This time, however, the House of Representatives voted to cite seven Klan leaders, including Shelton, for contempt of congress for refusing to turn over Klan records. The seven Klansmen were indicted by a federal grand jury and found guilty in a Washington trial. Shelton and two other Klan leaders spent a year in prison.
Shelton and other Klan leaders still raged at blacks, Jews and other imagined enemies of the nation, but increasingly their public activities were confined to rallies and speeches while they privately tried to hold together their fractured empires. Some of their members drifted away, some were convicted like Shelton and sent to prison, and some remained active but seemed less eager for clashing with authorities.
The stalwarts of the Klan kept hammering away at the old themes of hatred. Though calls for violence were now muted, their fanaticism was undimmed. Instinctively, they seemed to know their fight would carry on into the s and beyond, fueled by the vulnerability of some Americans to the cry of racial prejudice that brought the Klan to life three times in the century following the Civil War. The civil rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, was built by the Southern Poverty Law center as a perpetual reminder of the sacrifices that were made to end racial segregation in the South.
The names of 40 individuals, killed because they stood up for human rights, are inscribed in the circular black granite table that serves as the centerpiece of the Memorial. These are the true heroes of the civil rights Movement — their martyrdom made freedom possible for millions in the South.
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For every story of courage that is represented on the Memorial, there is a parallel one of evil and violence. For every person killed, there was a killer — in most cases more than one. Some acted out of impulsive rage. Others used their legal authority to enforce the rules of a dying social order. At the forefront of the racial terrorism of the s and s was the Ku Klux Klan. Klansmen have been identified as the killers of 14 of the individuals honored on the Memorial. Their stories are told below. But that number is surely an incomplete accounting. Many killings attributed to unknown night riders were likely the work of the Klan.
The heroic spirit of those who gave up their lives in the cause of racial freedom should not be forgotten. Nor should the crimes of those who forced them to make that sacrifice. The racial climate in Montgomery, Alabama, was palpably ugly in early A grass-roots movement of black citizens — led by the rev. The Ku Klux Klan reacted violently.
Members of the Klan marched through Montgomery in an effort to terrorize black bus riders and bombed the homes and businesses of boycott supporters. Several members of a local Ku Klux Klan group decided that only the murder of a black would express their outrage. Willie Edwards Jr. On Jan.
Their intent was to harass the regular driver of the truck, whom they suspected of dating a white woman. Not knowing what he looked like, they mistakenly assumed that Edwards, the fill-in, was their target. The Klansmen forced Edwards into their vehicle and drove through rural Montgomery County. Though Edwards denied making advances to white women, his kidnappers tortured him repeatedly. Finally, they ordered him at gunpoint to jump off a bridge over the Alabama river.
Seeing his only hope of escape, he leaped into the water below. His decomposed body was found three months later. The investigation turned up no suspects and was quickly closed.
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But a judge threw out the indictments on a legal technicality, and the men were never brought to trial. As the summer of waned, blacks in Birmingham, Alabama, had reason to celebrate. Stung by harsh criticism of these repressive measures, local and federal officials were dismantling laws which prohibited black access to public institutions.
But the Ku Klux Klan, holding firm to its belief in white supremacy, intensified its efforts to intimidate blacks. Some eight hours later, as Sunday worship services were about to begin, an explosion ripped through the brick structure. The FBI identified the group of Klansmen responsible for the bombing, but inexplicably no one was charged. Klansman Robert Chambliss, then 73, was found guilty of first degree murder and spent the remainder of his life in prison. The civil rights struggle in Mississippi was fought on many fronts during the summer of College students from the North descended on Mississippi in response to the call of civil rights leaders for an all-out campaign to expose the injustices of racial segregation.
White opponents fought back with a bloody campaign of beatings, church burnings and murders. Their most noted victims were three civil rights workers killed near Philadelphia, Mississippi. But one month before those murders, two White Knights were implicated in the murder of a pair of young men near the southwest Mississippi town of Meadville. Charles Eddie Moore, 20, had just been expelled from college for participating in a student demonstration.
Henry Hezekiah Dee, 19, worked in a local lumber yard. Two White Knights — James ford Seale, 29, and Charles Marcus Edwards, 31 — were convinced that the two young men were part of a rumored Black Muslim uprising in the area, Edwards said later. Their information was groundless. They abducted the young black men, took them into a nearby forest, beat them unconscious, and dumped them into the nearby Mississippi river where they drowned.
