On this day in history, six Confederate veterans from Pulaski, Tennessee created the original Ku Klux Klan. The name was formed by combining the Greek word for circle kyklos with clan. The group was known for a short time as the “Kuklux Clan”.
The Klan began as a “Christian” social club of like-minded individuals, quickly evolving into an action society dedicated to “demonstrating” its opposition to blacks (later expanded to Jews, immigrants, Communists, gays and lesbians and, until recently, Catholics).
Historian Eric Foner observed (Foner, Eric, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877, 1989:
In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired restoration of white supremacy. … It aimed to reverse the interlocking changes sweeping over the South during Reconstruction: to destroy the Republican party’s infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, reestablish control of the black labor force, and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern life. To that end they worked to curb the education, economic advancement, voting rights, and right to keep and bear arms of blacks. The Ku Klux Klan soon spread into nearly every southern state, launching a “reign of terror against Republican leaders both black and white.”
The Klan is still active, and was estimated in 2012 to have between 5,000 and 8,000 members. It is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
More recently, the fortunes of the Klan seem to have been revived by the successful presidential race of Donald Trump. David Duke, longtime Klan leader, neo-Nazi, and international spokesman for Holocaust denial, claimed (not unrealistically) credit in part for Trump’s win, tweeting “make no mistake about it, our people played a HUGE role in electing Trump!”
On his Facebook page David Duke added:
You parasites should literally be beyond thankful Donald J. Trump defeated your rigged system – he pulled off the most amazing victory in this nation’s history – you should be celebrating, seriously.
Unlike what it could’ve been, had he loss [sic] – Trump actually has some weird type of compassion for you filth and will more than likely allow some of you to still operate – much like Putin does in Russia – but guess what? You arrogant, unthankful, degenerate pieces of shit no longer have absolute power – appreciate the influence Trump allows you to have in this great nation, try and be thankful for once – because I can assure you, things could be A LOT worse.”