The Civil War was the bloodiest event in the U.S. history; it killed over 650,000 Americans (Franklin 39). This number is higher than the death rate in all the wars, in which the United States participated in the twentieth century. Massive destructions mostly affected the South as the military operations were conducted primarily in its territory. Severe battles destroyed the railways, ruined plantations, depreciated the property, and made the banks bankrupts. The business life stopped. The more economically developed North won in the Civil War that erupted in the era of the industrial revolution while the backward agrarian South was defeated.
The Ku Klux Klan was a secret terrorist racist organization, which was founded by the Confederate soldiers at the end of 1865 (Hollitz 19). Its main purpose was the promotion of the ideas of the white supremacy and opposition to the Republicans in the South after the Civil War. The creation of the organization contributed to the outbreak of violence against the blacks; therefore, it became illegal in 1869 (Franklin 54). However, many of its members had been active for the whole period of Reconstruction; there were two more waves of renewal up to the middle of the twentieth century.
The long history of the Black slavery bred the stereotype of the white supremacy. The intimidating methods of the Ku Klux Klan hindered the fighting against segregation in the US and witnessed unprecedented examples of the human cruelty that aimed at renewing the lost authority and claimed revenge.
Origins of the American Civil War
In the book, “Awaiting the Heavenly Country,” Mark Schantz highlights that for half a century before the Civil War, the slavery dependent South and progressing in industry North had been the separate regions with rather different interests and objectives (Schantz 67). Originally, the US was a federation, in which each state could live its political and economic life. Despite a steady increase in the population and growth of the economic development, the integration process was slow (Schantz 61).
In the North, enterprises focused on the mechanical engineering, metal processing, and light industry. Immigrants, looking for a better life in America, represented the labor class, working in the industry (Schantz 64). In the North, the demographic situation was stable, and people enjoyed relatively high standards of living. In the South, the situation was different. During the Mexican-American War, the US occupied huge territories in the south. Planters settled on those lands, having received the vast land holdings. This land was very fertile, and the climate was favorable for agriculture; therefore, soon, the South became an agrarian region. Planters cultivated crops and cotton (Schantz 64). However, the South did not have enough workers.
In the book, “Reconstruction after the Civil War,” Franklin states that before the Civil War, colored people in America had experienced a period of slavery for about two hundred years. They worked for and succumbed to their white masters without any back thought of injustice. The slave mentality was difficult to be transformed and abolished. The freedmen hardly knew what to do with their new rights, and they did not have any initial capital. The black still had to work for their former masters for a small payment. The freedmen were engaged in the same jobs as they had performed before the War (Franklin 15). They earned a little money for it but did not have any stability or habitat. The discrimination of the non-white citizens had continued to thrive at least for fifty years after the slavery abolition (Franklin 15). The Southern states became the area of the Afro-American terror. The contradiction between the whites distinguished the value of lives of the colored people.
In the primary sources of the Hollitz’ collection, “Thinking through the Past”, there is much evidence that even after the slavery abolition, the black population was considered the second-class citizens. The politics of the southern states represented the rights of the elite slave-owners, who could not accept the rights of their former servants. The North needed the stuff and cotton from the South while the South required machines from the North. Therefore, mutual profit contributed to the peaceful co-existence (Hollitz, 79). Gradually, the growing contradictions between the two parts created some pressing issues and conflicts. The taxes on the goods bought and imported in the North gradually increased while the South remained on the same levels of profit and looked for the possibilities of the tax-free cooperation. (Hollitz, 79). .
The problem of slavery became one of the burning issues because the North States employed the hired labor while the South state exploited the work of the black slaves. Political and social organizations, opposing slavery, were founded in 1854 by the Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln’s victory in the presidential elections in 1860 became a dangerous sign for the slave-owners and caused the exit from the Union. According to the voting results, at the end of 1860, South Carolina first published the declaration that led to the secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. The states of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana followed the example.
In February of 1861, six states have announced the creation of a new state - the Confederate States of America. In the following month, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the Union (Schantz 86).
These 11 states have adopted a constitution and elected their president, former Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. Alabama became the capital of the Confederacy in Montgomery; after joining Virginia, it relocated to Richmond. These states occupied 40% of the entire territory of the United States with a population of 9.1 million people, including more than 3.6 million blacks (Schantz 87).
Lincoln’s coming to power announced that all the new states were to be free. It contradicted the vision of the Confederates and led to the beginning of the most severe war in the history of the US.
