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The Ku Klux Klan

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Nathan Bedford Forrest or Forrest, as he was called by his men is possibly the most well-known member of the KKK. He was the first Grand Wizard or leader of the KKK. He was originally a general for the Confederacy for the South. Forrest became involved with the Klan around 1866 or 1867. Around this time the Klan grew to the point that an experienced leader was needed and so they brought in Forrest as their first choice. In room ten of the Maxwell hotel, Forrest was sworn in as a member by John Morton. He was given the name of Grand Wizard, because he was called “The Wizard of the Saddle”, during the Civil War.

While he was the appointed leader there was an accepted leader, and the smaller units of the Klan still remained mostly autonomous. There were never any hierarchal levels other than the names given. The KKK went rampant with their title and really never followed what the KKK really stood for. The Klan used violence to settle personal feuds and local grudges. The members simply used the name as a weapon to spread fear and soon escalated beyond a group of people who had relating opinions in politics and society. The KKK was reduced to a chaotic group of anti-black vigilante groups, and disgruntled poor white farmers.

The violence escalated during the weeks prior to the Presidential election of November 1868. Almost 2,000 blacks and others were killed. This left the population of republicans to only about 1,000 after the murders. The Klan also pursued blacks through the forest like animals and shot them down like deer. Klan intimidation was working and only one person voted for Ulysses S. Grant. Klansmen killed more than 150 blacks in a single Florida county alone.

In the end Bedford came to accept the crime and even boasted that the Klan was a nationwide organization of 550,000 men and that he could muster 40,000 Klansmen within 4 days. In 1870 a Federal Jury declared the Klan a terrorist organization. This sent out a nationwide order to arrest and stop any action the KKK would take, and force was allowed. In response to this Forrest called for the Klan to disband in 1869, arguing that it was "being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace". The Klan were finally done and they gradually withered away throughout the south.



Swinney, Everette. “White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction.” Civil War History 19, no. 1 (March 1973): 86-88.

James Rucker, Ku Klux Klan: A history, 6th ed. (Montgomery, Alabama: Southern Poverty Law Center, 2011), 7-11.

Jack Hurst. Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography. New York: Random House Inc., 1993.

Horn, Stanley. "Story of the Ku Klux Klan." In Story of the Ku Klux Klan, by Stanley Horn, 7-21. Cambridge: The River Side press, 1939

Horn, Stanley. Invisible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan. Cambridge: River Side Press, 1939.



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