Racism and the Ku Klux Klan

Since the early development of society in the United States,
racism has always been a divisive issue faced by communities on a
political level. Our country was built from the immigration of people
from an international array of backgrounds. However, multitudes of
white supremacists blame their personal as well as economic
misfortunes on an abundance of ethnic groups. African-Americans, Jews
and Catholics are only some of the of groups tormented by these white
supremacists. As the amount of ethnic diversity gradually increased in
the political systems of Louisiana and the United States,
organizations rapidly formed to challenge the new ethnic variation in
government. The Ku Klux Klan is one of these groups that were formed
by people who were angered by the increase of diversity in political
office and in the workplace. Local and state officials that were
members of the Klan aided in providing influence, money, and
information to the racist organization. As the civil rights movement
became accepted, it seemed as if the power of racist organizations
deteriorated. However, with the Klan demanding freedom of speech, with
political figures related to the Ku Klux Klan still bringing prejudice
to politics throughout the country, and with multitudes of
African-American churches being burned to the ground, it seems as if
the Ku Klux Klan is still a threat to the citizens of this country.

The Ku Klux Klan has played a major role in United States
history. As the south was undergoing the era of Reconstruction after
the Civil War, the votes of newly emancipated black Southerners put
the Republicans in power throughout the state. White Southerners
resorted to brute force to preserve the white supremacy they once had.
The Klan was originally arranged into secret societies that terrorized
local white and black Republican leaders. They also threatened all
African Americans who violated the old ideas of black inferiority.
Sworn to secrecy, its members wore white robes and masks and adopted
the burning cross as their symbol. The Klan members seemed to be most
active during election campaigns, when they would either scare people
into voting for their candidate or get rid their opponents entirely.
They were noticed for their horrible acts of violence that they called
nighttime rides. These attacks included murder, rape, beatings, and
warnings and were designed to overcome Republican majorities in the
south. Due to the fear of a race war, state officials were unable to
suppress the violence. Law enforcement officials were Klan members
themselves and even when the law officers were legitimate, Klan
members also sat on juries where criminally accused members were often

The Klan was popularized through literature and film in the
early nineteenth century. Its influence spread with help from Thomas
B. Dixon's The Clansman (1905) and D.W. Griffith's movie The Birth of
a Nation (1915). (Harrel, 85) Harrel felt that this eventually "led to
the establishment of a new Ku Klux Klan, which spread throughout the
nation and preached anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-black,
antisocialist, and anti-labor-union Americanism" (87). Harrel stated
that the Klan's two million adherents exercised great political power,
"often taking the law into their own hands, mobs of white-robed,
white-hooded men punished immorality and terrorized un-American
elements" (88).

The Klan erupted as a secret organization employing its
secrecy to mislead the public and inquiring newspapers. Therefore,
they were labeled the invisible empire. Harrel urges the idea that in
certain regions the Klan did not have enough influence to become
politically triumphant (307).

"But where it was strong the Invisible Empire elected scores
of local officials, state legislators, a few governors, several
national representatives, including Earle B. Mayfield of
Texas, William J. Harris of Georgia, and Hugo Black of
Alabama, to the United States Senate." (Harrel, 307)

The Klan was extremely hungry for political gain. The best way
to promote the growth of an organization of this sort would be the
expansion of a network with prominent political and investment

"The limitation of immigration, maintenance of national
prohibition, restriction of the political influence of the
Catholic Church and minority groups, clean government,
and maintenance of community morals, were goals
which violence and intimidation alone could not achieve."
(Harrel, 305)

It is seemed necessary that in order to have a prosperous
organization, the Klan would have to infiltrate the political offices
held by the liberals. This is a task easier said than done.

"The Invisible Empire excluded