The Ku Klux Klan was a very powerful and organized secret society that began in the years directly following the Civil War and is a society whose influence is still felt today. Although the reasons for the rise of the Klan vary from source to source, there is one common thread, which is that it rose from fear.
The KKK grew as a response to three major changes in the South after the Civil War. Changes to the social, cultural and economic trends put southern whites in fear of being on the same level as their former slaves (Constructing the American Past Pg. 2). They were afraid to be overrun by the newly freed black slaves.
Every Klan’s man was to take an oath before entering in which states that the Klan’s purpose was to “To protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenceless, from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal; to relieve the injured and oppressed; to succour the suffering and unfortunate, and especially the widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers.” (Constructing Pg. 4). The whites were scared of the blacks and were making it by attempting to bully them into yet another submissive role. This was a time of trouble for the southern whites. They were not used to being placed as equal to any black person.
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This is another cause for the formation of the KKK. In a time of hardship, the whites needed to ban together and find a scapegoat. In this case, the blacks were being blamed for the dramatic change in the entire south. The change in industry, society, and even the change in the land, was blamed on the poor newly freed blacks. The blacks were blamed for the many deaths that the south had in the Civil War, the many people who were widowed, orphaned, or hit by its tragedy (100 Years, Pg. 37-39).
Interestingly though, the Klan was not made up of only wealthy southern whites. Most of its members were from a lesser class, a class that would most likely be at the same level as the newly freed black slaves. These farmers had always been able to say that at least they were better than the blacks, but after the Civil War, could no longer say that. Now they were placed at the same level as the “lawless” black. (Basic History of the KKK Pg. 50).
The south wanted another way to rebel against the North because; the North had won the war. So many things changed during the post war times in the South, and many were not used to change, and do not like it.
They felt as if they had been wronged. To have to be placed at the same level as a black, to the southern white would have been such a huge change in their culture. These people were not used to not having blacks inferior. They did not know how to react, and so the Ku Klux Klan was created to try and “put blacks back into the place they belong” (Basic History Pg. 26).
Society arose from the fear of many things. Fear that the blacks would dominate their land, fear that they would be on the same social level as blacks, and fear of change. The Klan gave its members what they wanted, a return to a sense of what was “normal”. Normal for them being having blacks in a submissive role, and keeping them in check. Many still have these three basic fears, and that is why the Klan’s (although it died off for a bit) influence is still felt in today’s society.
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