Nearly two-and-a-half months passed before their remains were found. Edwards and Seale were arrested for the murders. Edwards, a paper mill worker, gave the FBI a signed confession, but his admission of guilt was insufficient to convict him. A justice of the peace threw out the charges without explanation, and the case was never presented to a grand jury.
This pattern of law enforcement indifference to Klan-related crimes was repeated throughout the South until federal intervention forced local officials to prosecute the perpetrators of racial violence. Their murderers were never punished. Nothing enraged Mississippi Klansmen like a Northerner helping blacks achieve racial justice in their state.
Michael Schwerner, 24, epitomized the Klan stereotype of a Yankee agitator. The outspoken, self-confident Schwerner was a social worker from New York who came to Meridian, Mississippi, to work with the congress of racial equality in early He quickly earned the enmity of local Mississippi White Knights, and soon they talked openly of killing him. His efforts to build a freedom School in Philadelphia, Mississippi, provided the opportunity.
Schwerner had developed a working relationship with James Chaney, a black native of Meridian. On Sunday, June 21, their concerns were realized: arsonists firebombed the church, reducing it to a charred rubble. Schwerner, Chaney and Andrew Goodman, 21, a newly arrived civil rights worker from New York, were on their way from Mt. Price charged Chaney with speeding and arrested Goodman and Chaney on the absurd charge of burning Mt.
Now the stage was set for local Klansmen to murder Schwerner and his accomplices. Around 10 p. They had traveled only a short distance when Price, accompanied by two carloads of Klansmen, pulled the men over again. The Klansmen drove them to an isolated area where they were shot at point-blank range, one by one.
They were buried in a nearby earthen dam. The disappearance of the three men prompted a national cry of outrage. Blacks had been terrorized for decades in the South, but the violence against two white men finally moved the federal government to action. Mississippi officials never brought charges against the murderers of Schwerner, chaney and Goodman. The Department of Justice accused 19 men of federal civil violations in connection with the incident.
Seven were found guilty, but none received a sentence greater than 10 years. Although the U. Armed forces was integrated after World War II, the American South in the s remained hostile to blacks — service members or not. So when Army reserve officer Lt. Lemuel Penn, 49, left his home in Washington, D. Benning, Georgia, he timed his trip to avoid unnecessary stops. His attempt to escape confrontation proved tragically unsuccessful.
While he and two other black army officers were driving back to Washington on July 11, Penn was accosted outside of Athens, Georgia, by a carload of Klansmen and shot at point-blank range. The three assailants were members of a violent Klan group called the Black Shirts. An investigation implicated the Athens Klansmen in the crime.
Later, the Department of Justice brought civil rights charges against Myers, Sims and four other Klansmen. After a lengthy proceeding, which went all the way to the U. Supreme court, Myers and Sims were convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Their accomplices were set free. On the night of Sunday, March 7, , Americans received a close-up view of the harsh methods employed by Southern law enforcement officers against civil rights activists.
News broadcasts that evening showed Alabama state troopers brutally beating participants in a voting rights march as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. It was a critical turning point in the civil rights movement in America. Many viewers merely expressed outrage at the incident.
Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a mother of five from Michigan, was moved to action. She traveled to Selma to participate in the struggle for racial equality and soon was ferrying marchers on the road between Selma and Montgomery as the demonstrations in support of voting rights continued. She died instantly. As it became increasingly clear that state prosecutors were unable or unwilling to bring these criminals to justice, the Department of Justice stepped up its use of the civil rights Act to bring charges against the Klan.
Vernon Dahmer was a business and political leader in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, whose success as a farmer, sawmill operator and merchant had earned him the admiration of black and white residents alike. But his outspoken support of voting rights for blacks earned him the enmity of the violent White Knights of Mississippi. For years, the White Knights stalked Dahmer. When the time was right, they planned to burn his home — or kill him, if possible.
After Dahmer offered to pay the poll taxes of blacks too poor to register to vote, the Klan decided to strike. His year-old daughter was hospitalized with third degree burns; Dahmer died from the injuries he suffered in the blaze. During the civil rights Movement, Klansmen expected the support of whites or at least their quiet acquiescence after they attacked civil rights leaders.
