The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), or just the Klan is the name of three distinct movements in the United States. They first played a violent role against African Americans in the South during the Reconstruction Era of the 1860s. The second was a very large controversial nationwide organization in the 1920s. The current manifestation consists of numerous small unconnected groups that use the KKK name. They have all emphasized secrecy and distinctive costumes, and all have called for purification of American society, and all are considered right-wing.
The current manifestation is classified as ahate group by the Anti-Defamation Leagueand the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is estimated to have between 5,000 and 8,000 members as of 2012.
The first Ku Klux Klan flourished in theSouthern United States in the late 1860s, then died out by the early 1870s. Members made their own white costumes: robes, masks, andconical hats, designed to be outlandish and terrifying, and to hide their identities. The second KKK flourished nationwide in the early and mid-1920s, and adopted a standard white costume (sales of which together with initiation fees financed the movement) and code words as the first Klan, while addingcross burnings and mass parades. The third KKK emerged after World War II and was associated with opposing the Civil Rights Movement and progress among minorities. The second and third incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan made frequent reference to the USA's "Anglo-Saxon" blood, harking back to 19th-century nativism. Though most members of the KKK saw themselves in holding to American values and Christian morality, virtually every Christian denomination officially denounced the Ku Klux Klan.
Klan influence casts long shadow over U.P. historyEdit
If any name fully arouses the emotions of targeted minorities, it’s this: Ku Klux Klan. For more than 150 years, these words triggered fear, emotion, violence, and visions of hooded night riders and the char of burning crosses. On the national scene, the Klan may be a shadow of its former self but civil rights groups keep a watch for any uprisings. In Upper Michigan, so remote from the Klan’s southern origins, its strong presence in the mid-1920s resulted in surprisingly neutral news reporting, even cooperation and participation from the most unlikely sources. The historic Klan has had three distinct lives in the United States, each pushing some combination of white supremacy in the form of anti-black, anti-Jew, anti-Catholic, anti-immigration, and later, anti-communist activities. Civil rights organizations classify the Klan as a hate group. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League calls it racist and anti-Semitic, using violence to achieve its goals.
The first Klan was formed in Tennessee in the late 1860s by Confederate Army veterans who wore white robes, face masks, and conical hats to hide their identities. This group soon died out. A reborn Klan emerged in 1915 following the success of the D.W. Griffith movie Birth of a Nation. Griffith presented the Klan as a heroic force, with white actors portraying blacks negatively. It was the first motion picture shown in the White House, for viewers like President Woodrow Wilson. The movie was profitable but protests were so widespread it was banned in some cities.
Griffith was so disturbed by the outcry he made a counterpoint movie, Intolerance, the following year. Birth of a Nation inspired a rejuvenated Klan, which spread from Georgia throughout the eastern U.S. The new Klan grew rapidly with modern business techniques and an agenda of “One Hundred Percent Americanism,” combined with its strict moral code and alcohol prohibition. Violent episodes, like lynching of blacks, stirred fear and revulsion among its enemies. Cross burnings were a famous addition added to its repertoire. At its peak in the mid-1920s, the Klan claimed that fifteen percent of the nation’s eligible males were members––about four to five million. Most Upper Peninsula Klan events occurred in that time frame. The movement faded locally in the late 1920s and was almost gone by the beginning of World War II. A 1999 Mining Journal story summarized the state and U.P. experience with the Ku Klux Klan, claiming they wielded little influence despite a strong presence here in the 1920s. The group first appeared in Detroit in 1921 but didn’t get serious until late 1923. In December of that year, 4,000 Detroiters gathered near the steps of the county office building to recite the Lord’s Prayer, led by a masked Klan Santa Claus, while a cross burned nearby. The mask violated a new state law, which banned hoods that covered faces.
The U.P. ExperienceEdit
Dr. Russ Magnaghi, Northern Michigan University professor and historian, who has given three major talks on the U.P. Klan, reported the first Upper Peninsula chapter was in Manistique in 1921 with 100 members. In the 1924 gubernatorial primary, Klan candidate James A. Hamilton drew 972 votes in Marquette County, far behind incumbent Governor Alexander Grosbeck, who drew six times as many. Jump to 1925, and the Klan was all over the place. In May, an ad in the Iron River Reporter announced a celebration at Chicagoan Lake Resort. This county of 21,000 people had 2,500 at the Klanbake, 250 of whom were new members. Iron County reportedly had the most Klan members of any U.P. county.
