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Ku Klux Klan (1915-) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Ku Klux Klan (1915-)
Fuller Form: Ku Klux Klan, Realm of California

Historical Note:

The Ku Klux Klan is a far-right organization which advocates extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy and white nationalism, and is opposed to immigration. The first Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, was primarily made up of Confederate veterans of the American Civil War and operated under a decentralized structure in which local chapters and bands were highly independent. The first Klan was essentially defunct by the late 19th century.

In 1915, the second Ku Klux Klan was founded by William J. Simmons in Atlanta, Georgia. By the 1920s, social tensions brought on by rapid industrialization and increased immigration in urban areas had set the stage for the Klan's expanding popularity. Unlike the first Klan, the second Klan was a centralized fraternal organization, with a national and state structure, which had rapidly spread from the South to the Midwest and Western states. The purification of politics, anti-Catholicism, the enforcement of prohibition, and nativism formed the nucleus of the second Klan's objectives and goals, summed up by their credo, "One Hundred Percent Americanism." Membership in the second Klan appealed to lower, working, and middle class white Protestants from urban areas, who's fears and concerns over jobs and housing played into the Klan's philosophies.

By 1924, at the height of the second Klan's popularity, membership rose to 6,000,000, but by 1930 it had dropped to 30,000. Throughout the early 1940s financial difficulties, chronic internal conflicts, external opposition, and the exposure of criminal behavior had diminished the organization's power and appeal. In 1944, the Internal Revenue Service filed a lien for $685,000 against the Klan, which led to the closure of the organization's home office and subsequent dissolution of its national charter.

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