The reaction to the Dahmer murder was different. The entire community — black and white — rallied around the Dahmer family and helped rebuild their burned-out house. Local law enforcement officials aggressively investigated the crime. Three Klansmen were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In the wake of his murder, city officials began reforming local segregation laws, just as Dahmer had been asking them to do for years. After conducting a reign of terror for a decade, this group of violent white supremacists began to lose its grip on the people of Mississippi. Among all of the Klan victims in the struggle for civil rights, Ben Chester White seems the most unlikely. He was a quiet, unassuming man who worked his entire life on a plantation near Natchez, Mississippi. Members of the cottonmouth Moccasin Gang, a faction of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, conspired to kill the year-old man on the false premise that he favored school integration.
They had an ulterior motive. They hoped the murder would lure Dr. Gang members James Jones, Claude Fuller and Ernest Avants took White to a secluded area outside Natchez on the pretext that they were looking for a lost dog. There, fuller shot and killed the unsuspecting man. Wracked with guilt, Jones admitted his role in the slaying. Despite his admission, the jury was unable to reach a verdict against him and set him free.
Local authorities arrested Avants, but he was found innocent after arguing that he had shot a dead body. Fuller, the triggerman, was never tried. The judge found in favor of the plaintiff, marking the first time civil damages were assessed against the Klan for the actions of its members. During the late s, it looked as if the Klan was heading for a revival to match its third incarnation during the Civil Rights struggle. A former neo-Nazi, Duke formed the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in and traveled the country soliciting radio and television appearances.
Duke was articulate, well-dressed and willing to conceal his extreme racism for the general public. Klan groups that had been inactive for years also saw their membership growing. Duke and others tried to translate the newfound attention into political power, with some surprising results but little real success. Duke ran for the Louisiana Senate in and received a third of the vote. Congress, but lost the general election. Defeated for the state Senate again in , Duke lost his hold on the Knights when a rival Klan leader accused him of offering to sell his membership list.
Don Black, who replaced Duke in , tried unsuccessfully to sustain the image of Klan respectability. Black had been in charge of the Knights for only a year when he was arrested with other Klansmen and neo-Nazis for attempting to overthrow the government of Dominica. By that time, there was another Klan leader receiving national attention — not for his apparent moderation but for his brazen militancy.
Invisible Empire Imperial Wizard Bill Wilkinson liked to appear in newspaper photos with a sneer on his face and two bodyguards by his side, each holding up submachine guns for the camera. The children learned early on the art of intimidation. In one incident, about a dozen teenagers wearing Invisible Empire T-shirts burned an old school bus while assembled Klan members cheered. The most notable was a campaign of harassment against blacks in the town of Decatur, Alabama. In , a year-old retarded black man named Tommy Lee Hines was convicted of raping three white women.
Blacks in the community launched several protests, arguing that Hines lacked the mental capacity to plan the rapes. Sensing racial tensions were ripe for an explosion; Wilkinson took his Klan members into the area and held a series of rallies that drew from 3, to 10, participants. Two blacks and two Klansmen were shot in the ensuing battle. Louis Beam, a grand dragon under David Duke, was developing his own confrontational style in Texas. Beam, a Vietnam veteran, instructed his Texas Knights in guerrilla warfare during the late s and formed a paramilitary arm of the Knights called the Texas emergency reserve.
When tensions developed between American and Vietnamese fishermen in Galveston Bay, Beam offered paramilitary training to the American fishermen. After burning a Vietnamese boat and issuing threats against the refugee fishermen, the Texas Knights were sued and subsequently ordered to end the harassment and the paramilitary training. In , a group of Klansmen and Nazis planned a confrontation with members of the communist Workers Party, who were demonstrating against the Klan in Greensboro, North Carolina.
They were acquitted of criminal charges but later found civilly liable for the killings. While they were on trial, another group of Klan and Nazi members were arrested for plotting to bomb parts of Greensboro if their friends were found guilty. Members of that group were convicted and sentenced to prison.
At the same time Klan organizations experienced a surge in membership; there was heightened public attention to another growing white supremacist faction in America, the neo-Nazis. These were white Americans who, like the Klan, believed in the superiority of the white race but dressed in military-like uniforms instead of robes.
They revered Adolf Hitler as their hero. Like the Klan, the neo-Nazis were small in number and highly fragmented. The two groups pursued similar, if somewhat paradoxical, courses during this period: striving for mainstream respectability while at the same time practicing confrontational tactics. Politics was the arena where the Nazis hoped to establish a broad following. In , three National Socialist Party of America NSPA members made surprisingly strong, but ultimately unsuccessful showings in their campaigns for city aldermen in Chicago.
