« AnteriorContinuar »
ducted by a subcommittee of this committee in the period between October 19, 1965, and February 24, 1966. The subcommittee sat for 36 days to interrogate a total of 187 witnesses regarding the evidence which had been amassed by committee investigators. Thousands of substantiating documents obtained by the committee staff were made part of this hearing record.
Officers of the seven most active klan organizations, as well as rankand-file klansmen alleged to have engaged in organized terrorism, were given an opportunity during the hearings to deny, qualify, confirm, or explain klan activity about which they possessed personal knowledge. A majority chose to invoke constitutional privileges against self-incrimination. Much productive testimony was nevertheless received from a number of present or former klan officers and members, law enforcement officials, and private citizens who have been victims of klan activity.
When the committee voted on March 30, 1965, to undertake a formal investigation into ku klux klan organizations, it was concerned about a substantial upsurge in klan membership and activity during the preceding year. The klan movement had actually been on the upswing since 1961, but its growth prior to 1964 was slow and uneven, and its activity pretty much localized.
The movement was still expanding when the committee began its public hearings on the klans in the fall of 1965. Shortly thereafter, however, an abatement of klan activity was observed, due not only to a customary seasonal decline, but also to a decision by many klans to "lie low” while congressional hearings were in progress. Klan membership also dropped during the winter months of 1965– 1966, a fact which I believe may be attributed at least in part to the facts about the movement then being aired through the medium of the committee's hearings. Unfortunately, by the summer of 1966, klan activity and membership were once more on the rise. Whereas the upsurge in the early 1960's was viewed as a response to civil rights demonstrations in the South, the latest gains appear to have been stimulated to a great extent by riotous situations in northern cities.
The committee held legislative hearings on bills to curb klan-type excesses in July of 1966 and subsequently reported H.R. 16606 with amendments. I had introduced that bill, the "Organizational Conspiracies Act,” in the hope that, if enacted, it would contribute significantly toward eliminating, or at least curbing, terrorist activities of the type engaged in by klans. Inasmuch as there was no action on the bill, I have reintroduced it in the Ninetieth Congress in slightly amended form. This bill, H.R. 7025, the “Organizational Conspiracies Act of 1967," was reported by the committee on September 19.
Whether or not my bill is enacted into law, it is my hope that the evidence amassed by the committee will aid the Congress and also the American people, who—in the final analysis—will determine if secret, terroristic organizations can thrive in a democratic society.
EDWIN E. WILLIS, Chairman.
THE PRESENT-DAY KU KLUX KLAN MOVEMENT
CHAPTER I. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Present-day klan organizations customarily dedicate themselves to commemorating the achievements of the Ku Klux Klan of the Reconstruction era and to perpetuating the principles of the first phalanx of nightriders to appear on the American scene.
Modern klans furthermore promise to save the Nation just as their forerunners allegedly saved the Nation following the Civil War.
Some reference to historical antecedents is therefore essential to understand the activities of klansmen in the 20th century.
THE RECONSTRUCTION KLAN
The six Confederate Army veterans credited with originating the Ku Klux Klan on Christmas Eve of 1865 in Pulaski, Tenn., are not memorialized in current klan literature. These young men had adapted the Greek word for circle (kuklos) in christening their new organization. They had devised mystical titles and a ritual for a membership sworn to secrecy. And they were responsible for converting bed linen into a means of disguise. Their purpose, however, was reputedly pure amusement.
The organization to which modern klansmen pay homage was the Ku Klux Klan headed by Nathan Bedford Forrest, which officially operated in at least nine Southern States from 1867 to 1869 and unofficially for some years thereafter.
The conversion of klan purposes from amusement to terrorism had already been demonstrated by the time representatives of various local klan "dens” held a unifying convention in Nashville, Tenn., in 1867 and elected former Confederate Army General Forrest as their grand wizard. Stimulative of the klan's new purposes were a series of laws enacted by the U.S. Congress beginning in 1866 which sought to bestow civil rights on the recently freed slaves, and the Reconstruction Act of March 1867 which substituted military governments for the locally created governments in most of the former secessionist States.
