Friday, 20 June 2014

Ku Klux Klan

20th June 1871

This day in history...Ku Klux Klan trials begin in federal courts

The KKK wanted to restore white supremacy in America in the late 1800s by threats and violence; they tortured and murdered black and white Republicans. In 1871, however, the Federal Government passed the Force Acts, prosecuting Klan crimes and suppressing the KKK's activity.  The trials began and heard testimonies from 52 witnesses about Klan atrocities. Instead of going into the history and consequences of the Force Acts, today's blog will look briefly at the KKK and some of the witness accounts in the trial.

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Members of the KKK
Ku Klux Klan: A brief history
The First Klan was created in 1865 by 6 well-educated Confederate veterans from Tennessee. The name was formed from the combination of the Greek word κύκλος, meaning circle, with clan. The group was a secret, oath-bound organization using violence. As the group was formed during the Reconstruction era following the American Civil War, it was made of many veterans, attempting to control the dramatically changed post-war society. 

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KKK meeting 1924
The Klan was organized in chapters with a national headquarters, similar to what the veterans were used to in their military hierarchies. The (strange) organisations and titles are as follows;
  • Grand Wizard - This was the national head of the 'Invisible Empire'
  • Grand Dragon - This was the ruler of a 'Realm' (State)
  • Grand Titan - Ruler of a 'Dominion' within a Realm
  • Grand Giant - Head of a province or chapter
  • Grand Cyclops - President of a meeting or a 'Den'
  • Grand Magi and Grand Monk - Second and Third authorities at a meeting/Den
  • Grand Turk - The marshal, executive officer to the Grand Cyclops
  • Grand Sentinel - Head of the Grand Guards 
  • Grand Guards - Guards of the Den
  • Genii - Assistants to the Grand Wizard (usually 10)
  • Grand Scribe - The secretaries to the Grand Wizards, Dragons, Titans, Giants, Cyclops'
  • Grand Exchequer - The treasurers for the Grands listed above
  • Hydras - Assistants to the Grand Dragon (usually 8)
  • Furies - Assistants to the Grand Titan (usually 6)
  • Goblins - Assistants to the Grand Giant (usually 4)
  • Night-Hawks - Assistants to the Grand Cyclops (usually 2)
  • Ghouls - Individual members
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There were also initiation rites for new members. The Investigating committee, responsible for initiations, were composed of the Grand: Cyclops, Magi and Monk. Upon nomination of a new member, the committee would investigate the candidate's past and would pronounce the candidate 'worthy'. The Grand Turk would escort the candidate to an out post where he would question him and administer the preliminary oath. The candidate would then be taken to the Den, where the Grand Cyclops would administer the final oath. The next section of initiation involved the candidate resting his left hand on a bible and his right hand towards heaven. He would then be interrogated with 10 questions. They included whether or not the candidate had been a member of a Republican Party or whether they believed in Negro equality.

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A KKK initiation: They sometimes tied the candidate by the neck as a symbolic initiation
Witness Reports and KKK Activity
The KKK was considered to be a terrorist organisation with over 550,000 members, especially across the Southern States. The 1871 trials saw KKK defendants sentenced to 5 years incarceration with fines. Hundreds of Ghouls were imprisoned and fined. The crimes the KKK committed were barbarous and inhumane.They attacked their chosen victims at night and wore masks and robes to hide their indentity. The organisation attacked black political leaders and any sympathisers. They would often burn houses down with the occupants still inside. They drove successful black farmers off their land and their businesses. The attacks were primarily used to supress black voting. More than 2000 people were killed and wounded a few weeks prior to the Presidential election in 1868. The KKK would often chase, hunt and murder black republicans through the woods and burn the bodies in piles. 

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Unfortunately the First Klan of 1865-1874 were not the most violent group in KKK history. There have been 2 revival periods since then, one in 1915-1944 and the much more recent 1950s onwards. One of the most violent KKK crimes was committed in 1955. 14 Year old Emmett Till was brutally murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Two men took Emmett for reportedly whistling at one of their wives. They took him to an abandoned warehouse where they brutally beat, killed and mutilated Emmett. They then wrapped his body in barbe dwire and threw him into a river. When the body was discovered they found that his right eye was out of its socket and hangin down his cheek, and that his left eye was missing. There was a hole in the side of his head from a gunshot and they had cut out his tongue and cut off his genitals. Emmetts mother had an open casket funeral open to the public, in order to show the horrors of the KKK. 

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Emmett Till: Christmas Day 1954 (left), In the open casket (right)
They are hundreds more stories like this that showcase the violence and inhumanity of the organisation. Many people were abused both physically and mentally and hundreds were lynched and murdered. It is shocking to see that some KKK chapters still exist. They even have a website can't access it luckily. 

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KKK meeting in 2013, Memphis
What are you thoughts on the KKK? Please leave your comments below

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Shame on you KKK... shame on you. Smh.

  3. this is getting out of hand.