The most astounding election results came in when NSPA leader Harold Covington drew 56, votes in his losing bid for attorney general of North Carolina. The same year, Nazi Gerald r. Carlson won the republican nomination for a Michigan congressional seat. Although Carlson was defeated in the general election, he polled 32 percent of the vote. The youths had gathered to counter a black protest against inadequate public housing, and when the protesters failed to show up, they attacked the police and passing motorists with rocks and bottles.
An off-duty police officer was shot and at least cars were damaged. The next summer, NSPA members led another group of 1, angry whites to confront black demonstrators in Marquette Park. A riot erupted, and 16 police officers were injured. The march was abandoned after Collin received permission to use a Chicago park, but the NSPA had already gained enormous publicity from the lawsuit. By the late s and early s, Klansmen and Nazis were beginning to see the value of cooperating with each other.
The combination of the Klan, with its historical foothold in American society, and the Nazis, with a modern militancy that appealed to many younger ideologues, resulted in a racist front whose potential for danger was evident by the early s. The Nazi influence radicalized traditional Klansmen. In secret camps across the country, white supremacists of all descriptions began training in the use of assault weapons, grenades, rocket launchers and explosives — all in preparation for what they believed would be a nationwide race war.
In , more than 1, people learned advanced guerrilla warfare techniques at an annual paramilitary training camp sponsored by the Christian Patriots Defense League in Louisville, Illinois, which had ties to the white supremacist pseudo-religion, Christian Identity. Aggressive law enforcement and new legislation in many states halted much of the paramilitary training of the early s, but white supremacists continued to advocate arms training and preparation for a race war.
In the span of a decade, the white supremacist movement had expanded in so many directions that it no longer made sense to talk about the Ku Klux Klan alone. In addition to Nazis, there were survivalists, Identity churches and Posse Comitatus factions — the most diverse collection of white supremacist groups this country has ever seen.
These dangerous allies would evolve into the new hate movement of the s. The story of a white supremacist group formed in North Carolina in the s epitomizes the evolution of the Klan from traditional rituals to more militant underground tactics. Glenn Miller was a member of the national Socialist party of America, a neo-Nazi group, when he participated in the confrontation in Greensboro that resulted in the deaths of five anti-Klan protesters. Believing that the swastika would not appeal to large numbers of white Southerners, Miller founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan a year later.
He drew members from other less active Klan groups in the state and began building a network of klaverns local units. He staged well-publicized marches with his members dressed in the traditional Klan robes; he started a newspaper, The White Carolinian , and solicited members through numerous radio talk show broadcasts. During , Miller and several other Carolina Knights ran for public office. Despite losing, they generated a flurry of publicity for the group.
They operated 27 taped message hotlines, which delivered a racist recruitment spiel. But the marches, taped messages and political campaigns were only one side of the story. Miller, like other Klan leaders in the early s, began to see the value of more militant tactics. He maintained his alliance with the national Socialist party and held joint meetings with other white supremacists in North Carolina.
His group engaged in paramilitary training, which he publicized in order to attract more young male recruits. He published descriptions of the training in his newspaper, complete with photos of armed and camouflaged Klansmen, as if he had nothing to hide. But in fact, he did. For Glenn Miller, the weapon training was much more than a clever recruitment tool. It was part of a long-range plan for a total white revolution. In , Glenn Miller changed the name of the Carolina Knights to the Confederate Knights and preached the need to secure the Southern United States for a white homeland.
As the group adopted a more militant image, Miller delighted in issuing wildly provocative statements. But the public front was mild compared to the covert preparations for violence that had preoccupied him for years. Not only was Miller conducting the training he wrote about in his newspaper, he authorized his second-in-command to purchase a whole array of weapons that had been stolen from military bases. They included dynamite, claymore mines, grenades, plastic explosives, AR rifles, gas masks, night scopes, chemical warfare items and light-weight anti-tank weapons capable of piercing up to 11 inches of armor.
Miller also hired a military weapons expert to train his men in small teams at night, sometimes as often as twice a week. In late , Miller hooked the Carolina Knights into the Aryan Nations Liberty Net, a computer bulletin board which listed activities of various radical white supremacists around the country. In , Miller, his lieutenant Stephen Miller no relation , and their organization, now renamed the white patriot party, were found guilty of violating the order that banned them from conducting paramilitary training.
