A commenter a long time ago advised us that the “KKK” was called that because K is the eleventh letter of the alphabet, so that KKK=33. That may be so, but if you my spelling above, Coo Clucks Clan, invites the third letter of the alphabet three times, or 333. They could have easily dropped one of the words for 33. Still, “KKK” is an odd marker.
Numerical signals like that are not uncommon, and of course by themselves mean nothing. So I recently journeyed to the primary source for everything, Wikipedia. Hereinafter I will refer to that source as “Lies of Our Times,” or “LOOT.”
I printed the article. It is 44 pages long! There you go – 4+4=8! Of course, a different font would have produced a different result. Numbers usually signal nothing. In fact, most of the article seems to follow the sequence of numbers, 1 through 239, without much in the way of deviation. Those deviants I noticed were as follows:
- 111 appears three times, and out of sequence, in describing peak membership in Indiana (“4-15% of the eligible population); that nearly 20% of the Indiana population were members in 1920, and that the rapid expansion in membership in the 1920s was a multi-level marketing campaign.
- 38 appears five times: In relations to bombings in Birmingham in the 1950s; in regard to the Freedom Riders in Birmingham in 1961; in regard to alliances forged with gubernatorial offices in the south; in describing the FBI’s general disregard of the Klan during the reign of J. Edgar Hoover, and finally in regard to an alliance with the office of Governor George Wallace of Alabama in the 60s, part of the forged alliances mentioned. These 38’s are late in the article, when the other surrounding footnotes are in the 170s.
Make of that what you will. It is not conclusive of anything, but does make me a little suspicious. However, that only accentuates the general sense I was left with when I wrapped up my reading: The Ku Klux Klan of all eras were and are nothing but agents provocateur.
The question I address is this: Were they a front group for a hidden hand, such as Intelligence, or did they arise spontaneously? These days “spontaneous” events such as riots, Women’s Marches or tear gassing of children on the Mexican border are planned well in advance, and organized from above to appear to be from below. Is the KKK the same animal? Most likely.
The Klan appeared on the scene in three periods – the wake of the Civil War in the South; nationwide in the early twentieth century in the wake of the movie Birth of a Nation, and finally after 1950 and to this day. Before I get into all of that, I want to address some things that should strike anyone as odd:
- KKK allegedly formed and hid their identities to be able to commit crimes and evade prosecution.
- The Ku Klux Klan of the 20th century wore white sheets with pointed hoods, which would make it difficult to drive a car, ride a horse, see anything, or run away after committing a crime. They are also highly memorable and noticeable.
- The name chosen, “Ku Klux Klan”, is said to have Greek origins, but could be Klingon for all I know. It too is highly memorable.
- From 1915 forward KKK burned crosses at meetings, but only to emphasize that they were a Christian group, and not as an affront to Christianity. Ask anyone however, if cross-burning is an affront to decency, and we know the answer. (The burning of a sacred symbol at meetings, just like they do at Burning Man, is odd, nonetheless.)
- Their membership was secret, so there has never been an accurate count. This allows for all sorts of manipulation.
- They sported US flags at their rallies, and always presented themselves as patriots first.
So it appears at once that they are making a public statement: “Look-at us! See how outlandish we are!” At the very same time, they want to commit criminal acts in secrecy. It seems, on its face, a contradiction.
The photo above, taken from LOOT, is said to depict “Mississippi Ku-Klux members in the disguises in which they were captured. [From a photograph].” They were arrested, we are told, in 1871 and this photo was taken at that time, later to be published in Harper’s Weekly. The original KKK did not sport the sheets and pointed hoods. What strikes me is how non-threatening these men are, in relaxed postures, two of them sporting guns. If is as if they were told “You’re under arrest! But wait! First, a photo.” (I hope someone can make something of the symbolic images on the costumes.)
There is not going to be a big ‘reveal’ in this post, that is, I will not be able to hold up concrete proof that KKK was meant to be agents provocateur for unstated reasons, but I will review and highlight their behaviors over the centuries to see if they point at anything that makes them more than the cranks they appear to be in public. There is a lot of activity to cover, so I will use selected instances that I find either representative or questionable, or both.
