent. The KKK killed and wounded more than 200 black Republicans, hunting and chasing them through the woods. Thirteen captives were taken from jail and shot; a half-buried pile of 25 bodies was found in the woods. The KKK made people vote Democratic and gave them certificates of the fact. In the April 1868 Georgia gubernatorial election, Columbia County cast 1,222 votes for Republican Rufus Bullock. By the November presidential election, however, Klan intimidation led to suppression of the Republican vote and only one person voted for Ulysses S. Grant. Klansmen killed more than 150 African Americans in a county in Florida, and hundreds more in other counties. Freedmen’s Bureau records provided a detailed recounting of Klansmen’s beatings and murders of freedmen and their white allies. Milder encounters also occurred. In Mississippi, according to the Congressional inquiry: One of these teachers (Miss Allen of Illinois), whose school was at Cotton Gin Port in Monroe County, was visited … between one and two o’clock in the morning on March 1871, by about fifty men mounted and disguised. Each man wore a long white robe and his face was covered by a loose mask with scarlet stripes. She was ordered to get up and dress which she did at once and then admitted to her room the captain and lieutenant who in addition to the usual disguise had long horns on their heads and a sort of device in front. The lieutenant had a pistol in his hand and he and the captain sat down while eight or ten men stood inside the door and the porch was full. They treated her “gentlemanly and quietly” but complained of the heavy school-tax, said she must stop teaching and go away and warned her that they never gave a second notice. She heeded the warning and left the county. By 1868, two years after the Klan’s creation, its activity was beginning to decrease. Members were hiding behind Klan masks and robes as a way to avoid prosecution for freelance violence. Many influential southern Democrats feared that Klan lawlessness provided an excuse for the federal government to retain its power over the South, and they began to turn against it. There were outlandish claims made, such as Georgian B. H. Hill stating “that some of these outrages were actually perpetrated by the political friends of the parties slain.” Union Army veterans in mountainous Blount County, Alabama, organized “the anti-Ku Klux”. They put an end to violence by threatening Klansmen with reprisals unless they stopped whipping Unionists and burning black churches and schools. Armed blacks formed their own defense in Bennettsville, South Carolina and patrolled the streets to protect their homes. National sentiment gathered to crack down on the Klan, even though some Democrats at the national level questioned whether the Klan really existed or believed that it was just a creation of nervous Southern Republican governors. Many southern states began to pass anti-Klan legislation. In January 1871, Pennsylvania Republican Senator John Scott convened a Congressional committee which took testimony from 52 witnesses about Klan atrocities. They accumulated 12 volumes of horrifying testimony. In February, former Union General and Congressman Benjamin Franklin Butler of Massachusetts introduced the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Ku Klux Klan Act). This added to the enmity that southern white Democrats bore toward him. While the bill was being considered, further violence in the South swung support for its passage. The Governor of South Carolina appealed for federal troops to assist his efforts in keeping control of the state. A riot and massacre in a Meridian, Mississippi, courthouse were reported, from which a black state representative escaped only by taking to the woods. The 1871 Civil Rights Act allowed President Ulysses S. Grant to suspend Habeas Corpus. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant signed Butler’s legislation. The Ku Klux Klan Act was used by the Federal government together with the 1870 Force Act, another act that President Grant signed, to enforce the civil rights provisions for individuals under the constitution. Under the 1871 Klan Act, after the Klan refused to voluntarily dissolve, President Grant issued a suspension of Habeas Corpus, and sent Federal troops into 9 South Carolina counties. The Klansmen were arrested and prosecuted in Federal court. Judges Hugh Lennox Bond and George S. Bryan presided over the trial of Ku Klux Klan members in Columbia, South Carolina during December 1871. The defendants were sentenced to five years to three months incarceration with fines. More African Americans served on juries in Federal court than were selected for local or state juries, so they had a chance to participate in the process. In the crackdown, hundreds of Klan members were fined or imprisoned. Although Forrest boasted that the Klan was a nationwide organization of 550,000 men and that he could muster 40,000 Klansmen within five days’ notice, as a secret or ” invisible” group, it had no membership rosters, no chapters, and no local officers. It was difficult for observers to judge its actual membership. It had created a sensation by the dramatic nature of its masked forays and because of its many murders. In 1870 a federal grand jury determined that the Klan was a “terrorist organization”. It issued hundreds of indictments for crimes of violence and terrorism. Klan members were prosecuted, and many fled from areas that were under federal government jurisdiction, particularly in South Carolina. Many people not formally inducted into the Klan had used the Klan’s costume for anonymity, to hide their identities when carrying out acts of violence. Forrest ordered the Klan to disband in 1869, stating that it was “being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace”. Historian Stanley Horn writes “generally speaking, the Klan’s end was more in the form of spotty, slow, and gradual disintegration than a formal and decisive disbandment”. A reporter in Georgia wrote in January 1870, “A true statement of the case is not that the Ku Klux are an organized band of licensed criminals, but that men who commit crimes call themselves Ku Klux”. While people used the Klan as a mask for nonpolitical crimes, state and local governments seldom acted against them. African Americans were kept off juries. In lynching cases, all-white juries almost never indicted Ku Klux Klan members. When there was a rare indictment, juries were unlikely to vote for a conviction. In part, jury members feared reprisals from local Klansmen. Others may have agreed with lynching as a way of keeping dominance over black men. In many states, officials were reluctant to use black militia against the Klan out of fear that racial tensions would be raised. When Republican Governor of North Carolina William Woods Holden called out the militia against the Klan in 1870, it added to his unpopularity. Combined with violence and fraud at the polls, the Republicans lost their majority in the state legislature. Disaffection with Holden’s actions led to white Democratic legislators’ impeaching Holden and removing him from office, but their reasons were numerous. The Klan was destroyed in South Carolina and decimated throughout the rest of the South, where it had already been in decline. Attorney General Amos Tappan Ackerman led the prosecutions. In some areas, other local paramilitary organizations such as the White League, Red Shirts, saber clubs, and rifle clubs continued to intimidate and murder black voters. In 1874, organized white paramilitary groups were formed in the Deep South to replace the faltering Klan: the White League in Louisiana and the Red Shirts in Mississippi, North and South Carolina. They campaigned openly to turn Republicans out of office, intimidated and killed black voters, tried to disrupt organizing and suppressed black voting. They were out in force during the campaigns and elections of 1874 and 1876, contributing to the conservative Democrats regaining power in 1876, against a background of electoral violence. Shortly after, in United States v. Cruikshank (1875), the Supreme Court ruled that the Force Act of 1870 did not give the Federal government power to regulate private actions, but only those by state governments. The result was that as the century went on, African Americans were at the mercy of hostile state governments that refused to intervene against private violence and paramilitary groups. Whereas the number of indictments across the South was large, the number of cases leading to prosecution and sentencing was relatively small. The overloaded federal courts were not able to meet the demands of trying such a tremendous number of cases, a situation that led to selective pardoning. By late 1873 and 1874, most of the charges against Klansmen were dropped although new cases continued to be prosecuted for several more years. Most of those sentenced had either served their terms or had been pardoned by 1875. The Supreme Court of the United States eviscerated the Ku Klux Act in 1876 by ruling that the federal government could no longer prosecute individuals although states would be forced to comply with federal civil rights provisions. Republicans passed a second civil rights act (the Civil Rights Act of 1875) to grant equal access to public facilities and other housing accommodations regardless of race. Ironically, the Klan during this period served to further Northern reconstruction efforts, as Ku Klux violence provided the political climate needed to pass civil rights protections for blacks. Although the Ku Klux Act of 1871 dismantled the first Klan, Southern whites formed other, similar groups that kept blacks away from the polls through intimidation and physical violence. Reconstruction ended with the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes, who suspended the federal military occupation of the South; yet blacks still found themselves without the basic civil liberties that Congressional Republicans had sought to secure. In 1882, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Harris that the Klan Act was partially unconstitutional. It ruled that Congress’s power under the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend to the right to regulate against private conspiracies. Klan costumes, also called ” regalia”, disappeared by the early 1870s (Wade 1987, p.109). The fact that the Klan did not exist for decades was