Confederate veterans founded the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1865. From beneath white hoods, they terrorized freedmen and Republican politicians with threats, beatings, and murder. They strived to undermine Reconstruction and restore racial subordination in the South. Faced with federal opposition, the Klan dissolved by the 1870s, but reemerged early in the next century.
In 1915, William Simmons revived the Klan atop Georgia’s Stone Mountain, organizing men around the lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man accused of killing a white woman. That same year, the film The Birth of a Nation debuted, presenting Klansmen as saviors of white man’s civilization and white women’s chastity. President Woodrow Wilson screened the film at the White House.
On June 7, 1920, Simmons hired publicists to grow membership for the white supremacist organization. Playing up white anxieties following the first World War, the Klan launched a “100 Percent Americanism” campaign, promoting Klansmen as defending the nation from blacks, Catholics, Jews, foreigners, and “moral offenders.” This “neat package of hatred” caught attention quickly, and within sixteen months, nearly 100,000 new members had joined.
In 1921, public pressure prompted Congress to investigate Klan violence and undue influence in local and state governments, but when Klan officials denied the allegations, Congress ended its inquiry. Immediately thereafter, new Klan membership applications jumped to 5000 per day. By 1924, there were three million active members nationwide, including 35,000 in Detroit, 55,000 in Chicago, 200,000 in Ohio, 240,000 in Indiana, and 260,000 in Pennsylvania.
“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar. America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans. The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood. EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.