The First Clan, Post-Civil War, 1865-1871
The original Kuklux Klan (original spelling) was formed in late 1865 in the immediate wake of the Civil War. It was secret and oath-bound. They are said to have used violence against black people, including burning houses and leaving dead bodies on the roads (footnote 53). The “Prescript,” or statement of principles, was written by Confederate Brigadier General George Washington Gordon. (That first and middle name will appear again.) The prescript is, of course, a white supremacist document.
The first “Grand Wizard” (as if they are making references to witchcraft) was Confederates General Nathan Bedford Forest. He used the Klan to oppose Republican state governments, along with carpetbaggers and scalawags, two terms we all learned in high school history.
It is important for us in 2018 to understand that the terms “Democrat” and “Republican,” at least in the South, appealed to different types of people then than they do now. The South was solidly Democrat before and after the war, and stayed so for nearly a century until passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. After that bill was passed, there was a great exodus of southerners to the Republican Party. This holds true to this day. So the Democrat Party of the antebellum and postwar south was identified with racism, while the Republican Party with its founding in northern states was abolitionist.
The following quote is lifted directly from LOOT, citing historian Eric Foner:
“In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic Party, the planter class, and all those who desired restoration of white supremacy. Its purposes were political, but political in the broadest sense, for it sought to affect power relations, both public and private, throughout Southern society. It aimed to reverse the interlocking changes sweeping over the South during Reconstruction: to destroy the Republican party’s infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, reestablish control of the black labor force, and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern life.”
Foner is granting high aspirations to a supposedly self-formed group that another historian, Elaine Frantz parsons, called …
“…chaotic multitude of antiblack vigilante groups, disgruntled poor white farmers, wartime guerilla bands, displaced Democratic politicians, illegal whiskey distillers, coercive moral reformers, sadists, rapists, white workmen fearful of black competition, employers trying to enforce labor discipline, common thieves, neighbors with decades-old grudges, and even a few freedmen and white Republicans who allied with Democratic whites or had criminal agendas of their own. Indeed, all they had in common, besides being overwhelmingly white, southern, and Democratic, was that they called themselves, or were called, Klansmen.”
I draw a parallel here, as the two statements above from prominent historians seem to indicate that disgruntled and angry white men were used to serve a higher propose, lured into a group that intended to use their anger to serve other purposes, that is, to be agents provocateur. The group that comes to mind is the modern-day Tea Party, used by Republicans in the elections before 2016 to stir up resentment and put angry white men to work at purposes that even they were not aware of.
Thus it appears that the first rendition of the Kuklux Klan was not an accidental assembly of people who rose up from the farms and plantations and found common cause, but rather a group organized from above to appear that way. That is generally how it works.
The Klan are said to have killed black political leaders and to have intimidated Southern Republicans. Negroes and Republicans were afraid to vote. LOOT cites W.E.B. Du Bois in stating that the Klan killed “thousands” of Negroes (10 to 1 more than whites), and staged political riots, but does not cite other than to footnote Du Bois, who claims that, for example, in South Carolina in 18 months in 1867, there were 197 murders and 548 aggravated assaults. (Footnote 65.) (I don’t go out of my way to find these numbers … they just magically appear.)
The above drawing is said to be of the assassination of George W. Ashburn by Klan members on March 30, 1868. Note the absence of Klan costumes, wearing only masks, as if the artist was not aware of the group’s formal costumes. Also note, again, that Ashburn’s middle initial “W” stands for “Washington.” Finally, note that no one was ever prosecuted for this crime.
One of the outcomes of the Civil War was passage of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Here is part of the language of that amendment:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
That sounds noble and progressive, in fact, it is. I cannot sit back and say that we should ignore violation of civil rights of people when State government refuse to act. That was a problem with the original Constitution – the Bill of Rights did not apply to the States.