Later that year, the Epworth League (a young adult religious group) hosted a Klan rally on the north shore of Lake Michigamme, with nearly a thousand people on hand to hear a Pennsylvania clergyman preach. The combined attendance in Iron River and Michigamme was a stunning 3,500. But there was more to come.
The Negaunee Iron Herald advertised “public meetings in the big tent” in eastern Negaunee for Labor Day weekend in 1926. “Able speakers will discuss topics of vital importance,” read the ad. Although 6,000 were expected, only 1,500 showed up in poor weather. A most startling part of the show was that “choirs from some [area] churches ... have taken turns providing music for the meetings.”
Negaunee hosted another tent meeting later that year; when the tent was delayed the rally moved to the Negaunee High School auditorium. A Klan quartet from Wayne County provided the entertainment, accompanied by a twenty-five-piece U.P. Klan band. When the tent finally arrived, nightly meetings drew big crowds. That same year, 1926, Marquette’s Washington Street was the scene of a Klan parade of 125 members dressed in hoods and capes. There also was activity in southern Ontonagon County. In the Soo, the Klan had its own newspaper. Most cross burnings in the area took place in the 1924-1926 period. In 1924, one burned on Millie Hill in Iron Mountain as 150 new members were enrolled. That cross was a stripped-down spruce tree with a cross arm, all soaked in oil. A local businessman and Ford Motor employee were identified as event organizers.
In Marquette, burning crosses were spotted on top of the Harvey cross-cut and on the east side of town, with hate letters cut into the grass (local police said the latter was not a KKK act). Other crosses burned at Chicagoan Lake in 1924, a thirty-six-footer there the following year, and one near Gaastra a week later. Several were torched in Negaunee, and others on a hill east of Trout Creek and in the Dynamite Hill section of L’Anse. Burning these religious symbols has long been associated with the Klan, but the practice started earlier in Europe.
In 1810 Scottish writer Walter Scott described a “fiery cross” used to summon Scottish clans in his poem “The Lady of the Lake.” Christians are offended by cross burnings, but Klan Christians said they don’t actually “burn” a cross, but “light it” as a symbol of their faith. Some sources say more than 1,500 cross burnings have been recorded in America since the late 1980s, with African-American homes singled out for treatment. Police say most were acts of lone racists.
The Later KlanEdit
Craig Fox, a British historian who wrote Everyday Klansfolk: White Protestant Life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan, published by Michigan State University Press, believes the KKK’s “influence and popularity held Michigan in a tight grip during the 1920s. At the height of their power, the ‘Invisible Empire’ had staggering membership numbers” of more than six million nationwide. Fox estimated Michigan’s membership ran as high as 80,000. The third version of the Klan appeared after World War II to oppose the growing civil rights movement. Many unconnected groups acted under the name during the 1950s and 1960s. Today, about forty different Klan groups are thought to have a membership of about 5,000 nationwide. The most recent U.P. appearance was in 1997, when thirteen people calling themselves Klan members rallied in the western U.P. city of Ironwood, drawing about 100 police officers and 300 protesters. T here was plenty of interaction, bantering and much booing by the protesters. A news reporter witnessed evidence of hate and vulgarity, quoting one Klan member as saying “all of you is a pile of grease saturated defecation.” A Mining Journal editorial called the event an “utter failure” and an insult to women. No one knows if the Klan will rise again, but if it does, civil rights advocates will fight to contain it.
Titles and vocabulary Edit
Main article: Ku Klux Klan titles and vocabulary
Membership in the Klan is secret. Like many fraternal organizations, the Klan has signs which members can use to recognize one another. A member may use the acronymAYAK (Are you a Klansman?) in conversation to surreptitiously identify himself to another potential member. The response AKIA (A Klansman I am) completes the greeting.
Throughout its varied history, the Klan has coined many words beginning with "Kl" including:
- Klabee - treasurers
- Klavern - local organization
- Imperial Kleagle - recruiter
- Klecktoken - initiation fee
- Kligrapp - secretary
- Klonvocation - gathering
- Kloran - ritual book
- Kloreroe - delegate
- Imperial Kludd - chaplain
All of the above terminology was created by William Simmons, as part of his 1915 revival of the Klan. The Reconstruction-era Klan used different titles; the only titles to carry over were "Wizard" for the overall leader of the Klan and "Night Hawk" for the official in charge of security.
The Imperial Kludd was the chaplain of the Imperial Klonvokation and he performed "such other duties as may be required by the Imperial Wizard."
The Imperial Kaliff was the second highest position after the Imperial Wizard.