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Knox County Klan No. Knoxville, Tennessee, destined to become a Ku Klux Klan stronghold in Southern Appalachia, saw its first Klansmen initiated in the spring of Membership increased steadily and by the fall of that year, the klavern was chartered as Knox County Klan No. Five hundred strong at the time of the charter, the Knoxville Klan grew to more than two thousand members by the fall of Special ceremonies including outdoor initiations often took place on Sharp's Ridge, a mountain northwest of Knoxville.
Although its meetings and rituals were secret, the Knoxville Klan made itself known publicly in a variety of ways. Professional Klan speakers were brought in to deliver public lectures on Klankraft; well publicized donations were presented to World War I veterans and disadvantaged persons; and several large parades and demonstrations were staged.
The Knox County Klan's involvement in local politics was apparently slim. Though there were Klansmen in public office, the Klan never became a political issue as it often did in other communities. More than thirty-five thousand Klansmen and their families attended the ceremonies, which had been touted in Klan publications as a four-state convention for Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The success of Klan Day was measured in the evening's initiation when eight hundred women and fifteen hundred men were enrolled into the Klan.
Over the next several years, membership in the Knox County Klan dwindled steadily. Attempts to attract new members by reducing the initiation fee wee unsuccessful, and by , membership stood at only Oxford University Press, The collection consists of the records of the Knox County Klan No. The records include proposed amendments and additions to by-laws, correspondence, financial records, petitions and applications for membership, membership and dues records, and memorabilia.
The proposed amendments and additions to the by-laws were not passed. The financial records and reports include the klavern's bank statement for and the kligrapp's quarterly report for the first quarter of The correspondence is from the files of the klavern's kligrapp secretary. Most of the letters are exchanges between the Knoxville klavern and the Office of the Grand Dragon, Realm of Tennessee, concerning routine chapter business e.
The only letter touching on politics concerns the Colorado Klan 18 February Some indication of the klavern's declining status is given in a letter of 12 May from the state headquarters suggesting that a special membership drive be mounted in order to rebuild the chapter. Among the correspondents are the following Klan leaders: The petitions and applications for citizenship in the Invisible Empire were submitted by individuals to the Knox County Klan between and The petition Form K and application Form K are short pre-printed statements requesting membership which are signed by the applicant.
The accompanying Form is a detailed questionnaire requesting personal information and the names and addresses of seven references. On the reverse of the form is space for two Klansmen "endorsers" to state anything they may know about the applicant. The collection includes copies of Form in varying stages of completion.
The Membership and Dues records Form K document a member's name, address, occupation, age, color of hair and eyes, height, weight, and marital status and record the monthly payment of dues. They cover the period from to The memorabilia includes unused receipt booklets, a blank record book labeled "Klabee's Account," examples of attendance and merit cards, and an admission ticket to a Klan celebration on Armistice Day, 11 November Skip to Navigation Skip to Content.
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Citation [after identification of item s ], Ku Klux Klan. Five hundred strong at the time of the charter, the Knoxville Klan grew to more than two thousand members by the fall of Regular Monday night meetings were held at the klavern which stood at West Fourth Avenue and King Street. Corporate Names Ku Klux Klan Ku Klux Klan Geographic Names Knoxville Tenn. Applications for citizenship-notes, illegible applications 6 items. Membership and dues record, items, including dividers.
After the Civil War, African Americans, both freed slaves and blacks that had been free prior to the war, played an increasing role in the city's political and economic affairs. Racetrack and saloon owner Cal Johnson , born a slave, was one of the wealthiest African Americans in the state by the time of his death. Yardley , a member of the city's free black community, was Tennessee's first black gubernatorial candidate in Greek immigrants began arriving in Knoxville in significant numbers in the early 20th century.
This was also one of the first major structures designed by architect Joseph Baumann , who would design many of the city's more prominent lateth-century buildings. The hotel hosted lavish masquerade balls, and served oysters, cigars, and imported wines. Initially a place for farmers to sell produce, Market Square had evolved into one of the city's commercial and cultural centers by the s. The square's most notable business was Peter Kern's ice cream saloon and confections factory, which hosted numerous festivals for various groups in the late 19th century.
