The Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan was reformed in 1915 by William Joseph Simmons as an organised response to anti-immigrant fears. Born out of the nativist fears of the First Red Scare, the KKK was against Jews, Catholics and Communists, as well as African Americans.

This second wave of Klan activity was also triggered by the release of Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith in 1915. The movie portrayed the heroism of the Ku Klux Klan during the Reconstruction period. William Simmons hoped to profit from the success of the movie by reviving the KKK.

The KKK was initially formed in 1866 in Tennessee. It aimed to maintain white supremacy over the recently freed African Americans in the South. Only WASP’s could belong to it - White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

The KKK was feared for its violence. The KKK used terror as a form of law enforcement. This violence included the burning of houses owned by African Americans and the lynching of innocent men. As most senior law officers in the South were KKK men or sympathetic with their aims, they often turned a blind eye towards this violence.

By 1923 there were 3 million members of the KKK across America. Its success coincided with increasing nativist fears and a depression in the South. The Klan appeared to provide a solution to these post-war anxieties.

By the mid-1920s the KKK was in decline. This was partly due to its rapid growth, which meant that it lacked a solid structure or aims. It also became closely linked to a scandal. D.C. Stephenson was Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan. In 1925 he was convicted of the abduction, rape, and murder of a young white woman. His trial undermined the law-abiding image of the KKK. Finally, by 1925 the postwar tensions that had fuelled nativist fears had eased with prosperity.

See also: Prohibition and the Gangsters

MLA Citation/Reference

"The Ku Klux Klan". 2023. Web.