KU KLUX KLAN The Ku Klux Klan was formed as a social club by a group of Confederate Army veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee around 1865. A Confederate General, Nathan Bedford Forrest was the Klan's first leader, with the title of Grand Wizard. The group adopted the name Ku Klux Klan from the Greek word kuklos, meaning circle, and the English word clan.
White superiority was the philosophy of the Klan, and they would often use violence and terrorization of blacks as a means of exercising this philosophized superiority. The Klan detested the idea of blacks gaining any rights following the Civil War into the Reconstruction, and terrorized blacks to prevent them from voting in elections or practicing any other right. Blacks and white sympathizers were often threatened, beaten, or even murdered by Klan members in the South; the Klan used the now familiar white robes and hoods to mask their identity. The Ku Klux Klan became known as the "Invisible Empire" as it grew and spread rapidly.
In 1871, the Force Bill was passed by Congress. This act gave the President the authority to use federal troops against the Ku Klux Klan if he deemed the action necessary. Soon after this bill was passed Klan activity withered.
In 1915, following anti-Semitism surrounding the Leo Frank lynching in Atlanta, the Klan resurged and Atlanta became the new headquarters of the "Invisible Empire". William J. Simmons, a former Methodist preacher, organized the new Klan at Stone Mountain, Georgia as a patriotic, Protestant fraternal society. This new Klan directed its activity against, not just blacks, but any group it considered un-American, including any immigrants, Jews, and Roman Catholics. By the 1920's The Ku Klux Klan had expanded to the North, claimed a membership of 6 million and in Atlanta boasted among its ranks notable clergy, judges and politicians including the city's mayor (p32, Atlanta Scenes).
Popular media influenced this social movement. In 1915
producer/director D. W. Griffith's The
Birth of a Nation
was premiered with the original title The Clansman. This film
was based on an earlier anti-black theatre production, The Clansman,
by Rev. Thomas Dixon Jr. (which not surprisingly was playing in Atlanta
before the Race Riot of 1906 ).
The Birth of a Nation is still used today as propaganda media for
Klan membership. The Klan also had a monthly publication the KuKlux
The modern Klan still reverted at times to the violence
of previous years, burning crosses, torturing and lynching
those whose actions they opposed, but perhaps even more far reaching socially
than these actions was the pernicious harm in the wide spread racial attitudes
the organization fostered and perpetuated on a day-to-day basis as Klan
members formed the foundations and building blocks of Atlanta's institutions.
Atlanta Police Chief Herbert T. Jenkins and Mayor Hartsfield integrated the Atlanta Police Force in 1948 after aggressive and long term political pressure from black voting organizations. The following is a passage from Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn by Gary Pomerantz, page 162:
From page 146:
The following is a quote from Glenn Rainey from May
the Circle Be Unbroken? From WRFG-FM/"Living Atlanta" Collection,
courtesy of Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, GA:
The KKK became a powerful political force as its mass
elected many public officials throughout the nation. However, as communication
media became widespread, the organization was morally weakened by far
reaching public criticism of Klan violence and subsequently the leadership
fragmented. By 1944 this malicious association became marginal again.
In 1946 the Klan briefly come alive again in Atlanta, led by Atlantan physician, Samuel Green. However, shortly after Green's death in 1949, the Klan split into many smaller groups. During the 1960's, the Civil Rights movement began and a new wave of violence by the Ku Klux Klan was brought about. In Mississippi, three civil rights leaders were killed; in Birmingham, Alabama a church was bombed, killing four black girls. President Lyndon B. Johnson used the Federal Bureau of Investigation to probe the Ku Klux Klan and sent some Klan members to prison. Following this, Klan member ship fell to about 5,000 by the early 1970's.