Women's suffragist Lizzie Crozier French was delivering speeches on Market Square as early as the s. After the Civil War, Thomas William Humes was named president of East Tennessee University renamed the University of Tennessee in , and managed to acquire for the institution the state's Morrill Act land-grant funds , allowing the school to expand. Knoxville's first major annexation following the Civil War came in , when it annexed the city of East Knoxville, an area east of First Creek that had incorporated in In the s and s, the development of Knoxville's streetcar system electrified by William Gibbs McAdoo in led to the rapid development of suburbs on the city's periphery.
In , the area now consisting of Fort Sanders and the U. Knoxville annexed both in As Knoxville grew, the city's boosters continuously touted the city as an industrial boom town in an attempt to lure major companies.
In and , two major national fairs, the Appalachian Expositions, were held at Chilhowee Park. The fairs demonstrated the economic trend known as the "New South," the transition of the South from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one. Knoxville's rapid growth in the late 19th century led to increased pollution, mainly from the increasing use of coal, : Camp established organizations that helped the poor.
By the s, Knoxville had a murder rate that was higher than Los Angeles 's murder rate in the s. After World War I , the United States suffered a major economic recession, and Knoxville, like many other cities, experienced an influx of migrants moving to the city in search of work. In , Knoxvillians replaced their mayor-alderman form of government with a commissioner form of government that consisted of five commissioners elected at-large, and a mayor chosen from among the five.
The first city manager hired by Knoxville was Louis Brownlow , the successful city manager of Petersburg, Virginia , and a cousin of Parson Brownlow. The lone operable tank of the city's waterworks was full of cracks that Knoxvillians had been lazily plugging with gunny sacks.
Brownlow immediately got to work, negotiating a more favorable bond rate and ordering greater scrutiny of all purchases. While Knoxville experienced tremendous growth in the late 19th century, by the early s, the city's economy was beginning to show signs of stagnation. Historian Bruce Wheeler suggests that the city's overly provincial economic "elite," which had long demonstrated a disdain for change, and the masses of new rural "Appalachian" and African-American migrants, both of whom were suspicious of government, formed an odd alliance that consistently rejected major attempts at reform.
Urban neighborhoods fell into ruin and the downtown area deteriorated. During the Great Depression , Knoxville's six largest banks either failed or were forced into mergers.
In the s and early s, several major federal programs provided some relief to Knoxvillians suffering amidst the Depression. Kingston Pike saw a boom in tourism in the s and s as it lay along a merged stretch of two cross-country tourism routes, the Dixie Highway and the Lee Highway. In , travel writer John Gunther visited Knoxville, and dubbed the city, the "ugliest city" in America.
The ordinance forbidding the showing of movies on Sunday was done away with in , with the help of the state legislature. The decades following the tumultuous term of Louis Brownlow saw continuous fighting in Knoxville's city council over virtually every major issue.
In , Cas Walker , the owner of a grocery store chain and host of a popular local radio and later television program, was elected to the city council. Knoxville's economy continued to struggle following World War II. The city's textile industry collapsed in the mids with the closure of Appalachian Mills, Cherokee Mills, Venus Hosiery, and Brookside Mills, leaving thousands unemployed.
Between and , 35 companies inquired into establishing major operations in Knoxville, but all 35 chose cities with better-developed industrial parks. As early as the s, leaders in Knoxville and Knox County had pondered forming a metropolitan government. In the late s, the issue gained momentum, with the support of many city and county officials, and the city's two major newspapers, the News-Sentinel and the Journal. In , several Knoxville College students, led by Robert Booker and Avon Rollins, engaged in a series of sit-ins to protest segregation at lunch counters in Downtown Knoxville.
Between and , the University of Tennessee's student body grew from just under 3, to nearly 30, By the mids, U. While unemployment declined to just 2. Beginning in the s, Knoxville made serious efforts to reinvigorate the downtown area. One of the city's first major renovation efforts involved the replacement of the large Market House on Market Square with a pedestrian mall.
Miller's, Kress's, and the three surviving downtown theaters had all closed by In , Knoxville annexed several large communities, namely Fountain City and Inskip north of the city, and Bearden and West Hills west of the city.
This brought large numbers of progressive voters into the city, diluting the influence of Cas Walker and his allies. In , Knoxville and Knox County voters again voted on the issue of metropolitan government. In spite of support by U. In , Downtown Knoxville Association president Stewart Evans, following a discussion with King Cole, president of the Spokane Exposition, raised the possibility of a similar international exposition for Knoxville. While the fair was profitable, it nevertheless left Knoxville in debt, and failed to spark the redevelopment boom Testerman, Tyree, and the fair's promoters had envisioned.