But while they were out on bond waiting for their appeal to be heard, they took their radical strategy to its extreme. Several months after his conviction, Stephen Miller and four other white patriots were arrested after they plotted to rob a Fayetteville, North Carolina, restaurant, buy stolen military explosives, blow up the Southern poverty Law Center and kill Law Center Director Morris Dees. Two of the conspirators pleaded guilty; Stephen Miller and another were convicted and sentenced to prison.
The fifth man was acquitted. In his declaration, Miller assigned a point system for the assassination of key minority, government and civil rights leaders, with Dees heading the list. Ten days later, Miller was captured in Missouri along with three other White Patriots and a cache of weapons that included grenades, pipe bombs, automatic rifles, shotguns, pistols and crossbows. Miller, who had become a hero in the eyes of the most militant white supremacists for his bold lawlessness, was suddenly in serious trouble. Already saddled with the contempt of court conviction, he now faced bond, weapons, and potential civil rights violations.
In a move that shocked his former allies, Miller agreed to plead guilty to one count of illegal weapons possession and testify against his former colleagues in the white supremacist movement. He has since served as a government witness against white supremacists in several trials, including the seditious conspiracy trial against 10 top leaders of the extremist movement. The former white patriot party members believed that their targets were gay. In seven years, Glenn Miller had taken a small band of Klansmen, turned them into an underground paramilitary army, educated them in the ideology of revolution, and inspired their crimes of intimidation, threats, thefts and murder.
Although they were numerically a tiny group, the white patriots demonstrated the primary lesson of recent white supremacist history. The danger lies not in the length of the membership roll but in the zeal of the members. In her dream, there was a steel gray casket in her living room. Who was the dead man laid out in a gray suit? The first thing she did, she later said, was to look in the other bedroom, where her youngest child slept. Though Michael watched television with his cousins in the evening, he had left before midnight.
Donald drank two cups of coffee and moved to her couch, where she waited for the new day. To keep busy, she went outside to rake her small yard. As she worked, a woman delivering insurance policies came by. Shortly before 7 a. Donald brightened — Michael was alive, she thought. Around his neck was a perfectly tied noose with 13 loops. On a front porch across the street, watching police gather evidence, were members of the United Klans of America, once the largest and, according to civil rights lawyers, the most violent of the Ku Klux Klans.
Lawmen learned only much later, however, what Bennie Jack Hays, the year-old Titan of the United Klans, was saying as he stood on the porch that morning. That week, a jury had been struggling to reach a verdict in the case of a black man accused of murdering a white policeman. The killing had occurred in Birmingham, but the trial had been moved to Mobile. To Hays — the second-highest Klan official in Alabama — and his fellow members of Unit of the United Klans, the presence of blacks on the jury meant that a guilty man would go free. Michael Donald was alone, walking home, when Knowles and Hays spotted him.
They pulled over, asked him for directions to a night club, then pointed the gun at him and ordered him to get in. They drove to the next county. When they stopped, Michael begged them not to kill him, and then tried to escape. Henry Hays and Knowles chased him, caught him, hit him with a tree limb more than a hundred times, and when he was no longer moving, wrapped the rope around his neck. For good measure, they cut his throat. Around the time Mrs.
Hays, who received the death sentence, is that rarest of Southern killers: a white man slated to die for the murder of a black. At that point, a grieving mother might have been expected to issue a brief statement of gratitude and regret and then return to her mourning. Beulah Mae Donald would not settle for that.
Donald file a civil suit against the members of Unit and the United Klans of America. Donald and her attorney, State Senator Michael A. In February , after 18 months of work by Dees and his investigators, the case went to trial. Although Mrs. And she cried silently when Knowles stepped off the witness stand to demonstrate how he helped kill her son.
Donald was more composed when former Klansmen testified that they had been directed by Klan leaders to harass, intimidate and kill blacks. Just four days after the trial had started; it was time for the closing arguments. At the lunch break on that day, Knowles called Dees to his cell.
He wanted, he said, to speak in court. When court resumed, the judge nodded to Knowles. Everything I said is true I was acting as a Klansman when I done this. And I hope that people learn from my mistake I do hope you decide a judgment against me and everyone else involved. Then Knowles turned to Beulah Mae Donald, and, as they locked eyes for the first time, he begged for her forgiveness. Whatever it takes — I have nothing. But I will have to do it. And if it takes me the rest of my life to pay it, any comfort it may bring, I will.