But the effect of this Amendment was also less pure in another regard: It essentially ended States’ rights and made all Americans subjects of the Federal Government. Here is Edward W. Snowden from his book Everything You Know About the Constitution is Wrong, speaking of the language above in regard to our Bill of Rights:
“Nothing could be more plain than that the Bill of Rights did not apply to the States. Not only did none of the Framers intend it to apply to the States, the Supreme Court had determined by unanimous decision in Barron v. Baltimore that it did not. Federalism made no sense if if the federal Constitution applied to the States since state constitutions would serve no purpose.” (p 140)
Here we are perhaps beginning to shed some light on the English word “provoke” that underlies “provocateur.” The violence of the post-Civil War era was the calling card for the Federal Government to take charge of the situation. The 14th Amendment, in essence, began a new era in the United States, one we endure to this day, where the Federal Government owns our lives, and state governments must kneel before it.
That is, I suspect, the underlying motive of the hidden hands behind the first Kuklux Klan, which petered out by the year 1872, mission accomplished.
Second Klan: 1915-1944
Birth of a Nation: I heard of this film long ago, and could not fathom such open racism as it contained, though I have never seen it. Looking back at it now, it seems that its real purpose was provocation, and that its original title, The Clansmen, would have been more appropriate. The film portrayed black people as unintelligent and aggressive towards white women. It portrayed the original Kuklux Klan as a heroic force. The revival of the KKK around the time of the release of the movie appears to have been a planned event, but to what end?
The second Ku Klux Klan was founded by William Joseph Simmons, a Spanish-American War veteran who became interested in the Klan after seeing Birth of a Nation. There is not much information available on him other than his parentage, the fact that he was in the military, and his membership in two churches and twelve different fraternal organizations, only one of which is named by LOOT (Woodmen of the World, in which he was called “Colonel”). This version of the Klan is the one widely known for its sheets and pointed hoods.
Simmons claimed in a pamphlet that he wanted to protect the “interests of white womanhood,” and of course white supremacy was central to the organizing principles. Anti-Catholicism and Anti-Jew also played a prominent role, and the image and reputation of the University of Notre Dame was enhanced during this period. The Klan was most prominent in the state of Indiana.
Membership in the Klan is spotty information at best, with a 1924 number of “1.5 to 4 million.” Assuming that statistics are at the base of that estimate, the confidence interval has to be beyond six standard deviations, which to me is more like a wild ass guess, somewhere between four and fifteen percent of the population. Estimated number of Klansmen are typically vague in this manner in all eras. It could be said that because it is a secret organization, all we can do is make educated guesses. It is also, however, opportunity for exaggeration to enhance the image of the group.
The KKK was ardently in favor of Prohibition, its single largest selling point. The United States, even in the time of Alexis de Tocqueville, had a drinking problem, as it does today. While Prohibitionists are often caricatured as self-righteous women, there was a real underlying problem. So KKK chose to be on the sober side of that battle and gained much support because of it. (I suppose to make a point, in 1922 200 Klansmen set fire to saloons in Union County, Arkansas. A small event like that can have a large payoff in terms of publicity.)
The largest single event that I found in the LOOT account of Klan activities during this period was a march against Notre Dame, and a confrontation there which football coach Knute Rockne defused by forbidding students from leaving campus. In agitation activities, being the target is often good PR, so that Notre Dame indeed rose to prominence during this time. Later, they made a movie about Rockne, and Ronald Reagan played George Gipp. I am invoking Zal.
Beyond that, the KKK during this time appears to be a relatively peaceful group, anti-immigration, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, pro-Prohibition, and strongly patriotic. After reading this section of LOOT, I wondered why all the fuss, as there seems no important legislation passed in their wake, and no violent confrontations other than a few saloons burned down in Arkansas and the one at Notre Dame benefiting that institution.
So why was the KKK revived in 1915? I can only take a stab based on what I know about our current era. I often say that public opinion in this country does not matter. That is not the correct way to say it, so I add that while public opinion is never heeded, it is managed. Why? Because public opinion can be dangerous to people in power.