The second Testerman administration stabilized the city's finances, initiated urban renewal projects in Mechanicsville and East Knoxville, and consolidated Knoxville City and Knox County schools. Victor Ashe , Testerman's successor, continued redevelopment efforts, focusing mainly on parks and blighted areas of East and North Knoxville. As the city's westward expansion along Kingston Pike had been thwarted by the incorporation of Farragut as a town in , Ashe, rather than focus on large-scale annexations, turned instead to "finger" annexations, which involved annexing small parcels of land at a time.
Preservation efforts in Knoxville, which have preserved historic structures such as Blount Mansion , the Bijou Theatre , and the Tennessee Theatre , have intensified in recent years, prompting the designation of numerous historic overlay districts throughout the city. The East Tennessee Historical Society 's annual journal, published since , contains numerous articles on Knoxville and Knoxville-area topics.
Crossroads of the New South , which includes hundreds of historic photographs. The Civil War is one of the most extensively covered periods of Knoxville's history. Two early first-hand accounts of the war in Knoxville are William G. Knoxville's history from the end of the Civil War to the modern period is covered in Knoxville, Tennessee: A Mountain City in the New South Booker's The Heat of a Red Summer: A significant portion of Charles Cansler's Three Generations: Since the early s, Metro Pulse editor Jack Neely has written numerous articles often for his column, "The Secret History" that recall some of the more colorful, odd, obscure, and forgotten aspects of the city's history.
This Obscure Prismatic City The Junior League of Knoxville's Knoxville: A more detailed overview of the city's architectural development is provided in "Historic and Architectural Resources of Knox County" , a pamphlet written by Metropolitan Planning Commission preservationist Ann Bennett for the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Register includes over buildings and districts in Knoxville and Knox County, with extensive descriptions of the buildings provided in their respective nomination forms, which are being digitized for the Register's online database.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Tennessee Valley Authority, , Tennessee Valley Authority, , p. University of Georgia Press, , pp. Explorations of the Carolinas and Tennessee, Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, , pp. University of Tennessee Press, , Charles Elder, , An Interpretation," Heart of the Valley: East Tennessee Historical Society, East Tennessee Historical Society, , map facing page Ambrose Publishing Company, , pp. Barnard and Sultzer, , p. Methodist Magazine Publishing Company, , p.
Chicago Historical Society, , pp. East Tennessee Historical Society, , pp. Leath, , p. Market Square District Association, Oxford University Press, Merton Coulter, William G. University of Tennessee Press, Brownlow revealed similar views in his debate with Abram Tyne in Held at Knoxville, May 30th and 31st, and at Greeneville, on the 17th day of June, , and following days" Knoxville, Tenn.: Barry's Book and Job Office, Nelson of East Tennessee Nashville: Tennessee Historical Commission, , pp.
Lewis Publishing Company, ; reprinted by Kessinger Books, White, Mary Rothrock ed. East Tennessee Historical Society, , p. Yardley , Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture , Tellico Books, , p. Retrieved from " https: History of Knoxville, Tennessee U. Webarchive template wayback links. Views Read Edit View history. Rooted in local Protestant communities, it sought to maintain white supremacy , often took a pro- Prohibition stance, and it opposed Catholics and Jews , while also stressing its opposition to the Catholic Church at a time of high emigration from the mostly Catholic nations of Central Europe and Southern Europe.
It used K-words which were similar to those used by the first Klan, while adding cross burnings and mass parades to intimidate others. It rapidly declined in the later half of the s. The third and current manifestation of the KKK emerged after , in the form of localized and isolated groups that use the KKK name.
They have focused on opposition to the civil rights movement , often using violence and murder to suppress activists. The second and third incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan made frequent references to America's " Anglo-Saxon " blood, hearkening back to 19th-century nativism. The first Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee , sometime between December and August by six former officers of the Confederate army  as a fraternal social club inspired at least in part by the then largely defunct Sons of Malta.
It borrowed parts of the initiation ceremony from that group, with the same purpose: The manual of rituals was printed by Laps D.
The members had conjured up a veritable Frankenstein. Although there was little organizational structure above the local level, similar groups rose across the South and adopted the same name and methods [ clarification needed ].