shown when Simmons’s 1915 recreation of the Klan attracted only two aging “former Reconstruction Klansmen.” All other members were new. By 1872, the Klan was broken as an organization. Nonetheless, the goals that the Klan had failed to achieve itself, such as suppressing suffrage for Southern blacks and driving a wedge between poor whites and blacks, were largely accomplished by the 1890s by militant Southern whites. Lynchings of African Americans, far from being ended by the Klan’s disintegration, instead peaked in 1892 with 161 deaths. Three events in 1915 acted as catalysts to the revival of the Klan: Director D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation glorified the original Klan. His film was based on the book and play The Clansman and the book The Leopard’s Spots, both by Thomas Dixon, Jr. Dixon said his purpose was “to revolutionize northern sentiment by a presentation of history that would transform every man in my audience into a good Democrat!” The film created a nationwide Klan craze. At the official premier in Atlanta, members of the Klan rode up and down the street in front of the theatre. Much of the modern Klan’s iconography, including the standardized white costume and the lighted cross, are derived from the film. Its imagery was based on Dixon’s romanticized concept of old England and Scotland, as portrayed in the novels and poetry of Sir Walter Scott. The film’s influence was enhanced by a purported endorsement by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner. A Hollywood press agent claimed that after seeing the film Wilson said, “It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” Historians doubt he said it. Wilson’s remarks generated controversy, and he tried to remain aloof. On April 30, his staff issued a denial. Wilson’s aide, Joseph Tumulty, said, “the President was entirely unaware of the nature of the play before it was presented and at no time has expressed his approbation of it.” The new Klan was inaugurated in 1915 by William J. Simmons on top of Stone Mountain. It was a small local organization until 1921. Simmons said he had been inspired by the original Klan’s Prescripts, written in 1867 by Confederate veteran George Gordon, but they were never adopted by the first Klan. The Second Klan saw threats from every direction. A religious tone was apparent in its activities; “two-thirds of the national Klan lecturers were Protestant ministers,” says historian Brian R. Farmer. Much of the Klan’s energy went to guarding “the home;” the historian Kathleen Bleeits said its members wanted to protect “the interests of white womanhood.” The second Klan arose during the nadir of American race relations, but much of its growth was in response to new issues of urbanization, immigration and industrialization. The massive immigration of Catholics and Jews from eastern and southern Europe led to fears among Protestants about the new peoples, and especially about job and social competition. The Great Migration of African Americans to the North stoked job and housing competition and racism by whites in Midwestern and Western industrial cities. The second Klan achieved its greatest political power in Indiana; it was active throughout the South, Midwest, especially Michigan; and in the West, in Colorado and Oregon. The migration of both African Americans and whites from rural areas to Southern and Midwestern cities increased social tensions. The Klan grew most rapidly in urbanizing cities that had high growth rates between 1910 and 1930, such as Detroit, Memphis, and Dayton in the Upper South and Midwest; and Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston in the South. In Michigan, more than half of the Klan members lived in Detroit, where they numbered 40,000; they were concerned about urban issues: limited housing, rapid social change, and competition for jobs with European immigrants and Southerners both black and white. Stanley Horn, a Southern historian sympathetic to the first Klan, was careful in an oral interview to distinguish it from the later “spurious Ku Klux organization which was in ill-reputeand, of course, had no connection whatsoever with the Klan of Reconstruction days”. In an era without Social Security or widely available life insurance, men joined fraternal organizations such as the Elks or the Woodmen of the World to provide for their families in case they died or were unable to work. The founder of the new Klan, William J. Simmons, was a member of twelve different fraternal organizations. He recruited for the Klan with his chest covered with fraternal badges, and consciously modeled the Klan after fraternal organizations. Klan organizers, called ” Kleagles”, signed up hundreds of new members, who paid initiation fees and bought KKK costumes. The organizer kept half the money and sent the rest to state or national officials. When the organizer was done with an area, he organized a huge rally, often with burning crosses, and perhaps presented a Bible to a local Protestant preacher. He left town with the money collected. The local units operated like many fraternal organizations and occasionally brought in speakers. The Klan’s growth was also affected by the mobilization for World War I and postwar tensions, especially in the cities, where strangers came up against each other more often and competed for housing and jobs. Southern whites resented the arming of black soldiers. Black veterans did not want to return to second-class status in the South. Some black veterans in the South were lynched while still in uniform, after returning from overseas service. Simmons initially met with little success in either recruiting members or in raising money, and the Klan remained a small operation in the Atlanta area until 1920, when he handed its day-to-day activities over to two professional publicists, Elizabeth Tyler and Edward Young Clarke. The revived Klan appealed to new members based on current social tensions, and stressed responses to fears raised by immigration and mass migrations within industrializing cities: it became anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant and later anti-Communist. It presented itself as a fraternal, nativist and strenuously patriotic organization; and its leaders emphasized support for vigorous enforcement of prohibition laws. It expanded membership dramatically; by the 1920s, most of its members lived in the Midwest and West. It had a national base by 1925. Religion was a major selling point. Baker argues that Klansmen seriously embraced Protestantism as an essential component of their white supremacist, anti-Catholic, and paternalistic formulation of American democracy and national culture. Their cross was a religious symbol, and their ritual honored Bibles and local ministers. However no nationally prominent religious leader said he was a Klan member. Historians agree that the Klan’s resurgence in the 1920s was aided by the national debate over prohibition. The historian Prendergast says that the KKKs “support for Prohibition represented the single most important bond between Klansmen throughout the nation”. The Klan opposed bootleggers, sometimes with violence. In 1922, two hundred Klan members set fire to saloons in Union County, Arkansas. The national Klan office was established in Dallas, Texas, but Little Rock, Arkansas was the home of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan. The first head of this auxiliary was a former president of the Arkansas WCTU. Membership in the Klan and in other prohibition groups overlapped, and they often coordinated activities. A significant characteristic of the second Klan was that it was an organization based in urban areas, reflecting the major shifts of population to cities in both the North and the South. In Michigan, for instance, 40,000 members lived in Detroit, where they made up more than half of the state’s membership. Most Klansmen were lower- to middle-class whites who were trying to protect their jobs and housing from the waves of newcomers to the industrial cities: immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, who tended to be Catholic and Jewish in numbers higher than earlier groups of immigrants; and black and white migrants from the South. As new populations poured into cities, rapidly changing neighborhoods created social tensions. Because of the rapid pace of population growth in industrializing cities such as Detroit and Chicago, the Klan grew rapidly in the U.S. Midwest. The Klan also grew in booming Southern cities such as Dallas and Houston. In the medium-size industrial city of Worcester, Massachusetts in the 1920s, the Klan ascended to power quickly but declined as a result of opposition from the Catholic Church. There was no violence and the local newspaper ridiculed Klansmen as “night-shirt knights”. Half of the members were Swedish American, including some first-generation immigrants. The ethnic and religious conflicts among more recent immigrants contributed to the rise of the Klan in the city. Swedish Protestants were struggling against Irish Catholics, who had been entrenched longer, for political and ideological control of the city. For some states, historians have obtained membership rosters of some local units and matched the names against city directory and local records to create statistical profiles of the membership. Big city newspapers were often hostile and ridiculed Klansmen as ignorant farmers. Detailed analysis from Indiana showed the rural stereotype was false for that state: Indiana’s Klansmen represented a wide cross section of society: they were not disproportionately urban or rural, nor were they significantly more or less likely than other members of society to be from the working class, middle class, or professional ranks. Klansmen were Protestants, of course, but they cannot be described exclusively or even predominantly as fundamentalists. In reality, their religious affiliations mirrored the whole of white Protestant society, including those who did not belong to any church. The Klan attracted people but most of them did not remain in the organization for long. Membership in the Klan turned over rapidly as people found out that it was not the group they wanted. Millions joined, and at its peak in the 1920s, the organization included about 15% of the nation’s eligible population. The lessening of social tensions contributed to the Klan’s decline. The second Klan adopted a burning