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One might remember that originally the Klan was organized to help curtail marauding freed slaves from terrorizing poor rural whites.
The white robes and tall hats exploited the ghost fears of the blacks at the time.
"Adventurers swarmed out of the North, as much the enemies of one race as of the other, to cozen, beguile and use the Negroes. The White men were aroused by a mere instinct of self preservation until at last there sprang into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable Empire of the South, to protect the Southern Country." - Woodrow Wilson (of New Jersey) President of the United States, in his "History of the American People."
The collapse of the Confederate armies alone guaranteed an upsurge in crime as half starved veterans began their long march back to their homes. In desperation they scrambled for handouts and resorted to petty thievery. General Johnson noted he could do nothing as Lee's veterans passed through the lines of his still intact army in late April, stealing mules and horses as well as clothes hung out to dry. A week earlier Thomasville, Georgia had been the scene of three days of disorder as disbanding soldiers passed through the town. On the night of May 6, more then fifty armed men stole eighty nine mules and seven horses from the loosely guarded Confederate depot. On May 8, four hundred former soldiers attacked the Confederate storehouses. At the commissary they broke into two warehouses and carried away 125,000 pounds of corn. They also destroyed all books, papers, and office furniture they could find. Such riots were widespread in the deep South following the war's end.
In the summer of 1865, Gov. Brownlow of Tennessee, declared that persecutors of Union men had forfeited all rights to protection and life. That same year one delegate to the Tennessee Constitutional Convention stated that the only right the Rebels had was to be hung. There is ample documentation of cases in which Unionists, seeking revenge for wartime harassment, used their new positions to jail their old enemies on trumped up charges. On the vaguest rumors and hearsay, cavalry units calmly put the torch to the homes of citizens. Vengeful Unionists formed the Loyal League, ostensibly to suppress crime, keep order, and maintain discipline among the Negro population. In fact the Loyal League acted to intimidate political opponents and ex-Confederates.
Through out the South, freed Negroes formed the Union League and Black Militias and in most areas were given the task of enforcing marshal law. Led by corrupt officers and self serving politicians, the Union League became the most violent and murderous arm of the reconstruction to Blacks and Whites alike.
It was amid this atmosphere that John Lester, James Crowe, John Kennedy, Calvin Jones, Richard Reed, and Frank McCord met in a law office in Pulaski, Tn., on Christmas Eve, 1865
-and yet more-
N.B. Forrest accepted the Klan's offer to lead the organization and in April 1867, at a convention in Nashville, Tn., Forrest became the first Grand Wizard of the Order of the Ku Klux Klan. The rules and regulations of the order, called the Prescripts, were written by former general, John B. Gordon, who became the Grand Dragon or state leader of the KKK in Georgia. Former general, Albert Pike, became the chief judicial officer for the Klan. Pike was also a major figure in Scottish Rite Masonry in America. A notable Klansman and Free Mason, Pike is buried in the Masonic Lodge in Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from the White House.
The victims of the Klan, who were White as well as Black, tended to be people proven to be guilty of serious crimes such as barn burnings, theft, rape, or murder. Corrupt politicians, Carpetbaggers and Scalawags were also Ku Kluxed.
The term "ku klux" became popular and was widely used. Any resistance to reconstruction was given the label "ku klux". In their efforts to crush all resistance, the Radical Republicans labeled ALL white southerners as "Ku Klux" and the atrocities committed by outlaws, bandits, impersonators, and anyone else were all laid to the Klan's blame. With the death penalty hanging over their heads, Klansmen were in no position to come forward and openly deny the charges and defend themselves. But the Klan did attempt to police the situation. The Klan issued public warnings that anyone caught committing a crime while disguised as a Klansman would be executed. It is documented that the Klan publicly posted warnings condemning the mistreatment of innocent Blacks and it is equally documented that on at least one occasion the KKK even hung one of its own members for beating up an unoffending Black man. (As soon as I can I will create a section going into greater detail concerning these incidents.)
At the same time thousands of Negroes aided the Klan who helped rid them of carpetbaggers and outlaws. There is documented proof that there were even Negroes who were actually sworn into the KKK as members.
cigar factory owners use force
Beginning of a four month general strike of the cigar industry. The walk-out, orchestrated by the union La Resistencia, was broken when the Citizens' Committee, formed by prominent Tampans, resorted to vigilante violence.
Another general strike paralyzes the cigar industry. Again, vigilante committees composed of Tampa and West Tampa's prominent citizens, uses violence to force cigar makers back to work, including the lynching of two Italian men in West Tampa.