For example, Confederate veteran John W. Morton founded a chapter in Nashville, Tennessee. In and , the federal government passed the Enforcement Acts , which were intended to prosecute and suppress Klan crimes. The first Klan had mixed results in terms of achieving its objectives. It seriously weakened the black political establishment through its use of assassinations and threats of violence; it drove some people out of politics.
On the other hand, it caused a sharp backlash, with passage of federal laws that historian Eric Foner says were a success in terms of "restoring order, reinvigorating the morale of Southern Republicans, and enabling blacks to exercise their rights as citizens".
Rable argues that the Klan was a political failure and therefore was discarded by the Democratic leaders of the South. More fundamentally, it declined because it failed to achieve its central objective — the overthrow of Republican state governments in the South. After the Klan was suppressed, similar insurgent paramilitary groups arose that were explicitly directed at suppressing Republican voting and turning Republicans out of office: They were described as acting as the military arm of the Democratic Party and are attributed with helping white Democrats regain control of state legislatures throughout the South.
While Simmons relied on documents from the original Klan and memories of some surviving elders, the revived Klan was based significantly on the wildly popular film, The Birth of a Nation. The earlier Klan had not worn the white costumes or burned crosses; these were aspects introduced in the film.
When the film was shown in Atlanta in December of that year, Simmons and his new klansmen paraded to the theater in robes and pointed hoods — many on robed horses — just like in the movie. These mass parades would become another hallmark of the new Klan that had not existed in the original Reconstruction-era organization.
Beginning in , it adopted a modern business system of using full-time paid recruiters and appealed to new members as a fraternal organization, of which many examples were flourishing at the time. The national headquarters made its profit through a monopoly of costume sales, while the organizers were paid through initiation fees. It grew rapidly nationwide at a time of prosperity. Reflecting the social tensions pitting urban versus rural America, it spread to every state and was prominent in many cities.
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.
The second Klan was a formal fraternal organization , with a national and state structure. During the resurgence of the second Klan during the s, its publicity was handled by the Southern Publicity Association —within the first six months of the Associations national recruitment campaign, Klan membership had increased by 85, Internal divisions, criminal behavior by leaders, and external opposition brought about a collapse in membership, which had dropped to about 30, by It finally faded away in the s.
The "Ku Klux Klan" name was used by numerous independent local groups opposing the civil rights movement and desegregation , especially in the s and s. 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.
As of , researchers estimate that there are just over 30 active Klan groups exist in the United States,  with about chapters. Today, many sources classify the Klan as a "subversive or terrorist organization". Historians generally classify 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 , 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 black people and their allies as intimidation. They burned houses and attacked and killed black people , leaving their bodies on the roads.
At an meeting in Nashville, Tennessee , Klan members gathered to try to create a hierarchical organization with local chapters eventually reporting to a national headquarters. Since most of the Klan's members were veterans, they were used to such military hierarchy, but the Klan never operated under this centralized structure. Local chapters and bands were highly independent. For instance, an applicant should be asked if he was in favor 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.
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 personal feuds and local grudges, as they worked to restore general 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: 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: 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 by voice and mannerisms. Few freedmen took such nonsense seriously. 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. They drove successful black farmers off their land. Klan violence worked to suppress black voting, and campaign seasons were deadly. More than 2, people were killed, wounded, or otherwise injured in Louisiana within a few weeks prior to the Presidential election of November Landry Parish had a registered Republican majority of 1,, after the murders, no Republicans voted in the fall elections.
White Democrats cast the full vote of the parish for President Grant's opponent. The KKK killed and wounded more than 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. By the November presidential election , Klan intimidation led to suppression of the Republican vote and only one person voted for Ulysses S. Klansmen killed more than African Americans in a county [ which? Milder encounters, including some against white teachers, also occurred. In Mississippi , according to the Congressional inquiry:.
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 , two years after the Klan's creation, its activity was beginning to decrease. 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.
Hill stating "that some of these outrages were actually perpetrated by the political friends of the parties slain. 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 a creation of nervous Southern Republican governors.
In January , Pennsylvania Republican Senator John Scott convened a Congressional committee which took testimony from 52 witnesses about Klan atrocities, accumulating 12 volumes.
This added to the enmity that Southern white Democrats bore toward him. The Governor of South Carolina appealed for federal troops to assist his efforts in keeping control of the state.