Latin cross primarily as a symbol of intimidation. No such crosses had been used by the first Klan. It was also used as a symbol of Christian fellowship, and its lighting during meetings was steeped in Christian prayer, the singing of hymns, and other overtly religious symbolism. The practice of cross burning had been loosely based on ancient Scottish clans’ burning a St. Andrew’s cross (an X-shaped cross) as a beacon to muster forces for war. In The Clansman (see above), Dixon had falsely claimed that the first Klan had used fiery crosses when rallying to fight against Reconstruction. Griffith brought this image to the screen in The Birth of a Nation; he portrayed the burning cross as an upright Latin cross rather than the St. Andrew’s cross. Simmons adopted the symbol wholesale from the movie, prominently displaying it at the 1915 Stone Mountain meeting. The symbol has been associated with the Klan ever since. In 1921, in an attempt to gain a foothold in education, the Klan bought Lanier University, a struggling Baptist university in Atlanta. Nathan Bedford Forrest, grandson of the Confederate general by the same name, was appointed its business manager. The school was to teach “pure, 100 percent Americanism”. Enrollment was dismal, and the school closed after the first year of Klan ownership. By the 1920s, the KKK developed a women’s auxiliary, with chapters in many areas. Its activities included participation in parades, cross lighting, lectures, rallies, and boycotts of local businesses owned by Catholics and Jews. The Women’s Klan were active in promoting prohibition, stressing liquor’s negative impact on wives and children. Their efforts in public schools included distributing Bibles and working for the dismissal of Roman Catholic teachers. Texas would not hire Catholic teachers in public schools. As scandals rocked the Klan leadership late in the 1920s, the organization’s popularity among both men and women dropped off sharply. The members of the first Klan in the South were exclusively Democrats. The second Klan expanded with new chapters in the Midwest and West, where for a time, its members were courted by both Republicans and Democrats. The KKK state organizations endorsed candidates from either party that supported its goals; Prohibition in particular helped the Klan and some Republicans to make common cause in the Midwest. The Klan had numerous members in every part of the United States, but was particularly strong in the South and Midwest. At its peak, claimed Klan membership exceeded four million and comprised 20% of the adult white male population in many broad geographic regions, and 40% in some areas. The Klan also moved north into Canada, especially Saskatchewan, where it opposed Catholics. With expanded membership came election of Klan members to political office. In Indiana, members were chiefly American-born, white Protestants of many income and social levels. In the 1920s, Indiana had the most powerful Ku Klux Klan in the nation. It had a high number of members statewide (over 30% of its white male citizens), and in 1924 elected the Klan member Edward Jackson as governor. Given success in state and local elections, the Klan issue contributed to the bitterly divisive 1924 Democratic National Convention in New York City. The leading candidates were William Gibbs McAdoo, a Protestant with a base in areas where the Klan was strong, and New York Governor Al Smith, a Catholic with a base in the large cities. After weeks of stalemate, both candidates withdrew in favour of a compromise. Anti-Klan delegates proposed a resolution indirectly attacking the Klan; it was narrowly defeated. In some states, such as Alabama and California, KKK chapters had worked for political reform. In 1924, Klan members were elected to the city council in Anaheim, California. The city had been controlled by an entrenched commercial-civic elite that was mostly German American. Given their tradition of moderate social drinking, the German Americans did not strongly support prohibition lawsthe mayor had been a saloon keeper. Led by the minister of the First Christian Church, the Klan represented a rising group of politically oriented non-ethnic Germans who denounced the elite as corrupt, undemocratic and self-serving. The historian Christopher Cocoltchos says the Klansmen tried to create a model, orderly community. The Klan had about 1200 members in Orange County, California. The economic and occupational profile of the pro and anti-Klan groups shows the two were similar and about equally prosperous. Klan members were Protestants, as were most of their opponents, but the latter also included many Catholic Germans. Individuals who joined the Klan had earlier demonstrated a much higher rate of voting and civic activism than did their opponents. Cocoltchos suggests that many of the individuals in Orange County joined the Klan out of that sense of civic activism. The Klan representatives easily won the local election in Anaheim in April 1924. They fired known city employees who were Catholic and replaced them with Klan appointees. The new city council tried to enforce prohibition. After its victory, the Klan chapter held large rallies and initiation ceremonies over the summer. The opposition organized, bribed a Klansman for the secret membership list, and exposed the Klansmen running in the state primaries; they defeated most of the candidates. Klan opponents in 1925 took back local government, and succeeded in a special election in recalling the Klansmen who had been elected in April 1924. The Klan in Anaheim quickly collapsed, its newspaper closed after losing a libel suit, and the minister who led the local Klavern moved to Kansas. In the South, Klan members were still Democratic, as it was a one-party region for whites. Klan chapters were closely allied with Democratic police, sheriffs, and other functionaries of local government. Since disfranchisement of most African Americans and many poor whites around the start of the 20th century, the only political activity for whites took place within the Democratic Party. In Alabama, Klan members advocated better public schools, effective prohibition enforcement, expanded road construction, and other political measures to benefit lower-class white people. By 1925, the Klan was a political force in the state, as leaders such as J. Thomas Heflin, David Bibb Graves, and Hugo Black tried to build political power against the Black Belt planters, who had long dominated the state. In 1926, with Klan support, Bibb Graves won the Alabama governor’s office. He was a former Klan chapter head. He pushed for increased education funding, better public health, new highway construction, and pro-labor legislation. Because the Alabama state legislature refused to redistrict until 1972, and then under court order, the Klan was unable to break the planters’ and rural areas’ hold on legislative power. Scholars and biographers have recently examined Hugo Black’s Klan role. Ball finds regarding the KKK that Black “sympathized with the group’s economic, nativist, and anti-Catholic beliefs.” Newman says Black “disliked the Catholic Church as an institution” and gave over 100 anti-Catholic speeches in his 1926 election campaign to KKK meetings across Alabama. Black was elected US senator in 1926 as a Democrat. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 appointed Black to the Supreme Court without knowing how active in the Klan he had been in the 1920s. He was confirmed by his fellow Senators before the full KKK connection was known; Justice Black said he left the Klan when he became a senator. Many groups and leaders, including prominent Protestant ministers such as Reinhold Niebuhr in Detroit, spoke out against the Klan, gaining national attention. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League was formed in the early 20th century after the lynching of Leo Frank, and in response to attacks against Jewish Americans and the Klan’s campaign to outlaw private schools. Opposing groups worked to penetrate the Klan’s secrecy. After one civic group began to publish Klan membership lists, there was a rapid decline in members. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People created public education campaigns in order to inform people about Klan activities and lobbied in Congress against Klan abuses. After its peak in 1925, Klan membership in most areas began to decline rapidly. Specific events contributed to the decline as well. In Indiana, the scandal surrounding the 1925 murder trial of Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson destroyed the image of the KKK as upholders of law and order. By 1926 the Klan was “crippled and discredited.” D. C. Stephenson was the Grand Dragon of Indiana and 22 northern states. In 1923 he had led the states under his control to separate from the national KKK organization. In his 1925 trial, he was convicted for second degree murder for his part in the rape and subsequent death of Madge Oberholtzer. After Stephenson’s conviction, the Klan declined dramatically in Indiana. The historian Leonard Moore says that a failure in leadership caused the Klan’s collapse: Stephenson and the other salesmen and office seekers who maneuvered for control of Indiana’s Invisible Empire lacked both the ability and the desire to use the political system to carry out the Klan’s stated goals. They were uninterested in, or perhaps even unaware of, grass roots concerns within the movement. For them, the Klan had been nothing more than a means for gaining wealth and power. These marginal men had risen to the top of the hooded order because, until it became a political force, the Klan had never required strong, dedicated leadership. More established and experienced politicians who endorsed the Klan, or who pursued some of the interests of their Klan constituents, also accomplished little. Factionalism created one barrier, but many politicians had supported the Klan simply out of expedience. When charges of crime and corruption began to taint the movement, those concerned about their political futures had even less reason to work on the Klan’s behalf. By 1920 Klan membership in Alabama dropped to less than 6,000. Small independent units continued to be active in the industrial city of Birmingham. In the late 1940s and 1950s, members launched a reign of terror by bombing the homes of upwardly mobile African Americans. Activism by such independent KKK