However, that is only the case if we are a well-informed and united front. So the object of public policy is to manage us and keep us divided. Having an inflammatory group like KKK come front and center in the middle of Prohibition served, I think, as a great distraction, something for us to be either for or against. It did not matter which side we took as long as we took a side. Look at their costumes! Listen to their rhetoric! If this group was not set up solely for the sake of getting our attention, then it was just a joke at our expense.
And do not forget what else was going on in this era – the Federal Reserve, the Income Tax, woman’s suffrage, and entry into the Great War. KKK might have been seen as useful to distract from the real agenda of that time.
That is the best I can do as to their purpose at the turn of the twentieth century.
Here are some photos from LOOT:
A cross burning in 1922, this photo stands out because there are three Klansmen and one cross. This is quite different from depictions we see in publications and movies.
These are two marches in Washington, DC, each framed so that the Capitol Dome is in the background. In the photo on the left I count 15 marchers in the foreground. I am suspicious of the background knowing that numbers are often exaggerated in photo dark rooms by addition of ghost-like images in the background to enhance crowds. I can easily be wrong, however, as if doctored, it is a good job. There could have been as many as 50-60 marching that day. Notice that those whose faces are visible are women. LOOT tells us that in the 1920s KKK did have a women’s auxiliary.
In the photo on the right, I count 12 marchers. (These are two separate events, one in 1928 (left) and the other in 1926 (right).
Here we have a large field, a single bus, and 26 Klansmen in the background, two in the foreground along with two children. It is a posed photo, everyone lined up and facing the camera. Is this the best they could muster?
KKK 1950-current era
I draw your attention to the photo above knowing you have seen it before and that I believe it to be fake. This means that the famous Selma-Montgomery March in 1965, even though real, was hyped. More likely it was organized from above. Other photos show more people.
To be clear, I do not disparage the Civil Rights Movement in any way. Its leaders, at least those who gained national prominence, were most likely controlled opposition. It would be SOP, if a real Civil Rights Movement were in the making, to co-opt it, and this indeed what I think happened.
Reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s, then, would not be a natural event, but instead would have been spurred on by the same people who infiltrated the Civil Right Movement. KKK’s job would be to provoke.
That in mind, here is a partial list of murders by KKK members in the 1950s and 1960s:
- In 1951, Harry and Harriette Moore’s home was bombed, and he died shortly after. Both were said to be activists in the NAACP, another group that needs closer scrutiny (on another day). The deaths, reported by LOOT, are loaded with spook markers. Here’s just one: “The Moores were rushed to the nearest hospital that would treat African-Americans in Sanford, Florida, a 29.8 miles … drive by car.” LOOT could easily written “nearly thirty miles” but instead opted for a number that contains both 8 and 11. Other footnotes used 8 and 3 at once. The event is suspiciously laden with such data. Four men, said to be Klansmen, were blamed, but even after five separate investigations spanning sixty years, no one was charged.
Willie Edwards was forced to jump from a bridge to his death by four Klan members on January 23, 1957. Because of decomposition the cause of death was undetermined. The case was prosecuted 19 years later, and even as one of the four suspects submitted an affidavit in exchange for immunity, the charges were dropped since the judge could not say with certainty that a 125 foot drop (38.1 meters) would cause a person’s death. (Apparently that judge had just watched the movie the Fugitive? Did he see Dr. Richard Kimble survive such a fall? Oops – wrong time frame.) I am just a tad suspicious here that there was indeed a body, it was indeed Willie Edwards, and that the decision to blame it on the KKK in 1976 was political.
- Speaking of the Selma March above, Viola Liuzzo heeded the call of Martin Luther King and left her children in Detroit to travel to Selma, Alabama. She was spotted with a black man in her car by a group of four men, one of whom was an FBI informant. They allegedly overtook her, shot her in the head and killed her. In this case three men were convicted and served time, while the informant entered the Witness Protection Plan. It is odd that the car had an FBI agent in it, and that he did not stop the crime from being committed.
