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Essay by   •  December 19, 2010  •  3,388 Words (14 Pages)  •  1,381 Views

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The United States of America is one of the most diverse nations in the world today. From the beginning of the 16th century the original Native Americans were joined by the Spanish, Dutch, French and English colonists. The slave trade also occurred in the 16th century because of the cotton plantation boom. The black slaves were a new kind of people as the European settlers had not been accustomed two other races. The black slaves were then considered outcasts and treated very poorly. Most slaves were treated the same as animals if not worse. Almost all of the black slaves did not speak English or French nor could they read or write. The whites and blacks lived together in a society of slavery until the U.S. civil war in the 1860s, after which slavery was abolished from the whole country. The slaves were then set free. Society was quickly starting to change its views on "coloured peoples". The Southern veterans were out of jobs, as the economy of the South had gone down considerably after the war and there was little opportunity for honest work. This resulted in the formation of secret societies such as the Ku Klux Klan. How was the Ku Klux Klan originally formed? What were the reasons that assisted its birth? What is the history of this feared American racist group? Why were so many men so enticed about it; what thrill drove them to join the Klan? What is the status of the Klan today? This essay examines the American phenomenon of the Ku Klux Klan. It also investigates the society the Klan was born into, analyses the history connected to it and inspects how the Klan functions in today's world. It also discusses their methods of operating and the social impact the Klan has had on the USA.

The 19th century was a period of great change in the history of the USA. After the Declaration of Independence and the war against England during the late 18th century all the citizens of the country were declared equal. Unfortunately this ideal was not accomplished in the real world. Although all white men were considered equal, women, children and especially slaves were excluded from the 18th century idea of equality. It was approved and even expected that these "equal citizens" should keep slaves, especially in the Southern states where it would have been nearly impossible to run the plantations if the workforce had to be paid. However, in the 19th century the North and South gradually grew apart. The South fostered strongly the idea of chivalry, boasting itself as the part of the country where the women were beautiful, the men were gallant and the pace of life was slower and more enjoyable. The North was more industrial and life was considerably faster than on the Southern plantations. Immigrants from Europe were colonizing the Midwest and the West, and tolerance grew in the North. Little by little in the North the attitudes towards slavery started changing. The Northern farms had no need to keep slaves for the purpose of working in the fields, and more people were getting concerned at the lack of real equality. In the South, on the other hand, many people grew even more convinced on the importance of slavery and were not willing to change their views. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln, who was a known abolitionist, was elected president. As a protest the eleven Southern states resigned from the Union, formed the Confederacy and elected Jefferson Davis as their president. The Union would not accept this and demanded the Confederation to withdraw their resignation. The South refused to do this, and a war broke out in 1861. After initial victories the Southern army suffered great losses and was forced to surrender in 1865. This marked the abolishment of slavery in the whole country and the restoration of the Union. After the war the Southerners were not happy with the situation which they were forced to face. The slaves were liberated, even the ones that wished to continue the old way of living. Also the new laws prohibited the old plantation owners from employing black labour below approved rates of pay. The South was a wasteland both financially and psychologically. The bitterness grew even stronger and resulted in the birth of several secret societies among the Confederate veterans. One of these was the Ku Klux Klan. This was the American society into which the Ku Klux Klan was born. The South was crowded with veterans of the Confederate army who were bitter at their lost way of life, and filled with hatred against the Union and its new laws. The growing number of blacks living as free men next to their former owners nourished the anger of some Southerners; hostility was always present.

The history of the Klan can be divided into three different periods of time, starting from the 1860s and still continuing today. During these times the Klan took different types of action and the definition of the "enemy" changed considerably. As Alan Axelrod states in his encyclopaedia (160), the name of The Ku Klux Klan was probably derived from the Greek kuklos or kyklos, which means "a circle". However, it has been also assumed that "Ku Klux" comes from "the sound of an old-fashioned rifle being cocked". The word "Klan" was added to complete alliteration, originating from the Scottish name of family, "a clan".It is very hard to state the exact moment of the birth of the Klan, as various sources seem to suggest different dates. However, as Wade explains in his research (31-34), it is fairly certain that the Ku Klux Klan started in the small town of Pulaski, in the state of Tennessee, where the citizens "were especially proud of the purity of their Scottish ancestry, which in many cases was so revered and ran so deep that images of Rob Roy and Blind Harry were never far away". Six confederate veterans, all in their twenties, founded The Klan some time between Christmas 1865 and June 1866. They also instigated the typical Klan clothing: a white robe and white "witches" hats with eyeholes. However, the purpose of this original form of the Ku Klux Klan was not political or even racist. The main aim of the Klan at the beginning was to play pranks on the people living in the county and have fun. The beginnings of the Klan were modest. To attract the interest of the public they added a hint of mystery into their rituals. They asked their members to pledge that they would keep the secrecy of the Klan. A public declaration of belonging to the Klan was also denied, as well as exposing other Klansmen. All of the Klan members, clothed in the white costumes, had to attend the weekly gatherings, which "were held in the cellar of a deserted brick house standing on a hill near the town". As a result of these events, the Klansmen were sometimes considered, especially among the black community, to be the ghosts of the dead Confederate soldiers. (Robb) This secret society of bored young men



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