The Three Generations of Ku Klux Klan – The Great Courses Daily News

Posted By on December 5, 2020

By Richard Spence, Ph.D., University of Idaho Two children wearing KKK robes and hoods stand on either side of Dr. Samuel Green, a KKK Grand Dragon, at Stone Mountain, Georgia, on July 24, 1948. (Image: Image Editor/CC BY 2.0/Public domain)Decline of the First Ku Klux Klan

There have been numerous allegations that the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was an appendant body of Freemasonry. Also, there are claims that Confederate General Albert Pike was the mastermind behind the KKK and the Knight of the Golden Circlean older and more secret society that championed the preservation of slavery through Southern secession.

There are also arguments that the original Ku Klux Klan was born because federal military commanders and Republican governors couldnt curb the violence in the post-War south. But the first Klan wasnt organized and coherent.

Despite the lack of order, the original KKK was the inspiration behind the first anti-terror laws in the US. By 1872, there was no sign of the original KKK. But since secret societies never die, the Klans spirit also continued to live in new orders like the Red Shirts, the Knights of the White Camelia, and the Democratic rifle clubs. And thus, the second Klan was formed in 1915, which was inspired by a book, a movie, and even a murder.

This is a transcript from the video series The Real History of Secret Societies. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

In 1905, a North Carolina minister and writer named Thomas Dixon, Jr. penned a novel called The Clansman (with a C). In the novel, he depicted a romanticized picture of the Klan and invented the most iconic ritual of the KKK: the cross burning. Called the Crann Tara, or fiery cross, it was an old custom from the Scottish Highlands to summon clans to battle. Dixons novel sought to justify segregation. Despite protests that the book was grossly inaccurate and inflammatory, it became a hit and was adapted into a movie named Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith in 1915. The movie popularized the fantasy of a heroic Ku Klux Klan in the whole country.

Learn more about Freemasonry.

In 1903, Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old factory worker from Atlanta, Georgia, was found brutally murdered. Phagans Jewish boss, Leo Frank, was the primary suspect. Frank was a known member of a fraternal society called the Jewish Bnai Brith. He was convicted and sentenced to death. This miscarriage of justice was so shocking that Bnai Brith formed a new body called Anti-Defamation League.

In June 1915, Franks death sentence was changed to a life prison sentence. In response, a new secret society, called the Knights of Mary Phagan, abducted him from prison and lynched him.

This murder and the visual extravaganza of a Birth of a Nation inspired a failed businessman from Georgia, William J. Simmons. He belonged to several secret societies but decided it was time to establish one. He and his 15 companions went to the top of Stone Mountain near Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day 1915. They burned a cross and declared the birth of the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan. They proclaimed their aim as the betterment of man.

Learn more about masonic revolutions in America and France.

The second Klan had significant differences from the first Klan. While the first Klan was based exclusively on Confederate revanchism, the second Klan was not primarily Southern. The first Klan hated Yankees and black freedmen and had no aim of bettering humans. But the second Klan added more groups to its hate list inspired by the social militancy, moral superiority, and the xenophobia unleashed by WWI. Prohibition was also added to the principles promoted by the new Klan, although very few Klansmen avoided alcohol. By the mid-1920s, the members of the Klan had risen to millions.

Ironically, the second Klan was wiped out due to another murder. In 1925, a young woman named Madge Oberholtzer was kidnapped, brutally raped and tortured. She eventually died. The man behind this shocking incident was the Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan, David C. Stephenson. The Indiana Klan was one of the biggest chapters in the country. Stephenson, as Grand Dragon, posed as a paragon of moral virtue. When his belief that he was untouchable proved wrong, he turned on the Klan, and aired its dirty laundry in open court and the Klans reputation sank.

The third KKK sprang up after WWI and is still active. Formed as a reaction to desegregation and the Civil Rights movement, it was only a collection of secret societies without unity and organization. In the 1980s and 90s, a wave of younger and more politically savvy leaders, like white supremacist David Duke, gave the Klan fresh energy and publicity. The same period saw younger Klansmen join forces with Skinheads and neo-Nazis, a move that probably would have horrified William Simmons and his foreign-hating brethren.

The founder of the second Ku Klux Klan was a failed businessman from Georgia, William J. Simmons. He belonged to several secret societies but decided it was time to establish one.

The second Ku Klux Klan was wiped out due to the brutal rape and murder of a young woman by Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan, David C. Stephenson. In his trials, he revealed the secrets of Klan, which destroyed the Klans reputation.

Yes. The third Ku Klux Klan was born after the Second World War. It still exists, and it was mostly a response to desegregation and the Civil Rights movement. But like the first Klan, it never became unified.

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The Three Generations of Ku Klux Klan - The Great Courses Daily News

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