Will the Ku Klux Klan Rise Again?

Basically, that’s the question offered in this article from the Associated Press (a video will eventually play to augment the article).

I was particularly struck by the following claim in the article:

Formed just months after the end of the Civil War by six former Confederate officers, the Klan originally seemed more like a college fraternity with ceremonial robes and odd titles for its officers. But soon, freed blacks were being terrorized, and the Klan was blamed. Hundreds of people were assaulted or killed as whites tried to regain control of the defeated Confederacy. Congress effectively outlawed the Klan in 1871, and the group died.

The curious construction of the second sentence, complete with the double use of the passive voice, is remarkable. Might the Reconstruction KKK have had something to do with conducting a war of terror against freed blacks (and their white allies)?

Maybe. Just maybe.

As for the rest of the muddled narrative, let’s assume that the author has at best a partial understanding of the Ku Klux Act of 1871, how President Grant used the powers it authorized him to use, and the degree to which Grant’s actions destroyed the KKK.

The various reincarnations of the KKK in the 20th century, while inspired by the Reconstruction KKK (or, to be more precise, by the portrayal of that group in the movie Birth of A Nation), are distinct from that organization, even if they have many things in common, including an identification with the Confederacy and the preservation of white (Christian/Protestant) supremacy through terror, intimidation, and violence. But to say that they are the same is to overlook a great deal.

It is also unfortunate that many people identify white supremacist terrorist violence during Reconstruction with the KKK alone. That would be incorrect. Violence and suppression against freed blacks started during the summer and fall of 1865: we can see institutional evidence of state-sponsored white supremacy in the passing of the Black Codes and in the shaping of the southern legal sysyem by the state governments founded during presidential Reconstruction (especially during the Johnson presidency). Neither the Memphis nor New Orleans massacres of 1866 were KKK operations. Moreover, the tendency to identify the KKK with Nathan Bedford Forrest tends to obscure the fact that many Confederate veterans, including prominent ones such as John B. Gordon, donned Klan robes and did all they could to counter the emergence of black equality and political power. The KKK was far more pwerful in 1867 and especially 1868, when it battled the advent of black political power and the Republican party, and the organization in various forms persisted into the early 1870s, proving especially important in the Carolinas.

But the so-called destruction of the KKK in the aftermath of the passage of the Ku Klux Act and Grant’s application of the act in South Carolina in September 1871 did not spell the end of white supremacist terrorist violence. Far from it. Such violence took new forms under new names and emplyed new tactics and strategies (see the Mississippi Plan of 1875) as it did much to accomplish what the original KKK failed to achieve. Occasionally even biographers of Grant ignore or stumble over this inconvenient truth, most notably in Geoffrey Perret’s 1997 study, which was virtually silent about Reconstruction in Grant’s second term. By paying far too much attention to the KKK as the expression of such violence, Perret blinded himself to what else was going on … or perhaps he simply didn’t know about it. We must not be so ignorant.

But wait … there’s more.

Like several Confederate heritage groups, the KKK makes for good video, especially with the Confederate flag waving in the background or in places like Stone Mountain, a place favored by, among others, the Virginia Flaggers. Indeed, it’s not hard to draw connections between the KKK, other white supremacists, and Confederate heritage groups, as this news item this past week demonstrates. Note that the KKK leaders portrayed in this report endorse Trump and pledge death to their enemies (although they then claim that they don’t mean what they say–we’ve heard that excuse before from Confederate heritage apologists when white supremacists have advocated violence). And, of course, many of you will recall Mr. Heimbach’s association with a certain Virginia-based Confederate heritage group, one the group’s leadership has never disavowed (recall Virginia Flagger Tripp Lewis’s declaration that Mr. Heimbach was “a good guy”). A review of the social media offerings of several Virginia Flaggers reveals that, like the KKK and their buddy Heimbach, they, too, support Donald J. Trump for president.

Then again, Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was prominent in KKK circles during Reconstruction, did much to play down that association when he appeared before a congressional investigating committee in 1871. The Virginia Flaggers would like to do the same with their association with Heimbach and other white supremacists, including two people who rented them land upon which to fly their flags near Virginia interstates. But how can we forget that the spokesperson of the Virginia Flaggers, Susan Frise Hathaway, openly idolizes Forrest and Wade Hampton, whose Red Shirts used white supremacist terrorist tactics to regain control of South Carolina’s state government? The woman in the red dress loves that man and his Red Shirts.

As Mark Twain once reminded us, although history may not repeat itself, sometime it rhymes.

23 thoughts on “Will the Ku Klux Klan Rise Again?

  1. OhioGuy June 30, 2016 / 12:11 pm

    In terms of your references to modern politics: it looks like our choices may be between an a-hole Republican, a corrupted and dishonest Democrat and a pothead ex-Republican Libertarian. If ever there was a year for a “None of the Above” option this is it.

