America isn?t a very open minded country in general. They have a "my way or no way" attitude, and it shows in examples like the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan itself was based on ignorance and bigotry. They established the Klan because they were bored, but little did they know how much their small club would impact American history. The Klan started slowly with few members but then it grew to 550 000 at the official end of the Klan. The Ku Klux Klan?s eventual collapse and early declined in active protests against blacks was due to the probing congressional investigation, the surge of disobeying members in the late 19th century and the Klan?s lack of respect people had for them by 1870.
By the early 1868?s the Klan was having organizational problems because they were expanding, once again, very rapidly. Congress had been keeping an eye on the Klan because they had been gotten many complaints about the activities that the Klan participated in. Due to the shear amount of complaints that the government got congress started to keep their eye on the Klan. By keeping an eye on them in reality they were conducting an investigation. This was not a fully frontal one but in fact a quiet one, until congress spotted a moment of weakness or rebellion in the Klan. They waited for this because they believed that if they interviewed thought to be members while the Klan was in a moment of rebellion they might have been able to pry information from them more easily.
This was a large misconception that Congress had about getting the members while they were in a state of rebellion. The Klan members were a very devout group of individuals. They were faithful to the Klan oath to never reveal anyone or any secrets about the Klan. Though these people were hard as rocks to get information out of, the on going investigation continued throughout most of the southern United States. The initial idea behind the investigation was to find who was supplying the Klansmen with their robes and such. The Government believed that all their robes were tailored, once again they had poor information. The Klansmen had their robes made privately and were very different from each other, unlike the Governments idea that they were like military fatigues, the same for each person.
Now all these small facts seemed inconsequential to the leaders of the Klan, or Wizards. The reality was that it was unnerving the lower ranked Klansmen. They were starting to get nervous about the probing Government officials, for when they were brought in for examinations the questions were leading and some witnesses coached to get others to admit Klan secrets. As I mentioned before they didn?t fall to easily for the trick questioning but they did get quite hassled by the authorities. This didn?t help the Wizards of the Klan either because after being hassled the Klansmen would often take their aggression out on blacks. By the end of the Congressional investigation, which essentially achieved nothing but a vote or two, the Klansmen were ready for a revolution against their country or the Klan.
Even with a large investigation going on in the Klan there was a surprising amount of new members just before the official order to disband the Klan. The surge that the Klan suffered right before the silent collapse was due to the hype about the Klan and the number of people that were racists. The majority of the new members were from the south and they were very passionate about their hate for blacks. The surge was thought to be a very good thing in the beginning, towards the decline of the Klan the Wizards started to notice where the problems were. The problem in the beginning was not that there was too many people, but what to do with all of them. With the increase in members the Wizards had to keep them occupied, like children they had to do something or they would get in trouble.
The Wizards had a small problem on their hands that, at the moment, could handle. Once the surge of new members started to become uncontrollable by the highest Wizards the activities of the Klan became more violent and more frequent. They would burn houses and churches and even kill men. In Alabama they committed 371 acts of violence and 35 murders between 1868 and 1871 alone. These acts of violence were not the original intent of the founders of the Klan. The primary intent of the Klan was to simply terrorize the blacks into working harder on the plantations. This original plan had been abandoned and the small members were taking matters into their own hands. There was a slow but deadly stream of "bad" men that the Klan was initiating. These men were more interested in wearing the robes and hood and then going about doing very grim things.
There were problems outside the Klan that couldn?t have been helped by any members. Bands of people who wanted to take their rage out on blacks would dress up in Ku Klux Klan like robes and go around harassing and killing blacks even though they were not members of the Klan. The result of these internal problems that the Klan had was simple for most Wizards, resign with their dignity. None of the Wizards wanted to be in power when the Klan was collapsing. The holes that were formed by the leaders stepping down allowed poor and violent Wizards to take their place. This eventually lead to the new Wizards re-organizing the Klan so that they could have everything their way. The resulting organization of the Klan was very poor with many laws being removed and the members of the Klan?s identity at risk of being revealed.
The Ku Klux Klan had a very large presence in the south of America. Everyone knew what the Klan was but not necessarily who they were or why they hated blacks. People were starting to become familiar with the mystery that surrounded the Klan, and it was becoming an ordinary topic of discussion. People had lost the interest that they had when the Ku Klux Klan was just getting started. People knew that this secret Klan existed, therefore they lose interest in it unless it directly effects them. The people became to desensitized to the initials KKK, for all the papers were interested in publishing stories that they thought the people were interested in. The people jut became to use to hearing grim news about the Klan so they just started to lose interest.
Companies also tried to get in on the exposure the Klan had with the media. In Nashville there was a Ku Klux Saloon, in Memphis a Saloon that claimed to be the head quarters of the Klan, and other false claims that were desperate attempts to get more publicity. People even started to make official prayers that were recited in their weekly church and before they went to bed. Here is a prayer that men would say before going to bed:
Now I lay me down to sleep;
Just let the soldiers round me stand
And drive away the Ku Klux band,
That I may have one night of rest
With consciousness of safety blessed.
And though my conscience sting no more,
And keep me wakeful ever more,
I think I may make out to snore.
A grateful song I then will raise,