The judge wiped away a tear. Donald said. In May , the Klan turned over to Mrs. And on the strength of the evidence presented at the civil trial, the Mobile district attorney was able to indict Bennie Hays and his son-in-law, Frank Cox, for murder. By the late s, the Klan was once again in decline. The resurgence of a decade earlier had fizzled, and the Klan was down to around 5, members — much smaller than during the Civil Rights era and a mere fraction of its size during its heyday in the s.
The ebb in Klan fortunes continued into the s, and observers of the Invisible Empire began to question whether the organization would play any significant role in the extremist movement in the 21st century. The fear of litigation made Klan groups leery of organizing into chapters, naming officers and expanding across state lines. The Klan also reeled under the weight of internal squabbles over money and power.
The Klan had always been rife with petty infighting and jealousy among its leaders, and this natural inclination toward discord was exacerbated during the lean years of the s and s. Further dividing the movement was a disagreement over tactics: Some factions favored a cleaned-up organization that emphasized public relations, while rivals sought to revive the more militant tactics of earlier Klan incarnations.
But competition from other extremist groups was the real drag on Klan membership and influence. Racism and bigotry still existed in the United States in the latter part of the 20th century; the Klan just no longer seemed a relevant vehicle for expressing it. In the s, many extremists, who once would have gravitated to the Klan, joined the anti-government Patriot movement, especially its militia wing. The philosophy of the Patriot movement, as well as its commitment to armed paramilitary training, had more appeal than the worn-out rhetoric of the Klan.
This legacy of hate was a testament to the power of the Klan and its enduring influence for over a century. Civil lawsuits had a chilling effect on the activity of many Klan groups. Klan outfits toned down their rhetoric and propaganda, altered their recruiting tactics, and banned weapons, alcohol and drugs from their rallies and meetings. The Southern Poverty Law center, which filed the suit on behalf of Mrs. Donald, used this legal strategy against another Klan group with an equally sordid history of violence.
Over the years, the members of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, had been convicted of crimes ranging from cross burnings and bombings to assaults and murder. By the summer of , the Invisible Empire was defunct as a consequence of settling the lawsuit. The century-old Macedonia Baptist church, located near Bloomville, South Carolina, burned to the ground on June 21, , the night after another black church, Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in nearby Greeleyville, was destroyed by fire.
The arsons were among a string of over 30 suspicious fires at black or predominantly black churches from While lawsuits have a proven history of disrupting and even disbanding white supremacist organizations, they also deliver a powerful warning to others in the movement — hate violence can be expensive. A series of internal disagreements over leadership and tactics further decimated the Klan in the closing decades of the 20th century. Klan groups historically were rife with infighting and jealousy, but strong figures usually emerged to bridge the chasms and provide direction.
In the early s, Robb won invaluable publicity by appearing on nationwide television talk shows and in a Time magazine article on the hate movement. Aside from Duke, no modern Klan leader was more adept at exploiting television than Robb. In , the irreverent television series, TV Nation , aired a segment that lampooned Robb and his followers. Later that year, the Knights splintered, and Robb found himself scrambling desperately for members.
The schism gave birth to a militant offshoot with strong neo-Nazi leanings called the federation of Klans, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Novak said his group would be more militant than the Knights and would avoid the limelight Robb so avidly sought. After the split, Novak operated quietly behind the scenes, organizing rallies on private property and recruiting. But the militant Klan umbrella organization Novak hoped the federation would become never materialized.
As Klan influence faded in the s and s, the white supremacist movement began to chart a new course. The Order, a terrorist group that committed murder, armed robbery and counterfeiting in the early s, became the new standard for bold action on behalf of white supremacy. The Klan in contrast looked plodding, cowardly, and even foolish.
The old-line, traditional Klan came to be viewed as outdated and out-of-touch, all talk and no action. Militants left the Ku Klux Klan in droves. To that end, they aggressively pursued the young, ruthless, neo-Nazi Skinheads and recruited heavily on high school and college campuses. Eager to prove their courage as radical racists, Skinheads quickly became the most violent of all white supremacists.
Prominent white supremacists also sought to manipulate and exploit the anti-government fervor of the militias that sprang up across the nation and became the most visible of the extremist organizations in the s. Some of these groups had ties to racist groups or leaders, or had expressed racist or anti-Semitic beliefs. Camouflaged fatigues may have replaced the Klan robes, but hatred of Jews, blacks, immigrants and other minorities continued to infect the American body politic.
