Organisation and methods of the Ku Klux Klan

The KKK was known as the Invisible Empire and was extremely well organised.

The National leader of the KKK was called the Grand Wizard. It was split into local groups called Klaverns.

Members wore white robes and hoods to hide their identity and had to be American, white, Protestant and at least 16 years old.

KKK members standing in a square formation at a rally in West Virginia, 1924
KKK members helds rallies to scare black people

The Klan used a variety of methods to intimidate those they considered inferior:

  • Groups of Klansmen marched through the streets carrying banners which made threats of violence.
  • They burned large wooden crosses beside the homes of people they wished to frighten.
  • They used fear to prevent African Americans registering to vote.
  • They carried out lynching. This was the name given to violent acts such as kidnapping, hanging, whipping, mutilation and murder towards certain groups they considered to be threatening ‘the American way of life’.

Support and impact

By 1920 the Klan had started to gain a increased support, for a number of reasons:

  • Unemployment was growing and the KKK blamed this on the high number of immigrants flooding into the USA.
  • Many African Americans moved to northern cities, especially during World War One. This led to competition for housing and jobs.
  • Many poor white people joined the KKK in the hope that their way of life would be protected.

Due to the secretive nature of the Klan, it was difficult to know exactly how many men were members.

Estimates have ranged from 3 million to 8 million members in 1924, when the Klan was at its peak.

What is certain however is that the Klan had enough power in the 1920s to hold marches through Washington DC.

Members included state governors and senators, as well as judges, businessmen and members of the police.

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