    • Erick Hare July 1, 2016 / 11:09 am

      Yeah I really don’t see any viable candidate for President at this point. On one side you have a candidate who is above the law and extremely corrupt and on the other side a candidate who’s social stances are so controversial that he has the KKK openly supporting his candidacy for President. Add to that massive voter fraud in multiple instances and the American people are left with no real solutions for who to lead the country.

      • John Foskett July 2, 2016 / 12:43 pm

        I think you’re actually being diplomatic about the other candidate. He’s a demagogue and a narcissist of unprecedented degree. As Rand Paul said of him during the primaries, “narcissists are generally delusional.”

      • Ashley Nave November 17, 2016 / 11:40 am

        I am white, I have heard of the Ku Klux Klan. My grandfather before he studied the Bible with the Jehovah’s Witnesses belonged to the Ku Klux Klan Chapter in Stafford VA years ago. When he studied the Bible it changed his thoughts, ways, or mind set and he left the Ku Klux Klan Chapter because he realized it was wrong to be hate and prejudice just because of someone’s skin tone or difference. I have heard of the Ku Klux Klan Chapters past history in Stafford County, Virginia but never hear from the Ku Klux Klan Chapter of today personally. I had the the question: Are there still Ku Klux Klan Chapter members in Virginia? Darn right there is and they could be anywhere. So could the Ku Klux Klan Chapters rise or increase in size again? Probably so. But then again, I am not prejudice against any one whose culture, origins, or ancestry is different from mine. I do have Irish, British, Germon, and I am over 90 percent European descent, but under one condition I also Native American Heritage roots, too. In addition I have cousins who are half white and black, and a first cousin married to a Vietnamese man. If the Ku Klux Klan Chapters rise again keep in mind that are people who will fight against the hate and prejudice groups. I am the type that will fight for what is right because I believe that All Lives Matter.

  2. OhioGuy June 30, 2016 / 12:20 pm

    Let me add that I still hold out some hope that the GOP will decide that pledged delegates can abstain on the first ballot thus deny Trump the nomination and that the FBI primary will alter the dynamics on the Democratic side. A Sanders-Cruz race would at least be between men who are honest, intellectual, and have some degree of civility. A debate between these two would actually be educational for the electorate. A debate between the current leaders would be a circus that would give Barnum and Bailey a bad name.

    • John Foskett June 30, 2016 / 3:27 pm

      I agree completely with your assessment of the current nominees but the options you mention are little better. For example, there’s a reason why one of them is literally and personally despised by a vast majority of the people who have ever met him. And neither one of them is selling exactly what might be called reasonable or realistic policies. We are in dire need of a third party which is not a hostage of the freaks on either end of the spectrum or simply for sale to the highest bidder. We are sadly on the way to proving the “wisdom” expressed by Justice Holmes in one sentence of his opinion in Buck v. Bell, 270 US 200, 207 (1927).

  3. OhioGuy June 30, 2016 / 12:27 pm

    And, no, the KKK will not rise again. The Confederate Heritage movement is a very fringe group that is more into histrionics than history. Unlike with the KKK in bygone eras, the guys and gals you mention do not enjoy widespread support among their fellow southerners. I guess we could say that the KKK is “gone with the wind.”

    • John Foskett June 30, 2016 / 3:29 pm

      That’s been said before, unfortunately. Anybody watching the re-emergence of supposedly fringe neo-Nazi groups in Europe would be unlikely to express that prediction with such confidence.

  4. Richard McCormick June 30, 2016 / 12:59 pm

    Do you think the brief scenes showing the,Klan in Free State of Jones will add to the confusion about the forms of white supremacist violence, or were they to brief (and perhaps not seen by enough people) to matter? Should the filmmakers have found a different way to show such violence other than using the Klan, which may be like low-hanging fruit?

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 30, 2016 / 1:32 pm

      Yes. The KKK, for example, did not execute the Mississippi Plan of 1875. So the labelling and imagery was simplistic and misleading.

  5. Joshism June 30, 2016 / 5:35 pm

    I think the KKK has been sufficiently discredited (and the organization’s goofy titles and silly costumes are too dated) to meaningful rise again.

    That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if some kind of neo-Klan group were to rise to prominence during the next 5-10 years. I’m not predicting one will, merely that I would not be surprised if one did if the right combination and/or concentration of events were to occur. I would expect such a hypothetical group to use organized terror tactics that indiscriminately target Muslims.

  6. Shoshana Bee June 30, 2016 / 8:39 pm

    I don’t care what you call it: HATE is here to stay. Always in vogue. Always another willing participant. Always another proving ground to serve as a leap-off point (in this case: the Flaggers and their monster spin-off creation: Matthew Heimbach)

    QUOTE:The woman in the red dress loves that man and his Red Shirts.