- Vernon Dahmer, Sr. died of smoke inhalation due to a fire in his house set by members of the KKK. Fourteen men were indicted, four convicted. One served a three-year sentence, the other three were pardoned. Eleven were charged with conspiracy, but the only one to serve time was Sam Bowers, who was finally convicted 25 years later, and who died in prison.
And on it goes. I am gratified that the pursuit of justice led to prosecution decades after-the-“facts” of these events. There are quite a few others, and some of the larger ones – the Selma-Montgomery March of 1965, Bloody Sunday, and the murder of three civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, and Michael Henry Schwerner, are separate projects – as it is I have been taken off course throughout this effort, and want to stay focused on the role of the KKK in the 1960s as a force for provocation.
At this time I want to focus on that role, and try to understand the broader meaning of the Civil Rights movement in light of just the four events I highlighted above, each suspicious. Others have written about the odd circumstances that brought Rosa Parks to the fore, and of course the strange, possibly fake murder of Martin Luther King. Using those two events as bookends, I see a natural anger within the black population given credence, and then via various staged events in between, was allowed to rise to a boil before 4/4/68, when they killed hope.
Was that its purpose? In a similar manner, Charles Manson was used to kill the anti-Vietnam War movement even as various fake events in between – Kent State, Napalm Girl, Jane Fonda’s fake trip to North Vietnam – we used to bring it to a boil. What I am seeing here is population management – my favorite (and overused) analogy is a paddock of sheep that has within it a fence. It is very easy for the sheep to be on one or the other side of that fence, or to jump over it or go around it. The important feature of the paddock is that the sheep are divided among themselves. The shepherds on the outside looking in never lose control.
Agitation said to be by KKK went on into the 70s, 80s and 90s, a supposed massacre of communist protesters in 1979, (11/3 to be exact – 3 x 11 =…) the shooting of four elderly black women in Chattanooga in 1980, a lynching in Alabama in 1981. In 1995 KKK reappears as Neo-Nazi. In our century KKK is said to be present and working on immigration, civil unions and same-sex marriage. Whatever the issue of the day, they are with us and used to create tension and stage events to bring in high-profile news coverage. They are, and always have been, in my view, an Intelligence front.
A final note here … thanks to our friend Kevin, I encouraged my wife to consent to our spending $239.88 annually to join Ancestry.com. Throughout my reading and writing I have looked into the lineage of various participants, and have not much to show for it. Most surprising was George Corley Wallace, Governor of Alabama at various times from 1967 to 1987, who was famously shot and confined to a wheel chair, has less ancestry apparent than me with my pauper ancestry.
Wallace stood at the doorway of the University of Alabama in 1963, refusing to allow black students to enter. If ever there was a staged event … to the right he is being confronted, apparently, by Nicholas Katzenbach. As always, I question the perfect framing of the photo and the positioning of the photographer in just the right place at just the right time.
The end result of this confrontation and others with Wallace at the center, of course, is yet another blow to States’ rights. Mixed as I am about that outcome, knowing that justice is as rare at the state level as federal, I suspect that Wallace was hired as a mascot during those years to achieve that end. So I was surprised that his lineage stops at George Corley Wallace, his father, in 1898. LOOT tells us that he was one of five generations bearing the name “George Wallace.” I have had similar results with every prominent person I have researched in this manner on this project. With blacks it is no surprise, as so many of those families have no background before the Civil War. With prominent whites, it is a little more troubling.
It is time to close this piece so this is an odd-duck thing that makes for a good ending. William Stetson Kennedy was an author and activist who allegedly infiltrated the Klan in the 1940s. He is said to have played a large role in the demise of the Klan by providing inside information to police and to the writers of the Superman radio series, who used it to ridicule the KKK.
I thought with a name like “Stetson Kennedy” I might hit pay dirt, and indeed I did though not as I expected. See below.
Do you see what I see? We don’t know his mother, but his father bore the name “George Wallace Kennedy.” I want to make an MM group-style ancestral broad jump, but instead I leave it there, stumped.