Name Ku Klux Klan (KKK) brings us visions of faceless figures in white costumes with pointed ears and hoods, burning flames, blazing crosses, and thundering horseback riders. However, its era of riding trampling over the South is over (Madison 71). The Klan is still there and trying its best to promote its hateful ideology. One of the nation’s oldest and most potent domestic terrorist organizations, the Ku Klux Klan, is chronicled in this film. Using religious emblems, secret rituals, and the cover of anonymity to tie its members together, a private organization utilized religious symbols and codes to link its adherents together to instigate horrific race strife. All aspects of the Ku Klux Klan, from its post-Civil War establishment by Nathan Bedford Forrest through the organization’s peak watermark in 1915, when its membership swelled to four million and its founders were made into heroes in Birth of a Nation to its revival in the Civil Rights period, to more recent efforts by David Duke and many others to put a friendly face on the Klan to achieve political office (Eckstrand 43). The article examines the reality of the Ku Klux Klan as a subculture.
Visualize a new, orderly planet populated entirely by saints. It wasn’t as though anybody dared to question their convictions. No one seemed to have changed their appearance. All members of the Ku Klux Klan, or the KKK, shared this goal (Eckstrand 45). The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, to defend white supremacy during rapid social transformation that included non-Caucasian residents.
After the Civil War, a white supremacist group known as the Ku Klux Klan developed in the Deep South. As a group, they fought against abolishing slavery and aimed to maintain African Americans subjugated to whites for the long term. When the Klan was active in the South during Reconstruction, they used murder and intimidation to topple Republican state governments and perpetuate the antebellum racial order (Eckstrand 43). Although some local cells of the original Ku Klux Klan continued to function after federal laws aimed at punishing Klansmen’s crimes were passed in the 1870s, the organization fell apart. In addition, the KKK’s goal of preserving the historical racial hierarchy was achieved with the establishment of Jim Crow in the Deep South.
Members of the KKK were predominantly white Protestant middle-class males, and they framed their struggle in moral and religious terms. Because of this, they considered themselves as justice-restoration vigilantes. Assault and physical violence were used to keep minorities and other marginalized groups from achieving money, social status, or political influence in the United States during the Jim Crow period of the early 20th century (Trelease 24). At night, the KKK gathered gatherings to plan acts of terror against those who were not “really” American—basically, those who were not white and Protestant—and incite hatred against them. In addition to making threats and burning crosses (Madison 84). Klansmen engaged in violent and atrocious acts, including tarring and feathering, assaulting, lynching, and assassinations.
As industry, urbanization, and immigration took hold in the United States in the early 1900s, so did the KKK. Due to growing anti-immigrant sentiment among white Americans, several new Klan chapters were formed in large metropolitan areas (Trelease 26). These immigrants, the Klansmen charged, were stealing employment from whites and degrading American society’s alleged “racial purity.”‘ Immigrants have been flooding the nation from its inception, making the image of race purity a pure fabrication.
The Ku Klux Klan is an example of a subculture still relevant today. In 1866, non-Caucasian people began to shine in the media’s glare for the first time. After centuries of enslavement, African-Americans began to rise to prominence in American culture (Trelease 24). With this in mind, they formed a group to denigrate and violently remove those African Americans from the scene. According to their definition, KKK members were opposed to the admission of other races and resisted the laws that were accepted by society. Only white, Christian members were allowed into the organization.
During the Reconstruction Era in the South, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) rose fast from a clandestine organization in 1865 to a compelling force that sought to reverse federal policies that benefited the region’s burgeoning African American population (LeRoy 53). This crew was able to get off to a great start in Tennessee. This may have been due to the prevalent “Southern attitude” toward blacks at the incident. To resist Reconstruction and its absorption of African-Americans, this faction turned to violence (Trelease 24). Leaders are essential to every violent force. In this situation, these leaders used intimidation and violence to accomplish their principal aim of reinstalling white supremacy in every case they deemed appropriate. When researching the KKK’s past, one of the first names that come to mind is Army General N.B. Forrest. He was the organization’s first Grand Wizard. Calvin Jones, Frank McCord, Richard Reed, John B. Kennedy, and James Crowe are some of the Klan’s founding fathers (Madison 89). Although federal regulations were in effect, the group aimed to retain a feeling of white rule across the country by preventing African American incorporation. Burning crosses and bombing predominately black schools and churches were some of the tactics used by KKK members to attain this goal.