As the end of the century neared, there was no single, monolithic Klan, if indeed there ever was one. The organization was in tatters, its decreasing membership scattered in scores of squabbling factions across the country, some with no more than a handful of adherents. The once powerful Invisible Empire was gone. The most militant activists, such as Louis Beam see accompanying article , Robert Miles now deceased and Tom Metzger, left the Klan years before and assumed leadership roles in other white supremacist groups. These periods of growth have one common characteristic: they were eras of great social upheaval when the dominant white population felt threatened.
In each of these eras, as the perceived attack receded, the Klan faded. And yet it has never completely disappeared. History would suggest a continued role for the Klan. For over a century, the Klan has always appeared on the stage whenever white Americans felt threatened by people different than themselves. There should be no doubt that all means short of armed conflict have been exhausted. Louis Ray Beam personifies the evolution of the racist right in the last quarter of the 20th century from a movement led by the Ku Klux Klan to one where neo-Nazis and armed militias set the agenda.
Beam has been at the forefront of this transformation: where he has led, extremists have followed. As a Klansman in the s, he was a vocal supporter of paramilitary training. When the Klan began to stagger under the weight of lawsuits and internal struggles in the s, he transferred his allegiance to other white supremacist groups. His radicalism influenced the neo-Nazi movement that spawned violent terrorist outfits. In the early s, Beam devised the strategy for the anti-government patriot movement and its armed militia wing. Throughout his career, Beam has been a fierce advocate of violent insurrection.
His willingness to carry out his deeply-held beliefs sets him apart from other leaders in the white supremacist movement whose actions fall short of their rhetoric. Beam honed his tactical skills in Vietnam where he saw action as a helicopter tail gunner with the U. In the late s and early s, he established five training camps throughout Texas and recruited active-duty soldiers and veterans to the ranks of his Klan army, which he called the Texas emergency reserve. Beam directed his racist activities at minorities in general and Vietnamese immigrants in particular.
When a group of Vietnamese fishermen relocated to the Texas Gulf Coast, Beam deployed his Klan troops to the area to drive the recently-arrived immigrants out of the state. The court order effectively disbanded the organization, forcing Beam to regroup. While in Idaho, Beam met a young racist named Robert Mathews who was about to launch a violent terrorist campaign against Jews, blacks and the United States government.
In the fall of , Mathews formed a terrorist gang, later known as the order that carried out murder, counterfeiting and armored car robberies in preparation for an international revolution of white people. The gang was eventually captured, and Mathews died in a shoot-out with federal agents. He was eventually captured in Guadalajara after a gun battle, during which his wife seriously wounded a Mexican police officer.
Smith, Arkansas, in early on charges that ranged from civil rights violations to seditious conspiracy. After seven weeks of testimony, an all-white jury acquitted the defendants. Immediately after the decision, Beam delivered a gloating, impromptu speech at a Confederate memorial across the street from the courthouse, crowing that the acquittals represented victory over the government.
After the trial, Beam went underground for several years and began publishing a newsletter called The Seditionist. In early , he announced that he was folding his newsletter. His final edition contained an essay that would set the course of right-wing extremists for the next decade.
Acting without orders or commands, these cells would use violence to provoke a revolution against the federal government. Cells would operate independently so that the exposure of one unit would not endanger others. The essay circulated throughout the extremist movement. It appeared in numerous right-wing publications, on the internet and in manuals published by paramilitary groups.
The revolutionary tactic soon gained favor among the most militant white supremacists. In late , Beam emerged unexpectedly from his self-imposed seclusion as a result of a violent incident that occurred on a remote mountaintop in the northwest. Although no one realized it at the time, the anti-government patriot movement was born in august as a result of the events at a ramshackle Idaho cabin owned by Randy Weaver.
A Christian identity follower and survivalist, weaver jumped bail on federal weapons charges in and retreated to his cabin. He avoided arrest for nearly two years, but finally gave in after law enforcement officials mounted an intense siege that resulted in the shooting deaths of his wife, teenage son and a deputy U. Observers anticipated a show of force, similar to his Klan-led assaults on the Vietnamese fishermen a decade before.
