Ku Klux Klan: a secret History

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"Ku Klux Klan: A Secret History" Video Guide

Founded in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) extended into almost every southern state by 1870 and became a vehicle for white southern resistance to the Republican Party's Reconstruction-era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for blacks. Its members waged an underground campaign of intimidation and violence directed at white and black Republican leaders. Though Congress passed legislation designed to curb Klan terrorism, the organization saw its primary goal–the reestablishment of white supremacy–fulfilled through Democratic victories in state legislatures across the South in the 1870s. After a period of decline, white Protestant nativist groups revived the Klan in the early 20th century, burning crosses and staging rallies, parades and marches denouncing immigrants, Catholics, Jews, blacks and organized labor. The civil rights movement of the 1960s also saw a surge of Ku Klux Klan activity, including bombings of black schools and churches and violence against black and white activists in the South.

Since the days following the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan has preached a gospel of hate, intolerance and exclusion. But while it has attracted members who number in the millions at times, it has also repeatedly been battered into near-submission by activists, the government and changing public opinion.

KKK Today

1. The KKK keep saying "white power," what does that mean?

2. Why do people want to join the KKK?

3. Do they consider themselves to be religious? How is this ironic?

4. What does the burning of the cross symbolize?

5. Why do you think they have their children at these ceremonies?

Birth of KKK

6. What was the KKK originally?

7. Why did they wear white robed costumes?

8. How did the black codes cause the KKK to rise?

9. What did the KKK want to do to African Americans during Reconstruction?

10. What was common abuse committed against African Americans? What was the result of this abuse?

11. As a result of the abuse discussed in #10, what happened to the KKK?

The Peak of Power

12. One of the first blockbuster movies of this industry was D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation." How did the popularity of this film help the KKK grow again?

13. What is meant by 100% Americanism?

14. How did the 1920's reflect this "Americanism" ideal?

The KKK in the Old Town

15. How did they use the church to help them grow in numbers?

16. How many members belonged to the KK by 1920?

17. Why do you think the KKK marched in parades?

18. What is significant about the KKK electing congressmen into power?

The Klan State

19. What happened to the numbers of the KKK between 1925 to 1928?

A License to Grow

20. How was segregation unfair to blacks? Was it really separate but equal?

21. After segregation was over, what was the new symbol of the burning of the cross?

22. What did the KKK do to the Freedom Riders?

23. Which famous black leader of the Civil Rights Era, did the Klan start to target?


The 1st Amendment gives people the freedom of speech and protest. Do you think that freedom of speech should cover hate speech? Do you think the type of speech used by the KKK should be covered under the 1st Amendment? If no, how can the government prevent such actions>? If yes, explain how hate speech is protected under the 1st Amendment?

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