"Maintenance of the supremacy of the white race” was selected as the “main and fundamental objective” of the Ku Klux Klan led by General Forrest. Membership was restricted to those who would oppose not only Negro "social and political equality" but also the Radicals then dominant in the U.S. Congress who were to be defeated in order to “restore State sovereignty." A set of outwardly laudable aims adopted by the organization called for support of the U.S. Constitution, assistance in execution of all constitutional laws, protection of the weak and innocent, relief of the injured and oppressed, and succoring of the unfortunate, especially widows and orphans. (The same objectives have been repeated almost word for word by succeed
ing klan organizations up to the present time; the exception being that Radical is spelled with a small "r" in the contemporary situation.)
By the autumn of 1868, General Forrest estimated klan membership at 550,000. Although he claimed to have disbanded the organization early the following year on the grounds that it was no longer needed for self-protection,” ku klux klan terrorism continued to mount over the next few years to such a degree that the President and Members of Congress demanded action to remedy the “insecurity of life and property in some of the Southern States.
The Congress acted against racial violence in three civil rights laws, loosely known as the Ku Klux Klan Acts. Section 6 of an act of May 31, 1870, provided criminal penalties for persons who conspire or who go in disguise on the public highways or on the premises of another with intent to deprive him of rights and privileges granted by the Constitution or laws of the United States. The voting safeguards set forth in other sections of this act were amended and supplemented by an act of February 28, 1871. Finally, on April 20, 1871, Congress approved an act enforcing the provisions of the 14th amendment which included, among other things, Presidential authority to use military force to prevent interference with court civil rights orders.
As the President signed the third act directed against the Ku Klux Klan, a joint congressional committee of 7 Senators and 14 Representatives was organized to investigate the secret order. Formally known as the Joint Select Committee on the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States, this investigating committee held 57 days of hearings in Washington, D.C., in addition to sending subcommittees to take testimony in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Although Grand Wizard Forrest refused to cooperate with the committee-even refusing to admit membership in or firsthand knowledge of a ku klux klan—testimony taken by the committee provided a grisly record of violence engaged in by the masked bands.
A RECORD OF VIOLENCE Killings and floggings of Negroes and whites, the burning of schools and churches, and the hounding of individuals from their communities are among the outrages recorded in 12 printed volumes of the committee's hearings. A majority report issued by the committee on February 19, 1872, described the Ku Klux Klan as "a fearful conspiracy against society, committing atrocities and crimes that richly deserve punish
The report also accused the klan of demoralizing society and holding men silent by the terror of its acts and its powers for evil. Continuance of the special powers granted to the President by the Ku Klux Klan Act of April 30, 1871, was recommended. A minority report, which took issue with the majority as to the causes, purpose, and scope of klan activity, nevertheless declared
* * * we do not intend to deny that bodies of disguised men have, in several of the States of the South, been guilty of the most flagrant crimes, crimes which we neither seek to palliate nor excuse * * *
1 These are the only laws specifically directed against the ku klux klan ever enacted by Congress. Little remains of this Reconstruction era legislation. Among the few survivors is the section dealing with private racial violence which is now contained in title 18, United States Code, at section 241. Recent Federal prosecution of a number of klansmen under this section of the code is discussed in Chapter VIII.
Historians have suggested a combination of reasons for the eventual decline of the Ku Klux Klan of the Reconstruction period: (1) growth of public sentiment in the South against activities of masked terrorists; (2) State, and even more particularly Federal legislation, under which martial law was declared and hundreds of alleged klansmen arrested in one State; and (3) so-called changed historical conditions which included the gradual restoration of segregation-oriented State governments. The last factor was one of the bases for klan claims in later years that the post-Civil War klan had achieved its objectives and "saved the South" (or the entire "Nation" as modern klan leaders prefer to put it.)
KNIGHTS OF THE Ku Klux KLAN, 1915-44 In 1915 the klan was exhumed by “Colonel” William Joseph Simmons, a native of Alabama who had previously been engaged in soliciting
members for fraternal organizations for a fee. The spirit of fraternalism was so shrewdly exploited by the new klan organization that millions of members were enrolled in almost every State of the Union before it declined and eventually dissolved in 1944.
