Ku Klux Klan, secret terrorist organization that originated in the Southern states during the period of Reconstruction following the American Civil War (1861-1865) and was reactivated on a wider geographic basis in the 20th century. The original Klan was organized in Pulaski, Tennessee, during the winter of 1865 to 1866, by six former Confederate army officers who gave their society a name adapted from the Greek word kuklos ("circle"). Although the Ku Klux Klan began as a prankish social organization, its activities soon were directed against the Republican Reconstruction governments and their leaders, both black and white, which came into power in the South in 1867. See also Terrorism.
II ORIGINAL TARGETS AND TACTICS.
The Klansmen regarded the Reconstruction governments as hostile and oppressive. They also generally believed in the innate inferiority of blacks and therefore mistrusted and resented the rise of former slaves to a status of civil equality and often to positions of political power.
Thus, the Klan became an illegal organization committed to destroying the Reconstruction governments from the Carolinas to Arkansas. Attired in robes or sheets and wearing masks topped with pointed hoods, the Klansmen terrorized public officials in efforts to drive them from office and blacks in general to prevent them from voting, holding office, and otherwise exercising their newly acquired political rights. When such tactics failed to produce the desired effect, their victims might be flogged, mutilated, or murdered. These activities were justified by the Klan as necessary measures in defense of white supremacy and the inviolability of white womanhood.
A secret convention of Klansmen, held in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1867, adopted a declaration of principles expressing loyalty to the United States Constitution and its government and declaring the determination of the Klan to "protect the weak, the innocent and the defenseless...