    Perhaps it is to emulate and celebrate the blood letting brought forth from hate.

    They did not quite have the evidence of Matthew Hembach’s last ‘organized event’ cleaned up when I walked by it hours after it occurred. The color red sticks quite firmly in my mind as a very appropriate color to wear if one is going to support and defend the likes of Heimbach.

  7. Randall July 1, 2016 / 12:19 am

    We need to be careful not to associate someone with “hate” if they simply are not politically correct. I seem to see a re-occurring line here about racist groups supporting Donald Trump, as though that in itself is a sign that Mr. Trump is in line with their more hateful ideas more than other candidates. In my opinion, most groups of just about any kind will come down on one side of the political debate or the other simply because they share SOME (not ALL) of their general ideas or principles.

    Today in the South (and many other areas that uphold the traditional values of this nation), people are very concerned about government overstepping its authority, and trying to silence or persecute those who are not in line with the way they are trying to change our culture.

    Many of us have been accused of “hate” when we say that we do not uphold the views of the muslims, homosexuals, abortionists, or other groups that want to force us to accept their ideas. They falsely cover their real intentions in the guise of “tolerance”, but what they really want is to obliterate any opposition to their point of view. They speak as though they want equality, but they do not even seem to have a firm grasp on what equality is. A level playing field is a great way to have equality, but if the government gives one group an advantage from the start simply because they are part of a minority, then the playing field is not even, and the majority is being discriminated against (a complete reversal of the idea of equality).

    It is not the government’s place to lift every idea to the same level as every other idea. Everyone should be allowed to believe what they want, but they are not allowed to force other free people to be quiet in their disagreement.

    I’m completely against hating people because of their race or beliefs. I think the KKK and other similar groups are pathetic, and full of people who have not known the Love that Jesus taught us.

    The problem is, too many people label you a “hater” if you speak out against what you believe is evil (or just a bad idea). They do not seem to grasp the idea that you can hate a particular thing without hating the person. I do not hate muslims, but I believe they are wrong in what they believe. As such, I will gladly speak to them about my beliefs, and try to witness to them about what I know is True. If they do not change, that is their decision. However, they cannot be given legal authority to force me to be silent simply because they are “offended” when someone openly disagrees with them. That is not equality.

    Understand this: we do not have a right to “not be offended”. Everyone has to put their “big boy pants” on and grow up.

    I do not see anything that makes me think the KKK will rise in power anytime soon (although such a thing might be difficult to predict based solely on present political and cultural statuses), and there is certainly nothing in Donald Trump’s actions or words that would lead me to believe that a vote for him is a vote for the KKK. Hilary, however, seems to be much like Obama in her views of trashing the Constitution and rewriting law with the stroke of a pen in executive orders.

    I’m from the South, and I am very thankful to be from here. While I do not support the Confederacy for all the views and actions they may have taken, I firmly hold the idea of not bowing to or supporting a government that is against the Bill of Rights. Too many people want the freedom to speak their own ideas while suppressing or eliminating the freedom of others to speak if it does not suit them. The government needs to get out of the business of trying to force good people to accept and abide by bad things. If people want to live in a way that I do not agree with, they are allowed to do so in this country. They are not, however, supposed to be given the governmental power to force me to accommodate their choices that violate my faith. The First Amendment is there to keep the government out of the Church’s affairs. If people do not like Jesus, that is their loss. Do not go crying to the government to make others stop telling you that you are wrong. Freedom works both ways.

    Thank you all who took the time to read this. 🙂

    Please do not comment on this post if you have not read it completely. Not understanding the facts of what I’ve said will make you look quite shallow if you respond without merit.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 2, 2016 / 2:07 pm

      Let’s read what you say with a more discerning eye:

      We need to be careful not to associate someone with “hate” if they simply are not politically correct. I seem to see a re-occurring line here about racist groups supporting Donald Trump, as though that in itself is a sign that Mr. Trump is in line with their more hateful ideas more than other candidates.

      That’s your interpretation. You can’t say that certain hate groups don’t support Mr. Trump. In fact, you don’t challenge either the argument or the evidence presented in the post. You just imagine your own inference and reply accordingly. That’s a rather limp effort at deflection, but a confession that you can’t debate the posts on its merits — including its discussions of the various versions of the KKK and the rather weak wording of the report highlighted. So far, so good.

      You would think that Mr. Trump’s own security team would make sure that Mr. Heimbach no longer appears at Trump rallies. We’ll see.

      Many of us have been accused of “hate” when we say that we do not uphold the views of the muslims, homosexuals, abortionists, or other groups that want to force us to accept their ideas.