As Simmons explained to the House Committee on Rules inquiring into the revived klan, his decision to launch an organization known as the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was put into effect in October 1915 at a meeting (in Atlanta, Ga.) attended by 34 residents of the State of Georgia. A charter signed by the secretary of state of Georgia was issued in December, and another charter was granted by the Superior Court of Fulton County, Ga., on July 1, 1916, for what purported to be a purely benevolent and charitable operation.
After "resurrecting" the klan, Simmons admittedly proceeded to “reconstruct" and "remodel" the organization.2
The organizational structure of the new Knights—involving an autocratic hierarchy of officials on national, State, "province" and local levels—was borrowed from the Reconstruction klan. “The government of this order shall ever be military in character, especially in its executive management and control," asserted the constitution of Simmons' klan. Simmons' authority as the imperial wizard, he told congressional investigators, could be compared with that of a general in an army.
Simmons did, however, select new titles for most of the klan officialdom. He also prescribed rules for the functioning of the organization on its various levels and an elaborate ritual to be followed at local klan meetings and initiations. These were published and protected by copyright. These rules and ritual, together with a lengthy new oath swearing klansmen to obedience and secrecy, are being used today with only minor modifications by such organizations as the United Klans of America, Inc., and the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc.3
The first klan organization of the 20th century vowed that it would commemorate the "service” and “achievement” of the Ku Klux Klan of
2 The changes were reflected in "Constitution and Laws of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (Incorporated),” copyright 1921 by the Knights of the KKK, Inc., Atlanta, Ga.
3 One of the exceptions is the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi, whose operations will be discussed in subsequent sections of this report.
the Reconstruction period and perpetuate its ideals. A booklet, “Ideals of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan," spelled out the racial ideals which were inherited:
This is a White Man's organization, exalting the Caucasian Race and teaching the doctrine of White Supremacy. *** All of Christian Civilization depends upon the preservation and upbuilding of the White Race *
Any effort to permit "blacks or any other color” to share in the control of this "White Man's Republic" would constitute "an invasion of our sacred constitutional prerogatives and a violation of divinely established laws,” the booklet further declared.
PATRIOTISM AND PROFIT A number of additional objectives were introduced by the Simmons' klan in an effort to broaden the klan's appeal. Thus, the klan's constition and laws listed as its No. 1 purpose the cultivation and promotion of patriotism. Recruiting literature issued by the organization in 1917 described the klan's "paramount feature" as "active, pure patriotism," and declared it was proud to carry on the traditions of its 19th century forebears because the latter were "paragons of patriotism." Simmons gave secondary emphasis to the charity allegedly dispensed by the klan; in third spot was its provision for "real fraternity” in which "mystery and action" would be combined with “wholesome mirth."
The so-called patriotism of the klan was allegedly expressed by its uncompromising defense of “a pure Americanism, untrammeled by alien influences." Alien influences from which the Republic was to be protected were expanded by the revived klan to include not only the “inferior colored races” but also the Roman Catholic, Jewish, and foreign-born minorities within the United States.
Another new feature of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was its commercialism. Simmons advertised his Knights as an organization “founded and operated by consecrated business brains.” His office of imperial wizard was guaranteed revenue from a percentage of initiation fees (klectokons); a monthly per capita tax on the membership (imperial tax); and profits from the sale of robes and other regalia, jewelry, stationery, etc. Initiation fees were described as "donations” and not reportable as taxable income in the event anyone questioned the right of the klan to tax exemption as a fraternal and charitable organization.
The services of professional publicists, Edward Young Clarke and Elizabeth Tyler, in the period 1920-23 reputedly helped propel the Knights into a nationwide role. High-powered publicity represented the klan as having an answer to both real and imaginary problems of society, as teams of professional organizers fanned out into Northern and Western States as well as the South. (Clarke's organizing department was rewarded with 80 percent of each $10 initiation fee.) Simmons told the House Committee on Rules that within 16 months after
4 "The ABC of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan," leaflet copyrighted 1917 by W. J. Simmons, Atlanta, Ga. The same three purposes-patriotism. benevolence and fraternityare listed in the same order of priority in recruiting literature currently being circulated by the largest of the existing klan organizations, the United Klans of America, Inc. See "An Introduction to the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan," a leaflet with the imprint of the United Klans of America, Inc., Suite 401, Alston Bldg., Tuscaloosa, Ala.