But Beam was plotting a more patient — and ultimately more dangerous — course. This invitation-only meeting drew more than white men, some of them militant racists from Aryan Nations, Klan groups, identity churches and other extremist organizations. Four months later, government agents were involved in yet another standoff that turned deadly — this time at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. The religious cult was accused by federal authorities of stockpiling illegal weapons. Agents from the Bureau of alcohol, tobacco and Firearms had botched a February raid on the compound, prompting the standoff.
During the day siege that followed, extremists converged on Waco, among them Louis Beam. The lethal inferno that followed killed some 80 Davidians. Members of these armed groups saw the Waco and weaver events as proof of an oppressive federal government intent on taking away the rights and the weapons of American citizens, by force if necessary. The bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City and the sabotage of an Amtrak passenger train in Arizona later that year were believed to be the work of such cells. Beam appeared at militia gatherings and spoke at identity and white supremacist rallies and conferences.
At one such gathering in , Beam said he was heartened by the new coalitions between racists and anti government radicals drawn to the patriot movement. We are everywhere and we are going to get our country back. To hell with the federal government. It was a sultry June day in Decatur, Alabama. I had come to meet with some of the black marchers who had been attacked on a Decatur street by robed Klansmen swinging bats and sticks, and firing guns. I am a lawyer and had sued the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and some of its top officials for the attack.
I had come to Decatur that day to hear from the marchers, first hand, about the confrontation. Although I was not at the march, I felt as if I had been. I had spent hours viewing video news footage which showed the procession of about 75 black marchers as they were savagely assaulted by waiting Klansmen. I had studied hundreds of photo enlargements obtained by our investigators from the small army of news photographers who had covered the well-publicized march.
We had identified marchers as future witnesses, and Klansmen as future defendants. As I walked into the room where the marchers were waiting to be interviewed, I immediately recognized many of their faces. One was Hattie Brown, a rather large black woman, street wise though not educated beyond high school. On May 26, , Mrs. Brown was in the front line of marchers who gathered to protest the treatment of Tommy Lee Hines, a mentally retarded black youth convicted by an all-white jury for the alleged rape of three white women.
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Brown was there because she believed, along with many others, that Hines was incapable of committing the crimes. Hattie Brown was one of the first marchers to feel the full force of Klan clubs, and she narrowly missed fatal injury. Dees, do Klansmen bleed? The man kept coming. She saw no blood. I heard in her question the genuine terror of a victim of Klan violence. The legends of ghostlike figures riding horseback across rural fields in the moonlight had been passed down through generations, and Mrs. Brown, like many Southern blacks, still viewed Klansmen as larger than life.
I assured her that, yes, Klansmen do bleed. On the night of May 30, , he awoke to noise outside his small home located at the end of a dirt road, and saw the remnants of a smoldering cross.
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Person emerged to see two men standing in the back of the truck with guns pointed at him. His children were terrified. Before the sheriff arrived, the men left. The man in the robe, I later learned from depositions taken in a civil suit filed on Mr. The other man, dressed in military camouflage, was Gregory Short. They are also its victims. Most rank-and-file Klan members I have met in over court depositions, and many more personal interviews, are basically good people. The Klan meetings offer them what they have not been able to attain in their day to-day life — social opportunities, a chance to gain leadership roles, and a forum to vent their gripes.
Klan violence, though horrible, is not the mainstay of Klan activity. Letson told me that he quickly saw the Klan leaders as being out for money and power. He agreed to testify against the Klan. Except for color, Bobby Person and Lloyd Letson are little different.
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Both wanted better lives for their families. If they had been neighbors, they might have been friends. Hopefully, both victims of blind racism — the members who fill the marching ranks and the minorities who suffer the ultimate abuse — will join hands in brotherly love and friendship. New York: McGraw-Hill, Athens, Ga. New York: Plenum Press, Schwartz et al. Hearings on the Ku Klux Klan , U. House of Representatives, Committee on Rules. New York: Arno Press, Seattle: Open Hand Publishing, New York: Grove Weidenfeld, Lexington, Ky.
Davis and Janet L. Westport, Conn. New York: Julian Messner, New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. Revised edition, Washington, D. Revised Edition, Jackson, Miss. New edition. Language: English. Brand new Book. This volume contains a parade of exciting events written in a lively, readable style, with the purpose of pleasantly instructing the intermediate-grade student in North Carolina history. The scene offered represents a variety of state geography and historical periods, a diversity of occupations and types of people.
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