A riot and massacre occurred in a Meridian, Mississippi courthouse, from which a black state representative escaped by fleeing to the woods. In , President Ulysses S. Grant signed Butler's legislation. The Ku Klux Klan Act and the Enforcement Act of were used by the federal government to enforce the civil rights provisions for individuals under the constitution.
The Klan refused to voluntarily dissolve after the Klan Act, so President Grant issued a suspension of habeas corpus and stationed federal troops in nine South Carolina counties. The Klansmen were apprehended and prosecuted in federal court. Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest boasted that the Klan was a nationwide organization of , men and that he could muster 40, Klansmen within five days notice.
However, the Klan had no membership rosters, no chapters, and no local officers, so it was difficult for observers to judge its membership. In , a federal grand jury determined that the Klan was a " terrorist organization"  and 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.
Forrest called for the Klan to disband in , arguing that it was "being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace".
In many states, officials were reluctant to use black militia against the Klan out of fear that racial tensions would be raised. This and extensive violence and fraud at the polls caused the Republicans to lose their majority in the state legislature. Disaffection with Holden's actions contributed to white Democratic legislators impeaching him and removing him from office, but their reasons for doing so were numerous.
Klan operations ended in South Carolina  and gradually withered away throughout the rest of the South. Attorney General Amos Tappan Ackerman led the prosecutions. By , the federal government's evident willingness to bring its legal and coercive authority to bear had broken the Klan's back and produced a dramatic decline in violence throughout the South. So ended the Reconstruction career of the Ku Klux Klan.
New groups of insurgents emerged in the mids, local paramilitary organizations such as the White League , Red Shirts , saber clubs, and rifle clubs, that intimidated and murdered black political leaders. In , 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 include the right to regulate against private conspiracies.
It recommended that persons who had been victimized should seek relief in state courts, which were entirely unsympathetic to such appeals. Klan costumes, also called " regalia ", disappeared from use by the early s,  after Grand Wizard Forrest called for their destructionas part of disbanding the Klan. The Klan was broken as an organization by In the film The Birth of a Nation was released, mythologizing and glorifying the first Klan and its endeavors. The new organization and chapters adopted regalia featured in The Birth of a Nation ; membership was kept secret by wearing masks in public.
Griffith 's The Birth of a Nation glorified the original Klan. The film was based on the book and play The Clansman: Much of the modern Klan's iconography is derived from it, including the standardized white costume and the lighted cross. 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 false claim of endorsement by President Woodrow Wilson. Dixon was an old friend of Wilson's and, before its release, there was a private showing of the film at the White House. A publicist claimed that Wilson said, "It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true. The White House issued a denial of the "lightning" quote, saying that he was entirely unaware of the nature of the film and at no time had expressed his approbation of it.
The Second Klan saw threats from every direction. According to historian Brian R. Farmer, "two-thirds of the national Klan lecturers were Protestant ministers".
New Klan founder William J. Simmons joined 12 different fraternal organizations and recruited for the Klan with his chest covered with fraternal badges, consciously modeling the Klan after fraternal organizations. 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 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. 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 The group produced publications for national circulation from its headquarters in Atlanta: The second Klan grew primarily in response to issues of declining morality typified by divorce , adultery , defiance of Prohibition, and criminal gangs in the news every day.
The Klan had a nationwide reach by the mids, with its densest per capita membership in Indiana. It became most prominent in cities with high growth rates between and , as rural Protestants flocked to jobs in Detroit and Dayton in the Midwest, and Atlanta , Dallas , Memphis , and Houston in the South.
Close to half of Michigan's 80, Klansmen lived in Detroit. Members of the KKK swore to uphold American values and Christian morality, and some Protestant ministers became involved at the local level.
However, no Protestant denomination officially endorsed the KKK;  indeed, the Klan was repeatedly denounced by the major Protestant magazines, as well as by all major secular newspapers. Historian Robert Moats Miller reports that "not a single endorsement of the Klan was found by the present writer in the Methodist press, while many of the attacks on the Klan were quite savage Many nationally and regionally prominent churchmen did condemn it by name, and none endorsed it.
In Simmons handed the day-to-day activities of the national office over to two professional publicists, Elizabeth Tyler and Edward Young Clarke. It appealed to new members based on current social tensions, and stressed responses to fears raised by defiance of Prohibition and new sexual freedoms. It emphasized anti-Jewish , anti-Catholic , anti-immigrant and later anti-Communist positions.