groups increased as a reaction against the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In Alabama, KKK vigilantes launched a wave of physical terror in 1927. They targeted both blacks and whites for violation of racial norms and for perceived moral lapses. This led to a strong backlash, beginning in the media. Grover C. Hall, Sr., editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, began publishing a series of editorials and articles that attacked the Klan for its “racial and religious intolerance”. Hall won a Pulitzer Prize for his crusade. Other newspapers kept up a steady, loud attack on the Klan, referring to the organization as violent and “un-American”. Sheriffs cracked down on activities. In the 1928 presidential election, the state voters overcame initial opposition to the Catholic candidate Al Smith, and voted the Democratic Party line as usual. Although in decline, a measure of the Klan’s influence was its march along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC in 1928. In southern cities such as Birmingham, Alabama, Klan members kept control of access to the better-paying industrial jobs and opposed unions. During the 1930s and 1940s, Klan leaders urged members to disrupt the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which advocated industrial unions and accepted African-American members, unlike earlier unions. With access to dynamite and using the skills from their jobs in mining and steel, in the late 1940s some Klan members in Birmingham used bombings in order to intimidate upwardly mobile blacks who moved into middle-class neighborhoods. “By mid-1949, there were so many charred house carcasses that the area [College Hills] was informally named Dynamite Hill.” Independent Klan groups remained active in Birmingham and violently opposed the Civil Rights Movement. In 1939, after years of the Great Depression, the Imperial Wizard Hiram Wesley Evans sold the national organization to James Colescott, an Indiana veterinarian, and Samuel Green, an Atlanta obstetrician. They could not revive the declining membership. In 1944, the IRS filed a lien for $685,000 in back taxes against the Klan, and Colescott dissolved the organization that year. Local Klan groups closed over the following years. Due in part to lynchings and Klan terror directed against them, from the early 1900s to 1940, 1.5 million blacks left the South in the Great Migration to northern and midwestern industrial cities. Many were recruited by expanding industries in the North, such as the Pennsylvania Railroad and industries in Chicago and Omaha. Although Southern violence had declined, better economic, education and voting opportunities in other areas attracted another 5 million blacks to migrate out of the South from 1940-1970, with many going to West Coast cities, a centre of defense industry jobs. After World War II, the folklorist and author Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Klan; he provided internal data to media and law enforcement agencies. He also provided secret code words to the writers of the Superman radio program, resulting in episodes in which Superman took on the KKK. Kennedy stripped away the Klan’s mystique and trivialized its rituals and code words, which may have contributed to the decline in Klan recruiting and membership. In the 1950s, Kennedy wrote a bestselling book about his experiences, which further damaged the Klan. The following table shows the change in the Klan’s estimated membership over time. (The years given in the table represent approximate time periods.) The name “Ku Klux Klan” began to be used by several independent groups. Beginning in the 1950s, for instance, individual Klan groups in Birmingham, Alabama, began to resist social change and blacks’ improving their lives by bombing houses in transitional neighborhoods. There were so many bombings in Birmingham of blacks’ homes by Klan groups in the 1950s that the city’s nickname was “Bombingham”. During the tenure of Bull Connor as police commissioner in the city, Klan groups were closely allied with the police and operated with impunity. When the Freedom Riders arrived in Birmingham, Connor gave Klan members fifteen minutes to attack the riders before sending in the police to quell the attack. When local and state authorities failed to protect the Freedom Riders and activists, the federal government established effective intervention. In states such as Alabama and Mississippi, Klan members forged alliances with governors’ administrations. In Birmingham and elsewhere, the KKK groups bombed the houses of civil rights activists. In some cases they used physical violence, intimidation and assassination directly against individuals. Many murders went unreported and were not prosecuted by local and state authorities. Continuing disfranchisement of blacks across the South meant that most could not serve on juries, which were all white. According to a report from the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta, the homes of 40 black Southern families were bombed during 1951 and 1952. Some of the bombing victims were social activists whose work exposed them to danger, but most were either people who refused to bow to racist convention or were innocent bystanders, unsuspecting victims of random violence. Among the more notorious murders by Klan members: There was also resistance to the Klan. In 1953, newspaper publisher W. Horace Carter received a Pulitzer prize for reporting on the activities of the Klan. In a 1958 incident in North Carolina, the Klan burned crosses at the homes of two Lumbee Native Americans who had associated with white people, and they threatened to return with more men. When the KKK held a nighttime rally nearby, they were quickly surrounded by hundreds of armed Lumbees. Gunfire was exchanged, and the Klan was routed at what became known as the Battle of Hayes Pond. While the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had paid informants in the Klan, for instance in Birmingham in the early 1960s, its relations with local law enforcement agencies and the Klan were often ambiguous. The head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, appeared more concerned about Communist links to civil rights activists than about controlling Klan excesses against citizens. In 1964, the FBI’s COINTELPRO program began attempts to infiltrate and disrupt civil rights groups. As 20th-century Supreme Court rulings extended federal enforcement of citizens’ civil rights, the government revived the Force Acts and the Klan Act from Reconstruction days. Federal prosecutors used these laws as the basis for investigations and indictments in the 1964 murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner; and the 1965 murder of Viola Liuzzo. They were also the basis for prosecution in 1991 in Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic. Once African Americans secured federal legislation to protect civil and voting rights, the KKK shifted its focus to opposing court-ordered busing to desegregate schools, affirmative action and more open immigration. In 1971, KKK members used bombs to destroy 10 school buses in Pontiac, Michigan. On November 3, 1979, five protesters were killed by KKK and American Nazi Party members in the Greensboro massacre in Greensboro, North Carolina. This incident was the culmination of attempts by the Communist Workers Party to organize industrial workers, predominantly black, in the area. Jerry Thompson, a newspaper reporter who infiltrated the KKK in 1979, reported that the FBI’s COINTELPRO efforts were highly successful. Rival KKK factions accused each other’s leaders of being FBI informants. Bill Wilkinson of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was revealed to have been working for the FBI. Thompson also related that KKK leaders who appeared indifferent to the threat of arrest showed great concern about a series of civil lawsuits filed by the Southern Poverty Law Centre for damages amounting to millions of dollars. These were filed after KKK members shot into a group of African Americans. Klansmen curtailed activities to conserve money for defense against the lawsuits. The KKK also used lawsuits as tools; they filed a libel suit to prevent publication of a paperback edition of Thompson’s book. In 1980, three KKK members shot four elderly black women (Viola Ellison, Lela Evans, Opal Jackson and Katherine Johnson) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, following a KKK initiation rally. A fifth woman, Fannie Crumsey, was injured by flying glass in the incident. Attempted murder charges were filed against the three KKK members, two of whomBill Church and Larry Paynewere acquitted by an all-white jury, and the other of whomMarshall Thrashwas sentenced by the same jury to nine months on lesser charges. He was released after three months. In 1982, a jury awarded the five women $535,000 in a civil rights trial. After Michael Donald was lynched in 1981 in Alabama, the FBI investigated his death and two local KKK members were convicted of having a role, including Henry Francis Hays, who was sentenced to death. With the support of attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph J. Levin of the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), Donald’s mother, Beulah Mae Donald, sued the KKK in civil court in Alabama. Her lawsuit against the United Klans of America was tried in February 1987. The all-white jury found the Klan responsible for the lynching of Donald and ordered the Klan to pay US$7 million. To pay the judgment, the KKK turned over all of its assets, including its national headquarters building in Tuscaloosa. After exhausting the appeals process, Hays was executed for Donald’s death in Alabama on June 6, 1997. It was the first time since 1913 that a white man had been executed in Alabama for a crime against an African American. In 1995, Don Black and Chlo Hardin, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke’s ex-wife, began a small bulletin board system (BBS) called Stormfront. Today, Stormfront has become a prominent online forum for white nationalism, Neo-Nazism, hate speech, racism, and antisemitism. Duke has an account on Stormfront which he uses to post articles from his own website, as well as polling forum members for opinions and questions, in particular during his internet broadcasts. Duke has worked with Don Black on numerous projects including Operation Red Dog in 1980.

