The Ku Klux Klan A cult is a type of religious organization that stands apart from the
larger society. These groups often have a charismatic leader and they
create their own radical beliefs. A cult that is very widespread in
the United States and claims to be largely apparent throughout the
world is the Ku Klux Klan or the "KKK".
The Ku Klux Klan is a cult that claims to be promoters of white
Christian civilization. The original Ku Klux Klan was organized to
oppose the Reconstruction policies of the radical Republican Congress
and to maintain white supremacy. After the Civil War, when local
government in the South was weak or nonexistent and there were fears
of black outrages, informal armed patrols were formed in almost all
communities. The KKK was organized at Pulaski, Tenn., in May 1866. Its
strange disguises, silent parades, midnight rides, mysterious language
and commands, were useful in playing upon fears and superstitions.
Members dressed in flowing white sheets, their faces covered with
white masks and skulls at their saddle horns, posed as spirits of dead
Confederate soldiers returned from the battlefields. The Klan was
effective in keeping black men away from the polls, so that the
ex-Confederates gained political control in many states. Congress in
1870 and 1871 passed legislation to combat the Klan.
The second Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1915 by William J. Simmons. The
new Klan had much more intense views than the Klan before it, for it
added to white supremacy an intense nativism and anti-Catholicism. The
Klan controlled politics in many communities and in 1922, 1924, and
1926 elected many state officials and a number of Congressmen. Its
power in the Midwest was broken during the late 1920s when David C.
Stephenson, a major Klan leader, was convicted of second-degree
murder. Evidence of corruption also surfaced led to the indictment of
the governor of Indiana and the mayor of Indianapolis, both supporters
of the Klan. The Klan often took illegal measures, especially against
those whom it considered its enemies. At its peak in the mid-1920s its
membership was estimated at 4 million to 5 million. Although the
actual figures were probably much smaller, the Klan then declined to
an estimated 30,000 by 1930.
After World War II, Dr. Samuel Green of Georgia attempted to revive
the Klan, but failed. Southern civil-rights activities during the
1960s gave the Klan a new mission, which led to revivals of many
different Klan organizations. The most notable of these were
Mississippi's White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, led by Robert
Shelton. The newly revived Klan groups were responsible for violent
attacks against blacks and civil-rights workers in cities throughout
the South. In...