The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
Confederate leaders and the elite planter class refused to accept the slavery abolition and applied different legal and illegal methods in order to restore the old state of affairs. An illegal organization of the Ku Klux Klan was founded; it burned schools, homes, and churches of the non-white citizens mercilessly. In 1867-68 only, the Ku Klux Klan members assassinated about ten percent of the Afro- American electoral candidates in the former Confederate states (Franklin 66).
The Ku Klux Klan members put on the long white robes with a hood, trying to convince the victims of the mystical spirit of vengeance. The symbol of the Ku Klux Klan was a burning cross. There was an invisible hierarchy in the organization; Great Magician was the secret leader and inspirer (Hollitz 19).
This fearsome secret society was founded by six former Southerners soldiers after the Civil War. Warnings sent in a fancy, but well-known form preceded the crimes planned by the members of the Ku Klux Klan. It could be a branch of the oak tree while others received the melon seeds or grains of orange. Having received such a warning, the victim could either recant his earlier views or leave the country. If a man ignored the warning, he was destined to certain death (Schantz 89).
The organization had a complex system of secrecy. They never gathered in one place and had a sophisticated system of appearances and passwords. The members had a specific whistle and knew certain signals. None of the members had ever known in advance the place of the next meeting. Neither had they known the real names of the other members of the organization.
Although the researchers agree on the fact that the organization did not emerge as a terrorist union, it developed with the racist overtones. Every year, with an increase in the power and number of its members, the Ku Klux Klan enlarged the number of victims and extent of violence.
With the course of time, it became a complex information network for merciless murders and arsons. A group comprised from 10 to 500 members, depending on the operation, acted extremely quickly, and left no witnesses. The victims were hanged, drowned, or mutilated (Schantz 67).
The victims of the terror were not only the black people but also the white Republicans. Those, who came from the North to work among blacks, were the vulnerable targets for the terrorists. The Joint United Nations Commission on the reconstruction reported numerous cases of terror against the whites, in particular, killings of the soldiers and officers of the Federal Army.
In many states, including Tennessee, the home state of the founders of the company, the governor took various measures in order to deal with the arbitrariness and cruelty, but all in vain. The police was unable to quell the Ku Klux Klan leaders.
As a result, the clan members experienced enormous power in almost all states of the South. Rigid laws of the states did not help manage the issue due to the existence of no evident witnesses. The traditional society had existed long before the federal government began to intervene in their activities.
In the Carolinas, where the Ku Klux Klan was particularly strong, the governor asked the President to employ a military solution. Other states, which were the ardent opponents of the Ku Klux Klan, considered the intervention of the federal government a salvation. One of the most famous and active leaders was Benjamin Butler, who made every effort to achieve a formal investigation. In 1870, he presented a detailed report on the work done to the Chief Justice. It revealed that the Ku Klux Klan, or the Invisible Empire of the South, included a large number of people of different classes. The secret society had own constitution and laws and committed numerous acts of violence against the representatives of the Republican Party. The Klan members burst into the homes of the black population with the intent to rob, rape, and murder the law-abiding citizens.
In 1871, a newly issued law aimed at curbing the activities of the Ku Klux Klan limited the powers of the society. When the Klan members once again began to do the excesses and violence, the President announced the state of siege in nine districts of Carolina and undertook numerous arrests. Hundreds of activists were arrested and imprisoned by the decisions of the military court, which was one of the crucial reasons for the organization’s dispelling. However, the leaders hardly bore the criminal responsibility and persecution.
The Civil War had a crucial impact on the history of the United States. The slavery was abolished, and the process of establishing equal rights for the blacks and whites started. It was an important step in the development of the U.S. democracy and industrial progress. The War shook the fundamental principles of the slavery-based economy; it strengthened the leading role of the North in the economic and political life of the country.
Of course, the former masters and leaders could not put up with the newly proclaimed rules. They lost property and the order of life they considered comfortable and prospering. Moreover, the slaves also were not ready for the endowed freedom. The positive effects appeared only with the course of time. The Ku Klux Klan was an example of the merciless violence directed at the demands of the new unwelcome order by the former leaders. The secrecy of the organization proves that the founders doubted in the rightness of their actions and executions carried by the clan members. Having been renovated two times after the initial appearance, the organization at last has disappeared, proving that the idea of the white supremacy is just a stereotype imposed by the European conquerors of the American lands.