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November 25, 2017   Posted in: Ku Klux Klan  Comments Closed

How One Man Convinced 200 Ku Klux Klan Members To Give Up …

For 30 years, Daryl Davis has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. He says 200 Klansmen have given up their robes after talking with him. Courtesy of Daryl Davis hide caption For 30 years, Daryl Davis has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. He says 200 Klansmen have given up their robes after talking with him. Daryl Davis is a blues musician, but he also has what some might call an interesting hobby. For the past 30 years, Davis, a black man, has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. He says once the friendship blossoms, the Klansmen realize that their hate may be misguided. Since Davis started talking with these members, he says 200 Klansmen have given up their robes. When that happens, Davis collects the robes and keeps them in his home as a reminder of the dent he has made in racism by simply sitting down and having dinner with people. On the first time he befriended a member of the Ku Klux Klan I was playing music it was my first time playing in this particular bar called the Silver Dollar Lounge and this white gentleman approached me and he says, “I really enjoy you all’s music.” I thanked him, shook his hand and he says, “You know this is the first time I ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.” I was kind of surprised that he did not know the origin of that kind of music and I said, “Well, where do you think Jerry Lee Lewis learned how to play that kind of style?” He’s like, “Well, I don’t know.” I said, “He learned it from the same place I did. Black, blues, and boogie-woogie piano players.” That’s what that rockabilly, rock ‘n roll style came from.” He said, “Oh, no! Jerry Lee invented that. I ain’t ever heard no black man except for you play like that.” So I’m thinking this guy has never heard Fats Domino or Little Richard and then he says, “You know, this is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man?” Daryl Davis first befriended a member of the Ku Klux Klan in a bar where he was performing. He says they bonded over liking the same type of music. Courtesy of Jonathan Timmes hide caption Daryl Davis first befriended a member of the Ku Klux Klan in a bar where he was performing. He says they bonded over liking the same type of music. Well, now I’m getting curious. I’m trying to figure out, now how is it that in my 25 years on the face of this earth that I have sat down, literally, with thousands of white people, had a beverage, a meal, a conversation or anybody else, and this guy is 15 to 20 years older than me and he’s never sat down with a black guy before and had a drink. I said, “How is that? Why?” At first, he didn’t answer me and he had a friend sitting next to him and he elbowed him and said, “Tell him, tell him, tell him,” and he finally said, “I’m a member of the Ku Klux Klan.” On his reaction on hearing he was talking a member of the Klan I just burst out laughing because I really did not believe him. I thought he was pulling my leg. As I was laughing, he pulled out his wallet, flipped through his credit cards and pictures and produced his Klan card and handed it to me. Immediately, I stopped laughing. I recognized the logo on there, the Klan symbol and I realized this was for real, this guy wasn’t joking. And now I’m wondering, why am I sitting by a Klansman? But he was very friendly, it was the music that brought us together. He wanted me to call him and let him know anytime I was to return to this bar with this band. The fact that a Klansman and black person could sit down at the same table and enjoy the same music, that was a seed planted. So what do you do when you plant a seed? You nourish it. That was the impetus for me to write a book. I decided to go around the country and sit down with Klan leaders and Klan members to find out: How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? On what he says to a Klansman The best thing you do is you study up on the subject as much as you can. I went in armed, not with a weapon, but with knowledge. I knew as much about the Klan, if not more than many of the Klan people that I interviewed. When they see that you know about their organization, their belief system, they respect you. Whether they like you or not, they respect the fact that you’ve done your homework. Just like any good salesman, you want a return visit and they recognized that I’d done my homework, which allowed me to come back again. That began to chip away at their ideology because when two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting. It’s when the talking ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence. If you spend five minutes with your worst enemy it doesn’t have to be about race, it could be about anything…you will find that you both have something in common. As you build upon those commonalities, you’re forming a relationship and as you build about that relationship, you’re forming a friendship. That’s what would happen. I didn’t convert anybody. They saw the light and converted themselves. On what the Klansmen thought when he asked them why they hated him Initially, they feel that if you’re not white, you are inferior. [They believe] that black people have smaller brains, we’re incapable of higher achievement. I’ll give you an example of one. This guy was an exalted cyclops sitting in my car in my passenger seat. He made the statement, which I’d heard before, “Well we all know that all black people have within them a gene that makes them violent.” I turned to him and I’m driving and I said, “Wait a minute. I’m as black as anybody you’ve ever seen. I have never done a carjacking or a driveby, how do you explain that?” He didn’t even pause to think about it. He said, “Your gene is latent. It hasn’t come out yet.” So how do you argue with somebody who is that far out in left field? I was dumbfounded. I’m just driving along. He’s sitting over here all smug and secure, like “See you have no response?” And I thought about it for a minute. Then I used his point of reference. I said, “Well, we all know that all white people have a gene within them that makes them a serial killer.” He says, “What do you mean?” And I said,”Well, name me three black serial killers.” He thought about it he could not do it. I said, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy. All whites. I said, “Son, you are a serial killer.” He says “Daryl, I’ve never killed anybody.” I said, “Your gene is latent. It hasn’t come out yet.” He goes, “Well, that’s stupid!” I said, “Well, duh. Yes, but you know what, you’re right. What I said was stupid, but no more stupid than what you said you me.” Then he got very, very quiet and changed the subject. Five months later, based on that conversation he left the Klan. His robe was the first robe I ever got. Matthew Schwartz produced the audio for this story. Wynne Davis adapted it for web.

