What was, and is, the Ku Klux Klan?
The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013
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Part of the answer lies buried under the subterfuge of a generation of angry white Southerners and their actions, but the Klan was, beyond doubt, established in order to bring white supremacy to the South. General Nathan Forrest, the famous general of cavalry who won so many victories during the war, was the founder—or at least the leading founder—of the Klan.
Right from the beginning, the intention was to keep blacks from becoming “uppity” and to ensure that the white man and his family were seen as the embodiment of all that was “right” with the South. Had the Klan restricted itself to the outer attempt at these goals, it might have been obnoxious, but not terrible; instead, the Klan used any and all methods—including nighttime raids that involved the burning of crosses and the terrorizing of black families—to achieve its goals. Seldom has so vicious an organization lasted for so long, and seldom has one been so successful at keeping a population subject to its anger. The Klan was outlawed in the 1870s but it thrived underground, and it went through a major revival in the 1920s. This time, the Klan was against not only blacks but also foreigners of all types, Catholics, and anyone who did not seem to be a descendant of the early, “pure” immigrant population.