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Ku Klux Klan
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The Ku Klux Klan is America's oldest, most visible and most (in)famous hate group. It was originally formed in December, 1865, during the Reconstruction Era following the American Civil War. Former Confederate soldiers and white sympathizers joined vigilante groups in order to undermine political and social reforms, primarily those which involved greater political participation of freed slaves. A mystique was developed through the use of white robes and colorful titles, like Imperial Wizard and Exalted Cyclops. They also claimed to represent an "Invisible Empire," not unlike the more recent right-wing group "Moral Majority" claimed to represent a significant, but silent, majority of Americans.

Once Jim Crows laws ensured the political and social domination of whites and all but eliminated basic civil rights for blacks, the original KKK disbanded. It was revived again during the 1920s in opposition to Catholic and Jewish immigration to the United States. The important commonality between these targets and the blacks who were originally targeted is that they were all minorities who competed economically with low-income whites who were the primary constituents of the Klan. By 1925 it had more than five million members and, in some states, it had quite a lot of political power. Fortunately, political exposes, internal strife and even sex scandals helped to bring an end to that.

The most recent incarnation of the KKK started as a reaction to the Civil Rights movement during the 1960s. Whereas the original Klan used lynchings and midnight raids in order to intimidate blacks, this Klan bombed churches and murdered civil rights workers - and, this time, it was without enough political support to get away with it.

Today the KKK has been greatly weakened as their views have become more and more radical. They consider themselves a Christian organization and base their doctrines upon their own reading of the Bible. Their theology is strongly influenced by Christian Reconstructionism - they hope to "reconstruct" the United States along biblical (primarily Old Testament) lines and to establish a white-dominated theocracy.

Although primarily an American group, the Klan has made some developments internationally. Actual Klan groups exist in Great Britain and larger Klan organizations have extensive contacts and working relationships with racist hate groups, particularly neo-Nazi groups in Germany and Austria.

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