The Rise and Fall of the Not-So-Invisible Empire is the working title of my next online lecture series for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at California State University-East Bay. With the current challenging conversations among Americans about race, I thought it would be a good idea to look at some of the America's racial history and have proposed a lecture series on slavery and the Ku Klux Klan which has often been referred to as the Invisible Empire. We are still working out a schedule, but the series will take place in early 2024. I will let you know when we finalize the schedule.
The Ku Klux Klan is an American white supremacist, terrorist, and hate group which has existed as three separate Klan organizations in three non-overlapping time periods in American history.
- First Klan (1865-1872): After the American Civil War, the first Klan terrorized formerly enslaved Black Americans and their White allies in in South until it was crushed by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872.
- Second Klan (1915-1944): Inspired by D. W. Griffith’s 1915 incendiary film “The Birth of a Nation”, the second Klan (often referred to as the Invisible Empire) grew to include as many as 6 million Americans by the mid 1920s—primarily in the North and Midwest rather than in the South—targeting not only Black Americans but Jews, Catholics. and immigrants in general as well. The second Klan tapped into American passion for fraternal organization at the time and partnered with Evangelical clergy, temperance groups and suffragists. The Klan infiltrated local and state governments, Congress, the judiciary—and had its sights set on the presidency before its scandal-driven decline in the second half of the 1920s. Membership dropped to about 30,000 by 1930, and it finally faded away in the 1940s.
- Third Klan (1950-present): The third and current manifestation of the KKK with between 5000 and 8000 members emerged after 1950 in opposition to the civil rights movement. Contemporary Klan groups have consistently declined due to a variety of factors including the American public's general distaste of the group, prosecution by law enforcement, civil lawsuits, and the growth of alternative radical right-wing hate and militia groups such as neo-Nazis and neo-Fascists.