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November 25, 2017   Posted in: Ku Klux Klan  Comments Closed

Disturbing photos of the modern-day Ku Klux Klan

The number of hate groups in the U.S. rose for a second straight year in 2016, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump,” the SPLC said in a February 2017 news release. The Ku Klux Klan is the oldest American hate group, and while the number of active KKK chapters declined in 2016, members of the Klan are trying to regain ground. The SPLC estimates there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members nationwide, split between many factions. Here, a member of the Ku Klux Klan salutes during American Nazi Party rally at Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge National Park in September 2004. _________________________________________________ White supremacists have a new strategy to camouflage their rhetoric and enter the mainstream. Learn more on CBSN: On Assignment.

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Ku Klux Klan  Comments Closed

Virginia priest steps down after revealing he was a Ku Klux …

A Catholic priest in Arlington, Va., is temporarily stepping down after revealing he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and burned crosses more than 40 years ago before joining the clergy. In an editorial published Monday in the Arlington Catholic Herald, the Rev. William Aitcheson described himself as “an impressionable young man” when he became a member of the hate group. He wrote that images from the deadly white supremacist and white nationalist rally in Charlottesville “brought back memories of a bleak period in my life that I would have preferred to forget.” “My actions were despicable,” wrote Aitcheson, 62. “When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else. It’s hard to believe that was me.” In a statement, Catholic Diocese of Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge called Aitcheson’s past with the Ku Klux Klan “sad and deeply troubling.” Aitcheson served with the Catholic church in Nevada before being transferred to Arlington, where he is originally from, church officials said in a statement. He was ordained in 1988 and has served in a variety of positions at parishes in Nevada; Arlington; Fredericksburg, Va.; and Woodstock, Md. His latest assignment was as parochial vicar, or assistant to the pastor, at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax City. The Arlington diocese said Aitcheson would not be available for comment. Attempts to reach him Tuesday were unsuccessful. According to a March 1977 story in The Washington Post, Aitcheson, then a 23-year-old University of Maryland student, was identified as an “exalted cyclops” of a KKK lodge. He was charged in several cross-burnings in Prince George’s County, Md., and other counts, including making bomb threats and manufacturing pipe bombs. According to the 1977 Post story, state police in Maryland said Aitcheson was a leader of the Robert E. Lee Lodge of the Maryland Knights of the KKK, which had planned to recruit people to blow up facilities at Fort Meade near Laurel. When officers searched his home in the 1970s, they found 9pounds of black powder, weapons and bomb parts in Aitcheson’s bedroom and basement. His parents told authorities they didn’t know the explosives and weapons were in their home. At the time of his arrest, Aitcheson’s father, William W. Aitcheson, said his son was a member of the hate group, adding, “My son, along with others, are just caught up in it. … I don’t know what their thoughts are.” Aitcheson pleaded guilty to several cross burnings, including one in the front yard of an African-American family in the College Park Woods neighborhood and others at B’nai B’rith Hillel at the University of Maryland and the Beth Torah Congregation in Hyattsville. He was convicted and sentenced to 90 days, and ordered to pay a judgment of about $20,000. The African-American couple, who were newlyweds at the time of the incident, declined to talk Tuesday about the burning cross from 40 years ago. A woman who answered the door at their home said it was so long ago, and thinking about it would bring back difficult memories. Five years after Aitcheson’s involvement in the cross-burning incident at their home, President Ronald Reagan visited the couple and their young daughter, saying the incident “is not something that should have happened in America,” according to a May 4, 1982, article in the Post. Aitcheson also pleaded guilty to charges that he threatened to kill Coretta King, the widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. He told a U.S. District Court judge that he wrote to King in February 1976, telling her to “stay off the University of Maryland campus or you will die.” According to a Post story, investigators said he wrote “Africa or death by lynching, take your pick, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” He was a University of Maryland. student studying broadcasting at the time. Aitcheson was described in a 1977 Post article as “speaking calmly, with his head bowed slightly” at a hearing on the King case. He told a judge he was pleading guilty because “well, ah, because I’m guilty.” He also faced charges in Maryland’s Howard and Carroll counties of illegal possession of firearms and manufacturing explosives. He was convicted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore of mailing threatening communications. A judge sentenced him to 60 days in prison and four years of probation. In his editorial published this week, Aitcheson apologized and said the recent violence in Charlottesville prompted him to share information about his past. He called the images from Charlottesville “embarrassing,” adding that “for those who have repented from a damaging and destructive past, the images should bring us to our knees in prayer.” Aitcheson went on: “Racists have polluted minds, twisted by an ideology that reinforces the false belief that they are superior to others.” Aitcheson also wrote that “the irony that” he “left an anti-Catholic hate group to rejoin the Catholic Church is not lost on me.” “It is a reminder of the radical transformation possible through Jesus Christ in his mercy,” he wrote. Billy Atwell, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, said the diocese had received information about Aitcheson’s history when he was accepted for ministry under Bishop John Keating. He didn’t provide details on what information was known. Aitcheson attended seminary at the North American College in Rome from 1984 to 1988, according to the diocese. Atwell said he didn’t know if a criminal-background check was conducted when Aitcheson came to the Arlington diocese in 1993, although he said more in-depth background reviews have been done routinely on staff and priests since the mid-2000s. Since the mid-2000’s “all staff and clergy have had in-depth background checks” under policies of the Virginia State Police, according to Atwell. The checks are also done using a national criminal check system of the FBI and fingerprinting tracking databases. It wasn’t clear if his criminal record would have eliminated his ability to become a priest, either in Nevada or Virginia. Atwell said Tuesday that Aitcheson’s “story of repentance is authentic.” Al Leightley, head usher at Saint Leo the Great, said Aitcheson never discussed his past involvement with the KKK. Leightley found out about his past Tuesday morning, but said Aitcheson repented appropriately in his Monday letter. “He is a very good priest, very dedicated to his profession,” he said. “It’s hard to see all the commotion going on with the gentleman.” Some public Catholic figures began speaking out on Aitcheson on Tuesday, including conservative legal scholar Matthew Franck, a Princeton University lecturer. “I hope this evidently good man returns to active ministry,” Franck tweeted. “He could do important work, especially with his history.” On the diocese’s Facebook page, multiple supporters of the priest praised his decision to go public, and called him a gifted pastor. “A true story of redemption. May God continue to work in and through Fr. Aitcheson,” one wrote. In a phone interview, Franck said, “Sometimes people get involved in a hate group and then have been reborn, and have an interesting story to tell. … It would be a loss for him to just vanish.” A note at the bottom of Aitcheson’s editorial on Monday said he had “voluntarily asked to step away from public ministry, for the well being of the Church and parish community.” Burbidge said “there have been no accusations of racism or bigotry against [Aitcheson] at the Arlington diocese during his time.” He said Aitcheson’s request to step away from public ministry was approved. The Washington Post’s Peter Hermann, Ellie Silverman, Justin Jouvenal and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Ku Klux Klan  Comments Closed