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 to a peak of 1. By the s, most of its members lived in the Midwest and West. Nearly one in five of the eligible Indiana population were members.
In the South, where the great majority of whites were Democrats, the Klansmen were Democrats. In the rest of the country, the membership comprised both Republicans and Democrats, as well as independents.
Klan leaders tried to infiltrate political parties; as Cummings notes, "it was non-partisan in the sense that it pressed its nativist issues to both parties. Klan leaders hope to have all major candidates competing to win the movement's endorsement.
The Klan's leadership wanted to keep their options open and repeatedly announced that the movement was not aligned with any political party. This non-alliance strategy was also valuable as a recruiting tool. The Klan drew its members from Democratic as well as Republican voters.
If the movement had aligned itself with a single political party, it would have substantially narrowed its pool of potential recruits. 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.
No nationally prominent religious leader said he was a Klan member. Economists Fryer and Levitt argue that the rapid growth of the Klan in the s was partly the result of an innovative multi-level marketing campaign.
They also argue that the Klan leadership focused more intently on monetizing the organization during this period than fulfilling the political goals of the organization. Local leaders profited from expanding their membership. Historians agree that the Klan's resurgence in the s was aided by the national debate over Prohibition. In , two hundred Klan members set fire to saloons in Union County, Arkansas.
Membership in the Klan and in other Prohibition groups overlapped, and they sometimes 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, 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: 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 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 s, 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 Americans , 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. In 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 that the rural stereotype was false for that state:. Indiana's Klansmen represented a wide cross section of society: 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 which they had wanted. The lessening of social tensions contributed to the Klan's decline. The distinctive white costume permitted large-scale public activities, especially parades and cross-burning ceremonies, while keeping the membership rolls a secret.
Sales of the costumes provided the main financing for the national organization, while initiation fees funded local and state organizers. The second Klan embraced the burning Latin cross as a dramatic display of symbolism, with a tone of intimidation.
Its lighting during meetings was often accompanied by prayer, the singing of hymns , and other overtly religious symbolism. Griffith used this image in The Birth of a Nation ; Simmons adopted the symbol wholesale from the movie, and the symbol and action have been associated with the Klan ever since.
By the s, the KKK developed a women's auxiliary, with chapters in many areas. Its activities included participation in parades, cross lightings, lectures, rallies, and boycotts of local businesses owned by Catholics and Jews. The Women's Klan was active in promoting Prohibition, stressing liquor's negative impact on wives and children.
Its efforts in public schools included distributing Bibles and petitioning for the dismissal of Roman Catholic teachers. As a result of the Women's Klan's efforts, Texas would not hire Catholic teachers to work in its public schools.
As sexual and financial scandals rocked the Klan leadership late in the s, 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 cities in the Midwest and West, and reached both Republicans and Democrats, as well as men without a party affiliation.
The goal of Prohibition in particular helped the Klan and some Republicans to make common cause in the North. The Klan had numerous members in every part of the United States, but was particularly strong in the South and Midwest.
In Indiana, members were American-born, white Protestants and covered a wide range of incomes and social levels. Catholic and liberal Democrats—who were strongest in northeastern cities—decided to make the Klan an issue at the Democratic National Convention in New York City.
Their delegates proposed a resolution indirectly attacking the Klan; it was defeated by one vote out of 1, After weeks of stalemate and bitter argumentation, both candidates withdrew in favor of a compromise candidate. In , 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. 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 1, 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 They fired city employees who were known to be 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 took back local government, and succeeded in a special election in recalling the Klansmen who had been elected in April 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 essentially a one-party region for whites. Klan chapters were closely allied with Democratic police, sheriffs, and other functionaries of local government. Due to 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 , 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 wealthy planters , who had long dominated the state. 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 , 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. In President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Black to the Supreme Court without knowing how active in the Klan he had been in the s.
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 in response to attacks on Jewish Americans , including the lynching of Leo Frank in Atlanta, and the Klan's campaign to prohibit private schools which was chiefly aimed at Catholic parochial schools.
Opposing groups worked to penetrate the Klan's secrecy. After one civic group in Indiana began to publish Klan membership lists, there was a rapid decline in the number of Klan members.
