Ku Klux Klan

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Members of the Ku Klux Klan parading at night in Springfield, Ohio on September 8, 1923.

During the late 1860s, some Southern veterans of the defeated Confederacy created the Ku Klux Klan. This organization's original goal was to deny African Americans the same rights and opportunities as white people in the South. The American Civil War and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, to the United States Constitution had granted African Americans freedom and equality with whites. The members of the KKK hoped to keep African Americans from enjoying those rights.

To exercise social, political, and economic power over African Americans, Klan members utilized violence or threats of violence. KKK members, at times, threatened, injured and murdered African Americans who attempted to become educated, who tried to vote, who befriended whites, who sought to leave the South, or who sought better paying jobs. During this period, members of the Klan began to wear white robes as a way to intimidate African Americans and conceal their identities. Because of organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, some white Southerners were able to reestablish their dominance over Southern society. The Ku Klux Klan and other similar organizations slowly declined during the 1870s and the 1880s, as terrorism was replaced by the legal system of segregation and repression that came to be called Jim Crow.

During the 1910s, the Ku Klux Klan emerged again. This was partly due to the Great Migration. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans moved from the South to the North, seeking jobs in the North's industrialized cities, including many cities in Ohio. In addition, many people in the U.S. became involved in reform movements during the first decades of the twentieth century. Some of these movements supported middle-class, Protestant values and believed that non-whites and foreigners were a danger to these beliefs. Because of these fears and concerns, the Ku Klux Klan was able to find new supporters.

The Klan of the 1800s was different from and the Klan of the 1910s and 1920s in two major ways. The Ku Klux Klan of the early twentieth century extended their prejudice to include more groups than African Americans. The new Klan disliked foreigners, non-white racial groups, and non-Protestants. During the nineteenth century, the Klan was strongest in the South, but during the early twentieth century, the KKK was popular in the North as well.

The Ku Klux Klan was especially strong in Ohio during the 1910s and 1920s. For example, in Summit County, the Klan claimed to have fifty thousand members, making it the largest local chapter in the United States. Many of the county's officials were members, including the sheriff, the Akron mayor, several judges and county commissioners, and most members of Akron's school board. The Klan was also very popular in Licking County, where the group held its state konklave (convention) in 1923 and 1925. More than seventy thousand people attended each event. The konklaves were held at Buckeye Lake, a popular tourist attraction in the early twentieth century.

By the mid 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan began to decline in popularity. David Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of Indiana and a part-time resident of Buckeye Lake, was arrested for assaulting a young woman. Other prominent members were involved in other scandalous or criminal behavior. The Ku Klux Klan declined in popularity but saw a revival once again during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The Ku Klux Klan continues to exist in the twenty-first century.

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