Priest urges haters to repent; reveals his Ku Klux Klan past …

McLEAN, Va. Forty years ago he was a Ku Klux Klan “wizard,” burning crosses on black families’ lawns. Now, after decades as a Catholic priest, he’s coming forward about his past. While Father William Aitcheson’s racist past was a matter of public record, it wasn’t widely known in the diocese of Arlington, until this week. Prompted by images of violence during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Aitcheson described his transformation in a column published Monday in The Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper, and urged white supremacists to repent. “While I firmly believe God forgave me — as he forgives anyone who repents and asks for forgiveness — forgetting what I did would be a mistake,” wrote Aitcheson, who is taking a leave of absence from active ministry. “My actions were despicable. When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else.” Aitcheson, 62, said 40 years have passed since he was in the Klan, but the violence he saw last week compelled him to describe his journey. The diocese noted that Aitcheson “voluntarily asked to temporarily step away from public ministry, for the well being of the Church and parish community.” In a statement, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge called Aitcheson’s past with the Klan troubling, but said he hopes his story of transformation will help others. “I pray that in our current political and social climate his message will reach those who support hate and division, and inspire them to a conversion of heart,” Burbidge wrote. Aitcheson was ordained as a priest in 1988 by the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas, and has been assigned to the Arlington Diocese since 1993, most recently serving as parochial vicar an assistant pastor at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax. In his article, Aitcheson wrote that his membership in the Klan is public information, but rarely comes up. Indeed, Aitcheson was convicted on criminal charges in 1977 after the cross-burnings, one of which drew a response from President Ronald Reagan years later. Articles from the Associated Press archives show that Aitcheson was arrested in 1977, when, as a student at the University of Maryland, authorities identified him as the “wizard” of a 12-member KKK lodge. He was charged in state and federal court with multiple cross-burnings, and a threat to kill Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. He was convicted and sentenced to 90 days in jail. Five years later, a judge ordered Aitcheson to pay $23,000 in damages to Philip and Barbara Butler, who were victimized by one of Aitcheson’s cross-burnings after they moved into a mostly white neighborhood in College Park, Maryland. That prompted the visit from Reagan, who sought to reassure the Butlers that the racist attack was not representative of most Americans’ views. Diocese spokesman Billy Atwell said Tuesday the diocese knew about Aitcheson’s past with the Klan when he arrived in 1993, but “just learned this weekend about the civil suit from 40 years ago and will be working with Fr. Aitcheson to ensure he meets all of his legal and moral obligations to make restitution.” The diocese said Aitcheson was declining interview requests. Atwell said the diocese is confident that Aitcheson’s change of heart all those years ago was sincere, “evidenced, in part, by the fact that we have had no accusation of racism while ministering.” In his column, Aitcheson urges white supremacists to take a different path and seek forgiveness. “You will find no fulfillment in this ideology,” he wrote. “Your hate will never be satisfied and your anger will never subside.”

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Wisconsin Saw Its First Ku Klux Klan Activity In 1920s – Wisconsin Public Radio News

Wisconsin Public Radio News Wisconsin Saw Its First Ku Klux Klan Activity In 1920s Wisconsin Public Radio News Recent white nationalist events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and elsewhere have led many states, cities and institutions to reevaluate their own history, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which was once home to Ku Klux Klan student groups. Ku Klux Klan leader warns there could be more violence in US Sky News Ku Klux Klan leader Thomas Robb says there could be more violence after Charlottesville International Business Times UK all 11 news articles »

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Ku Klux Klan  Comments Closed

Spreckels Theatre Company cancels play with a Ku Klux Klan theme – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

(1 of ) Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park (SPRECKELS PERFOMING ARTS CENTER/ FACEBOOK) (2 of ) Sheri Lee Miller (COURTESY PHOTO) DAN TAYLOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | August 22, 2017, 1:31PM | Updated 11 minutes ago. The repercussions following the Aug. 12 clash between white nationalist protesters and counterdemonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, have reached the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park. The theaters season-opening production of The Foreigner, a 1984 farce by the late Larry Shue featuring actors in Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods has been canceled by Sheri Lee Miller, the recently appointed new supervisor of the center and director of the Spreckels Theatre Company. The show, originally scheduled to open Sept. 8, already had been cast and the production was in rehearsals when Miller decided to pull the show from the theaters schedule. There was no outside pressure, and only one person from the community had voiced concern about the production, Miller said. My whole decision is based on my own feelings. It was my decision alone, she said. The whole climax of the play is these actors coming onstage in Klan robes. I felt this was not the time to treat domestic terrorism lightly. I heard from absolutely no one in the city government of Rohnert Park prior to my decision, other than for them to say, Its completely up to you. Thats why they hired me is to make these decisions. Comments posted on the Spreckels Performing Arts Center Facebook page were overwhelmingly supportive of her decision, she said. Sebastopol actor Tice Allison, who was cast as a Klan leader in the play, said he was disappointed by the cancellation, which he termed a concession to the grievance industry, political correctness and selective moral outrage. After four weeks of rehearsal the cast should have been allowed to portray the characters they were bringing to life from the playwrights script, he said. To deal with possible controversy, the theater could have written advisories warning the audience about the plays content, or hosted audience discussions before or after performances. Had the show been canceled before our first rehearsal that would have been one thing, but we were right in the middle of it, Allison said. The rug was pulled out from under us. Why not let this play happen? Miller said she consulted local theater critic Harry Duke, who reviews theater for the Sonoma County Gazette, the forallevents.com website, and KSRO and KRCB radio. Duke had expressed discomfort after seeing a Cloverdale Center for the Performing Arts production of The Foreigner, which ended its scheduled run the weekend of the Charlottesville rally, in which a 32-year-old woman was killed and two Virginia State Police officers died in a helicopter crash. Duke said he had enjoyed a Contra Costa production of The Foreigner two years ago, but found the play disturbing now in light of the Charlottesville events. The Foreigner is a light, airy comedy, but after what happened in Charlottesville, I was stunned when the stage was overrun with actors in the robes and hoods of the Klan, he said. It just felt wrong to me. Duke said discussion of the cancellation on several local theater websites and Facebook pages has been generally civil. The Foreigner, and the rest of the Spreckels 2017-2018 theater season, had already been scheduled by Millers predecessor, supervisor and director Gene Abravaya, before his retirement last June. In the play, an Englishman staying at a resort in rural Georgia becomes aware of a plot to turn the lodge into a meeting place for the Klan.