After its peak in , Klan membership in most areas began to decline rapidly. Specific events contributed to the Klan's decline as well. In Indiana, the scandal surrounding the murder trial of Grand Dragon D. Stephenson destroyed the image of the KKK as upholders of law and order. By the Klan was "crippled and discredited. Stephenson was the Grand Dragon of Indiana and 22 northern states. In he had led the states under his control in order to break away from the national KKK organization.
At his trial, he was convicted of second-degree murder for his part in the rape, and subsequent death, of Madge Oberholtzer. 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.
In Alabama, KKK vigilantes launched a wave of physical terror in They targeted both blacks and whites for violations of racial norms and for perceived moral lapses.
Today the paper says it "waged war on the resurgent [KKK]". Sheriffs cracked down on activities. In the presidential election , the state voters overcame their 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 still evident when it staged its march along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D. By , Klan membership in Alabama dropped to less than 6, Small independent units continued to be active in the industrial city of Birmingham. KKK units were active through the s in parts of Georgia, with a group of "night riders" in Atlanta enforcing their moral views by flogging people who violated them, whites as well as blacks.
In March , they were implicated in the beating murders of a young white couple taken from their car on a lovers lane, and flogged a white barber to death for drinking, both in East Point, a suburb of Atlanta. More than 20 others were "brutally flogged. Three lynchings of black men by whites no KKK affiliation is known took place in the South that year: In major Southern cities such as Birmingham, Alabama , Klan members kept control of access to the better-paying industrial jobs and opposed unions.
During the s and s, 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 s some Klan members in Birmingham used bombings to destroy houses in order to intimidate upwardly mobile blacks who moved into middle-class neighborhoods.
Activism by these independent KKK groups in Birmingham increased as a reaction to the civil rights movement of the s and s. Independent Klan groups violently opposed the civil rights movement. Members of the Communist Workers' Party came to North Carolina to organize textile workers and pushed back against racial discrimination there, taunting the KKK, resulting in the Greensboro massacre.
Colescott , an Indiana veterinary physician , and Samuel Green , an Atlanta obstetrician. They could not revive the Klan's declining membership.
Local Klan groups closed down over the following years. 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.
The following table shows the change in the Klan's estimated membership over time. The historiography of the second Klan of the s has changed over time. Early histories were based on mainstream sources of the time, and since the late 20th century, other histories have been written drawing from records and analysis of members of the chapters - in social histories.
The KKK was a secret organization; apart from a few top leaders, most members never identified as such and wore masks in public. Almost all the major national newspapers and magazines were hostile to its activities. The historian Thomas R. Pegram says that published accounts exaggerated the official viewpoint of the Klan leadership, and repeated the interpretations of hostile newspapers and the Klan's enemies.
There was almost no evidence in that time regarding the behavior or beliefs of individual Klansmen. According to Pegram, the resulting popular and scholarly interpretation of the Klan from the s into the midth century, emphasized its Southern roots and the violent vigilante-style actions of the Klan in its efforts to turn back the clock of modernity.
Scholars compared it to fascism in Europe. Depicted the Klan movement as an irrational rebuke of modernity by undereducated, economically marginal bigots, religious zealots, and dupes willing to be manipulated by the Klan's cynical, mendacious leaders.
It was, in this view, a movement of country parsons and small-town malcontents who were out of step with the dynamism of twentieth-century urban America. The " social history " revolution in historiography from the s explored history from the bottom up. In terms of the Klan, it developed evidence based on the characteristics, beliefs, and behavior of the typical membership, and downplayed accounts by elite sources. They discovered that the original interpretation was largely mistaken about the membership and activities of the Klan; the membership was not anti-modern, rural or rustic and consisted of fairly well educated middle-class joiners and community activists.
Half the members lived in the fast-growing industrial cities of the period: Studies developed as social history find that in general, the KKK membership in these cities was from the stable, successful middle classes, with few members drawn from the elite or the working classes.
Pegram, reviewing the studies, concludes, "the popular Klan of the s, while diverse, was more of a civic exponent of white Protestant social values than a repressive hate group. In Indiana, traditional political historians focused on notorious leaders, especially D.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Knoxville, Tennessee The Ku Klux Klan is the oldest and most well-known hate group in the United States. At one point, during its heyday, the Klan boasted a membership of around 4 million. Knoxville, Tennessee, destined to become a Ku Klux Klan stronghold in Southern Appalachia, saw its first Klansmen initiated in the spring of Membership increased steadily and by the fall of that year, the klavern was chartered as Knox County Klan No.