Little Bits of History

The South Shall Rise Again

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 24, 2010

Ku Klux Klan burning a cross

December 24, 1865: A group of six educated Confederate Army veterans form a private club in Pulaski, Tennessee – called the Ku Klux Klan. After the South fell ending the Civil War, the southern states were inundated with “help” from the North. The Reconstruction was a time of upheaval. The southern whites were disenfranchised. Their lands were overrun with Yankees. These men were displaced with their lands and belongings stolen and their women and children defiled. They were adrift.

The KKK was first formed as a social club. It was an outlet for soldiers to have a place to belong, once again. The carpetbaggers – Yankees who moved south carrying cheap luggage and forming a new way of life – and the scalawags – white Southerners who joined the Republicans responsible for the Reconstruction’s mismanagement – were both groups that needed to be shunned. The KKK lost its original goal of meeting for the enjoyment of practical jokes and instead began a reign of terror including lynching and cross burning.

In the spring of 1866, the KKK was parading in the street wrapped in sheets and wearing masks and the uneducated, freed slaves thought they were the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers. With this misconception, many KKK members left the group, but others capitalized on the terrorizing effect. Within two years, the group was already in decline and was further hampered by President Grant’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1871. It eventually ceased to exist.

However, in 1915, after the film The Birth of a Nation hit the screens, a second incarnation of the Klan came into being. These men were rabidly anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Communist racists. Their ranks swelled until in the 1920 about 15% of the eligible US population belonged to the KKK. Their behavior embraced egregious and wanton violent acts and their popularity declined. With the coming of WWII there was a further decline as the KKK supported the Nazis, not a popular sentiment to the millions of Americans with family members in the European theater. Sadly, the group continues to exist.

“It was just a matter of survival…of existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl and hearing the Ku Klux Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.” – Rosa Parks

“When you hear a man say, “I hate,” adding the name of some race, nation, religion, or social class, you are dealing with a belated mind.” – unknown

“Often times I have hated in self-defense; if I were stronger I would not have used such a weapon.” – Kahlil Gibran

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” – Abraham J. Heschel

Also on this day, in 1777 Captain James Cook discovered Christmas Island.

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