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Ku Klux Klan  Comments Closed

Priest takes leave after disclosing past in the Ku Klux Klan – Paradise Post

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) A Virginia priest is taking a leave of absence after disclosing he once was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Father William Aitcheson, a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, wrote about his past Klan affiliation Monday in The Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocese’s newspaper. The 62-year-old Aitcheson said that 40 years have passed since he was in the Klan. He apologized for his participation and said the images from this month’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville reminded him of a period in his life he’d prefer to forget. Advertisement In a statement, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge called Aitcheson’s past with the Klan troubling, but said he hopes his story will help others turn away from hate. Aitcheson had been serving at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax.

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Ku Klux Klan  Comments Closed

‘My actions were despicable’: Catholic priest steps down after revealing he was a Ku Klux Klan member decades ago – Washington Post

A Catholic priest in Arlington, Va., is temporarily stepping down after revealing he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and burned crosses more than 40 years ago before joining the clergy. In an editorial published Monday in the Arlington Catholic Herald, the Rev. William Aitcheson describedhimself as an impressionable young man when he became a member of the hate group. He wrote that images from the deadly white supremacist and white nationalist rally in Charlottesville brought back memories of a bleak period in my life that I would have preferred to forget. My actions were despicable, wrote Aitcheson, 62. When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else. Its hard to believe that was me. In a statement, Catholic Diocese of Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge called Aitchesons past with the Ku Klux Klan sad and deeply troubling. Aitcheson served with the Catholic church in Nevadabefore being transferred to Arlington, where he is originally from, church officials said in a statement. He was ordained in 1988 and has served in a variety of positions at parishes in Nevada; Arlington; Fredericksburg, Va.; and Woodstock, Md. His latest assignment was as parochial vicar, or assistant to the pastor, at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax City. The Arlington diocese said Aitcheson would not be available for comment. Attempts to reach him Tuesday were unsuccessful. According to a March 1977 story in The Washington Post, Aitcheson, then a 23-year-old University of Maryland student, was identified as an exalted cyclops of a KKK lodge. He was charged in several cross-burnings in Prince Georges County, Md., and other counts, including making bomb threats and manufacturing pipe bombs. [From 1977: Maryland student charged in 6 cross burnings] According to the 1977 Post story, state police in Maryland said Aitcheson was a leader of the Robert E. Lee Lodge of the Maryland Knights of the KKK, which had planned to recruit people to blow up facilities at Fort Meade near Laurel. When officers searched his home in the 1970s,they found nine pounds of black powder, weapons and bomb parts in Aitchesons bedroom and basement. His parents told authorities they didnt know the explosives and weapons were in their home. At the time of his arrest, Aitchesons father, William W. Aitcheson, said his son was a member of the hate group, adding, My son, along with others, are just caught up in it. I dont know what their thoughts are. Aitcheson pleaded guilty to several cross burnings, including one in the front yard of an African American family in the College Park Woods neighborhood and others at Bnai Brith Hillel at the University of Maryland and the Beth Torah Congregation in Hyattsville. He was convicted and sentenced to 90 days, and ordered to pay a judgment of about$20,000. The African American couple, who were newlyweds at the time of the incident, declined to talk Tuesday about the burning cross from 40 years ago. A woman who answered the door at their Silver Spring home said it was so long ago, and thinking about it would bring backdifficult memories. Five years after Aitchesons involvement in the cross-burning incident at their home, President Ronald Reagan visited the couple and their young daughter, saying the incident is not something that should have happened in America, according to a May 4, 1982, article in the Post. [A Familys Long Ordeal] Aitcheson also pleaded guilty to charges that hethreatened to kill Coretta King, the widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Hetold a U.S. District Court judge that he wrote to King in February 1976, telling her to stay off the University of Maryland campus or you will die. According to a Post story, investigators said he wroteAfrica or death by lynching, take your pick, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Hewas a U-Md.student studying broadcasting at the time. Aitcheson was described in a 1977 Post article as speaking calmly, with his head bowed slightly at a hearing on the King case. He told a judge he was pleading guilty because well, ah, because Im guilty. He also faced charges in Marylands Howard and Carroll counties of illegal possession of firearms and manufacturing explosives. He was convicted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore of mailing threatening communications. A judge sentenced him to 60 days in prison and four years of probation. In his editorial published this week, Aitcheson apologized and said the recent violence in Charlottesville prompted him to share information abouthis past. Hecalled the images from Charlottesville embarrassing, adding that for those who have repented from a damaging and destructive past, the images should bring us to our knees in prayer. [Recounting a day of rage, hate, violence and death] Aitcheson went on: Racists have polluted minds, twisted by an ideology that reinforces the false belief that they are superior to others. Aitcheson alsowrote that the irony that he left an anti-Catholic hate group to rejoin the Catholic Church is not lost on me. It is a reminder of the radical transformation possible through Jesus Christ in his mercy, he wrote. Billy Atwell, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, said the diocese had received information about Aitchesons history when he was accepted for ministry under Bishop John Keating. He didnt provide details on what information was known. Aitcheson attended seminary at the North American College in Rome from 1984 to 1988, according to the diocese. Atwell said he didnt know if a criminal-background check wasconducted when Aitcheson came to the Arlington diocese in 1993, although he said more in-depth background reviews have been done routinely on staff and priests since the mid-2000s. Since the mid-2000s all staff and clergy have had in-depth background checks under policies of the Virginia State Police, according to Atwell. The checks are also done using a national criminal check system of the FBI and fingerprinting tracking databases. It wasnt clear if his criminal record would have eliminated his ability to become a priest, either in Nevada or Virginia. Atwell said Tuesday that Aitchesons story of repentance is authentic. Al Leightley, head usher at Saint Leo the Great, said Aitcheson never discussed his past involvement with the KKK. Leightley found out about hispast Tuesday morning, but saidAitchesonrepented appropriately in his Monday letter. He is a very good priest, very dedicated to his profession, he said. Its hard to see all the commotion going on with the gentleman. Some public Catholic figures began speaking out on Aitcheson on Tuesday, including conservative legal scholar Matthew Franck, a Princeton University lecturer. I hope this evidently good man returns to active ministry, Franck tweeted. He could do important work, especially with his history. On the dioceses Facebook page, multiple supporters of the priest praised his decision to go public, and called him a gifted pastor. A true story of redemption. May God continue to work in and through Fr. Aitcheson, one wrote. In a phone interview, Franck said, Sometimes people get involved in a hate group and then have been reborn, and have an interesting story to tell It would be a loss for him to just vanish. A note at the bottom of Aitchesons editorial on Monday said he had voluntarily asked to step away from public ministry, for the well being of the Church and parish community. Burbidge said there have been no accusations of racism or bigotry against [Aitcheson] at the Arlington diocese during his time. He said Aitchesons request to step away from public ministry was approved. Peter Hermann, Ellie Silverman, Justin Jouvenal and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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August 22, 2017   Posted in: Ku Klux Klan  Comments Closed


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