This infamous group may not have done as much harm as it seemed to have done. Observing their behavior from a sociological point of view may provide light on their true motivations. Groups’ behavior may be studied from a sociological viewpoint. Sociological analysis of organizations like the KKK may illuminate their impact on society (Eckstrand 45). The Ku Klux Klan is, in fact, a social organization. Selective social interactions may be to blame for their choice to impose a strong demand for racial supremacy on the rest of society. Including non-Caucasian residents may have caused a drop in social progress, which sparked the struggle against integration concepts (Trelease 23). There may have been a significant foundation for the KKK’s belief that African Americans lacked the qualifications to compete on an equal footing with the whites who had governed the country for years previously, including the conduct of enslaved people and how they were raised, without education and grace. Seeing the world through the eyes of a member and a constituent of the bigger, dominating society helps widen one’s perspective on it. As a result of this viewpoint, a social imagination may be cultivated (LeRoy 53). Associative imagination is the capacity to relate one’s most intimate existence to the greater universe. Klan members saw African Americans’ integration into society as a threat to the Klan’s prospects (Eckstrand 46). There were many things at stake if integration were to occur, including jobs, educational systems, personal lives, and the future generations of children. All white people, not just those who want to make their dream a reality, would gain by their isolation from society.
The Ku Klux Klan engaged in ethnocentrism daily. Ethnocentrism is based on the assumption that one’s own culture or tribe is more remarkable than all others. This categorization of the KKK as a subculture was widely accepted by the general public in the United States, including many Americans who received the integration of African-Americans (LeRoy 53). Rather than being seen as a part of mainstream society, the Ku Klux Klan was seen as a counterculture by the rest of America because they rejected expectations set by Reconstruction-era traditions (Eckstrand 43). The media, the government, and the people saw them as outcasts because they refused to conform to the accepted norms of society. People in the United States often disapproved of the Klan’s behavior and demeanor. To be more specific, the KKK was adamant about not allowing black people to hold elected office, work in government, or compete on an equal basis with whites (Trelease 24). African Americans were physically and verbally assaulted to discourage them from getting more active in the community.
In several instances, they tore down sacred sites and educational facilities for African Americans to make their point. Intrusions into private homes were common. Like J.C. Dunlap, Evergreen Flowers, Isaac Gaston, and Benton Ford, many black people were victims of discrimination and racial profiling during the Jim Crow period (Madison 96). During a quiet evening with his fiancée in March of 1939, a group of Ku Klux Klan members unexpectedly arrived with a plan for the night. Survivors of the Ku Klux Klan shared similar tales of how their lives were permanently altered. Using cultural relativism, the Ku Klux Klan supported its acts. According to cultural relativism, each civilization should be assessed on its own merits, not those of another (Pegram 376). Their activities were not meant to be seen as superior by Klan members at the time. As an alternative, they saw their actions as conforming to a custom norm that they thought justified their core beliefs (Pegram 376). There was an intense desire among Klansmen to have the rest of American society adopt their worldview, whether or not they agreed with it. From a different perspective, their acts and beliefs would be justified.
Several high-profile individuals and organizations opposed the KKK. Religious and civic organizations established campaigns to educate the public about the horrors done by Klansmen. Evangelical pastors, Roman Catholic priests, and Jewish rabbis slammed the group. For many years, the NAACP led the charge in spreading the word about the KKK’s dangers within the African-American community (Pegram 387). In the late 1920s, anti-Klan activity was exceedingly prosperous, and the institution’s membership dropped substantially.
The Ku Klux Klan used religious symbols and codes to bring its members together to incite racial discord using religious insignia, secret rites, and the veil of anonymity. First, non-Caucasian persons appeared in the public spotlight in 1866. This group went to violence to oppose Reconstruction and its incorporation of African-Americans. The Ku Klux Klan’s goal was to keep white supremacy intact by blocking the integration of African Americans. Organizations like the Ku Klux Klan may be studied sociologically to learn more about their social influence. As a result of non-Caucasian people becoming integrated into society, there has been a backlash against integration. Reconstruction-era norms were repudiated by the Ku Klux Klan, which was considered a counterculture. In the view of cultural relativism, each civilization should be judged on its own merits, not on the merits of any other society. For its nativist pride and dread of change, the KKK may be considered a counterculture.
The Ku Klux Klan came up as a vile, racist organization because of all the horrible things I heard about them as a child. The KKK may be seen as a counterculture because of its amount of nativism, pride, and fear of change. They could not manage the inevitable shift in their secret society and resorted to violence and danger to halt it, so they went to violence and danger. Current views do not coincide with those who embrace the Ku Klux Klan. However, I cannot simply criticize their behaviors since their underlying significance meant so much more to white culture in the past and now.
Eckstrand, Nathan. “The ugliness of trolls: Comparing the strategies/methods of the alt-right and the Ku Klux Klan.” Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 10.3 (2018): 41-62.
LeRoy, Michael H. “Whitewashing Coaching Racism in NCAA Sports: Enforcing Civil Rights Through the Ku Klux Klan Act.” Ariz. St. U. Sports & Ent. LJ 10 (2020): 53.
Madison, James H. The Ku Klux Klan in the Heartland. Indiana University Press, 2020.
Pegram, Thomas R. “The Ku Klux Klan, Labor, and the White Working Class during the 1920s.” The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 17.2 (2018): 373-396.
Trelease, Allen W. “Southern Violence: The Ku Klux Klan.” Perspectives on the American South. Routledge, 2021. 23-33.