To what extent were the “first” (1866-71) and “second” (1915-1930) KKKs two phases of the same movement?


Essay, 2012
7 Pages, Grade: 2.1

Excerpt

To what extent were the “first” (1866-71) and “second” (1915-1930) KKKs two phases of the same movement?

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has had three phases in its history. On multiple occasions it has faded away, only to return decades later. In this essay the first and second phases will be focussed on. It has been argued that the first and second phases have are two phases of the same movement. However, the two phases were certainly not this simple. In a number of areas there is evidence that the KKK expanded or changed in some way.

Firstly there is a clear visual difference when comparing the two phases of the Klan. When the second phase of the KKK was born in 1915 its image became a much more prominent feature than that of the first phase. The infamous white cloaks and flaming crosses that are synonymous with the KKK and recognisable to the general public to this day came about with the second phase. They were inspired by one the catalysts that brought the KKK back; the film Birth of a Nation. The second phase had the idea of creating terror. “The burning cross is a symbol used by the Klan to create terror. Cross burning is said to have been introduced by William J. Simmons, the founder of the second Klan in 1915.”[1]

The first phase of the KKK did not have such a striking image. They did wear masks, hoods, and costumes but these were to disguise their identities. The costumes for the first phase of the KKK were to allow them to accomplish, in the secret the things that men would be afraid to do openly and by day.[2] They had to disguise themselves due to their work in local and rural areas; they feared being recognised by the people around them. The first phase did attempt to use their costumes to strike fear, however, they were ineffective. They “claimed to be ghosts of Confederate soldiers so, as they claimed to frighten superstitious blacks. Few freedmen took such nonsense seriously."[3] Therefore, the first and second phases in regard to image are very different. The first phase of the KKK did use costumes but not for scare tactics. Nor did the first phase have a symbol of terror that is still infamous to this day. The Klan most certainly changed in this regard.

The organisational structure of the KKK was also changed over time. In the first phase of the Klan they did not have a well organised structure, not even in their prime.[4] Due to the branches of the Klan being very local there was no overall leader or leading branch. They unified merely due to the same common goal. Furthermore the first KKK was very much placed only in local or rural areas and they worked mostly, even exclusively in the South. “The Ku Klux Klan... was deeply entrenched in nearly every Southern state.”[5] They had no power in cities or anywhere other than the South until the time of the second Klan.

The second phase of the KKK was much better organised. It had one very clear difference in regard to organisation to the first; it moved into the big towns and cities. The Klan moved upwards through America to places such as Indiana. The second Klan also gained a wider membership because of this. It is estimated that they had around 4,000,000 members in the 1920s; the time when the KKK was at its highest point.[6] Other statistics show just how much of the American population this was and how expansive the second Klan became. It is estimated that the Klan’s membership was at an average of 20% of the whole of the adult male population, this figure rose to 40% in some areas and in a change from the Klan of before, the main bulk of this membership resided in Midwestern states rather than the South.[7] However, this Midwestern membership did not change the Klan; it merely meant a rise in it, an expansion to give them more power.

Politically the first phase was in support of the Democrat party. “Their repeated admonition was to either vote the Democrat ticket or stay at home.”[8] They deliberately attacked those that would dare to vote for a Republican candidate. This hatred toward Republicans was so strong during the first phase that there was a political purge; the murder of 1300 Republican voters in 1868; causing the November election of that year to have only 1 Republican vote.[9] The Klan could be considered in a political sense as a violent wing of the Democrat party. Reconstruction era politics were greatly affected by their methods as local Republican organisations were shattered by the Klan.[10] There is also argument for first phase actions being fuelled by political events. Thomas Sinclair’s nomination by the Dent Party for secretary of state is referred to as an event that increased Klan activity as Sinclair demonstrated the increasing importance of Negroes in politics.[11]

The second Klan however, was much more involved in politics to the extent of getting Klan members into important governmental roles. This second phase was one in which politics became a more important aspect, it was used as a way to expand and attempt to change and manipulate politics. “In states such as Alabama, the KKK was not a mere hate group and showed a genuine desire for political and social reform.”[12] However it is disputed whether the social reform they provided to the lower classes was truly for them or whether it was a way for the Klan to gain more support to get their members into office. These governmental endeavours were for the most part a way to expand the Klan. They didn’t really change their political views. They just ended up using politics as a method of advancing their own goals and in the second phase they were able to gain governmental protection. They used this governmental protection in Alabama so that they could spread further terror.[13]

The Ku Klux Klan was infamous for its violent and terrorising methods and adopted these quite early in its history as mentioned in the violent methods used against Democrat voters in the first phase. The Klan targeted a number of districts and their violence is well documented. In the district of Piedmont alone, as counted by Judge Albion W. Tourgee in 1870 the Klan committed 12 counts of murder, 9 rapes, 14 counts of arson, and over 700 beatings.[14] This violence did not stop; it only expanded, and it spread into the big cities, just as its membership did by the time of the second phase.

[...]


[1] http://www.martinfrost.ws/htmlfiles/kkk1.html#The_second_Klan

[2] Du Bois, W.E.B., Black Reconstruction in America: 1860 – 1880 (Frank Cass & Co., 1966), pp. 677-678

[3] Foner, Eric, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 (New York, Perennial Classics, 1989), p. 432

[4] Foner, Eric, A Short History of Reconstruction (Harper & Row Publishers, 1990), p.184

[5] Foner, Eric, A Short History of Reconstruction (Harper & Row Publishers, 1990), p.184

[6] http://socyberty.com/issues/kkk-ku-klux-klan/

[7] http://www.martinfrost.ws/htmlfiles/kkk1.html#The_second_Klan

[8] Trelease, Allen W., White Terror (Louisiana State University Press, 1995), p. xlvii

[9] http://www.martinfrost.ws/htmlfiles/kkk1.html#The_first_Klan

[10] Foner, Eric, A Short History of Reconstruction (Harper & Row Publishers, 1990), p. 190

[11] Du Bois, W.E.B., Black Reconstruction in America: 1860 – 1880 (Frank Cass & Co., 1966), p. 440

[12] http://www.martinfrost.ws/htmlfiles/kkk1.html#The_second_Klan

[13] http://www.martinfrost.ws/htmlfiles/kkk1.html#The_second_Klan

[14] Foner, Eric, A Short History of Reconstruction (Harper & Row Publishers, 1990), p. 186

Excerpt out of 7 pages

Details

Title
To what extent were the “first” (1866-71) and “second” (1915-1930) KKKs two phases of the same movement?
College
University of Central Lancashire
Grade
2.1
Author
Year
2012
Pages
7
Catalog Number
V278907
ISBN (eBook)
9783656715306
ISBN (Book)
9783656715283
File size
451 KB
Language
English
Tags
kkks
Quote paper
J. A. Lowe (Author), 2012, To what extent were the “first” (1866-71) and “second” (1915-1930) KKKs two phases of the same movement?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/278907

Comments

  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: To what extent were the “first” (1866-71) and “second” (1915-1930) KKKs two phases of the same movement?


Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free