      Hmm. You say “muslims”? Not “Muslims”? But later you speak of “the Church”? I see.

      The rest of this post seems like nothing more than a political rant in which you defend Trump and slamm Obama and Clinton. You’re welcome to your political opinions, of course, but when you offer them in a post devoid of historical content, please be apprised that I will henceforth simply trash them. Clearly you were unable to deal with the material presented in the post, which suggests that you’re unable to challenge it. Moreover, when you say …

      Please do not comment on this post if you have not read it completely. Not understanding the facts of what I’ve said will make you look quite shallow if you respond without merit.

      … you lose the privilege of commenting here at all, especially when it’s evident that you’ve not read my post completely or carefully, leaving you to look quite shallow in offering a response that I deem without merit. Take care.

      Just remember how white southerners responded to the idea of black southerners exercising their Second Amendment rights. Ahem … and goodbye.

      • Shoshana Bee July 2, 2016 / 2:28 pm

        Settling into a rather pessimistic mood, I can at least take solace in the fact that there are far more articulate individuals than I who can take on the of diatribe of the delusional. I can hardly choke down the comment in order to respond (which is usually more visceral than cerebral, anyway)

    • bob carey July 2, 2016 / 3:52 pm

      The fact that your views are expressed in this public forum proves that there is no legal authority forcing you to be silent. Extending rights to minority groups does not curtail any rights for the majority, it may curtail their privileged status however.
      What exactly are traditional American values? Values are a personal belief system unique to each individual, therefore to lump values under a monolithic umbrella is ludicrous.

    • John Foskett July 3, 2016 / 8:02 am

      You’re right about this – no group has an entitlement to force its views on others. Guess what – you can find that problem by looking to your right just as easily as you can by looking to your left. A southern evangelical has no more business telling me what I have to believe/do than does a committed agnostic. Ultimately, of course, we live in a democracy. I find it amusing that some people only complain about majority rule when they disagree with the consequences. You point to the Bill of Rights but you seem to consider only the provisions you like. Take the First Amendment. I hear a lot about the free exercise clause from a certain crowd. I hear a lot less from them about the establishment clause – originally crafted by Mr. Jefferson for Virginia and later transported into the Bill of Rights. The Tea Party crowd and their “faith-based” adjuncts seem not to have read that far. As for Trump, I think you’re intelligent enough to note the overall demagoguery of just about everything he says – it’s hardly limited to race/religion.

    • Leo July 5, 2016 / 6:31 am

      I have read your comments in entirety and find them lacking in both substance and evidence. Quite frankly, you have simply regurgitated the same nonsensical talking points and drivel commonly found on neo-confederate facebook pages and far-right blogs. I would go on, but Mr. Simpson has exposed the flaws in your post for the entire world to see.

  8. bob carey July 1, 2016 / 6:07 am

    I think you expect quite a lot for a reporter to write a story involving anything historical to be accurate.
    My biggest concern about Trump is that he somehow unites and gives identity to the worst elements of the far right, some people call it “white rage”. The fact that these supremacist can unite behind a major party candidate is frightening to me, it somehow gives them a degree of legitimacy. As you state the Flaggers endorsed him, even though he was supportive of Gov. Haley’s actions in regards to removing the CBF in Columbia. Their endorsement proves that they are not even concerned about their “beloved flag” but that they are all about white supremacy.

  9. Michael Bradley July 1, 2016 / 12:11 pm

    An interesting recent book is “KuKlux: The Birth of the Klan During Reconstruction” by Dr. Elaine Frantz Parsons of Duquesne University. Published U of NC Press, 2015

  10. Matt McKeon July 3, 2016 / 6:38 pm

    The Klan is so thoroughly penetrated by the FBI, I don’t think they specifically will rise again. White nationalist groups will be called something else.

  11. Ashley Nave November 17, 2016 / 12:16 pm

    The Ku Klux Klan Chapter in my home area of Stafford County, Virginia had a video recently of a group dressed up in Ku Klux Klan uniforms and meeting together as well as dancing. A police investigation is suppose to take place to make sure that no law’s were broken. The question is this: Will the Ku Klux Klan arise again? Probably so. Just probably or could be happening again at some point. Prejudice and hatred has not died down, but years prior to President Obama who now in the White House or will soon be in the past: Prejudice was slowing down in my generation and now why all of a sudden it starts doing so again? PREJUDICE AND HATE HAS BEEN HERE. I CAN’T STATE THAT KKK WILL NEVER ARISE AGAIN. IT JUST MIGHT IS WHAT I WILL SAY. I am 33 years old, so what people think of it today have different opinions neither right or wrong. My opinion is that there probably be a racist war or severe conflicts that will take place.

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