Founded in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) extended into almost every southern state by 1870 and became a vehicle for white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for blacks. Its members waged an underground campaign of intimidation and violence directed at white and black Republican leaders. Though Congress passed legislation designed to curb Klan terrorism, the organization saw its primary goal–the reestablishment of white supremacy–fulfilled through Democratic victories in state legislatures across the South in the 1870s. After a period of decline, white Protestant nativist groups revived the Klan in the early 20th century, burning crosses and staging rallies, parades and marches denouncing immigrants, Catholics, Jews, blacks and organized labor. The civil rights movement of the 1960s also saw a surge of Ku Klux Klan activity, including bombings of black schools and churches and violence against black and white activists in the South. A group including many former Confederate veterans founded the first branch of the Ku Klux Klan as a social club in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866. The first two words of the organization’s name supposedly derived from the Greek word “kyklos,” meaning circle. In the summer of 1867, local branches of the Klan met in a general organizing convention and established what they called an “Invisible Empire of the South.” Leading Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest was chosen as the first leader, or “grand wizard,” of the Klan; he presided over a hierarchy of grand dragons, grand titans and grand cyclopses.
Picture: A member of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the United Klans of America, Inc., holds her young daughter, also robed in a Klan suit, at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Atlanta, Ga. on June 5, 1965. Some 600 persons attended the rally. The woman did not want to be indentified. (AP Photo)
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