A series of secret organizations with the general aim of suppression of African American political and civil rights, the Ku Klux Klan has appeared in three distinct incarnations from Reconstruction to the present. Most broadly, the Klan can be viewed as a manifestation of the U.S. nativist and antiblack sentiment as reflected in the nineteenth century, for instance, by the anti-Irish “Know Nothing” Party and by antiabolitionist and antiblack violence. The first Ku Klux KJan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866 by six Confederate veterans. Originally a club similar to contemporary social fraternities, the Klan quickly expanded its membership and purpose to seek the overthrow of Reconstruction and the reassertion of white supremacy in the region. The Klan and other similar groups spread throughout the South, employing violence against people, both blacks and white Republicans, and property before federal intervention in 1871 and 1872 brought an effective end to the organization.
In the twentieth century, the Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1915 at Stone Mountain, Georgia, by William J. Simmons, a onetime preacher, teacher, and insurance salesperson. Drawing his ideas about the organization less on its Reconstruction-era predecessor than on the florid depictions of the Invisible Empire in the novels of Thomas W. Dixon, Jr., and D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation (1915), Simmons found that his organization had an appeal far beyond the South. The Klan gained a broad following in the 1920s as many Americans feared that the New Era brought unwelcome changes to their lives; among the perceived threats that the KJan exploited were post-World War I economic and political uncertainties, immigration, the black migration to northern cities, and the widespread belief that American values and 100 percent Americanism were under assault by the forces of modernism. Far more centrally organized than the original KJan, the 1920s version was planned