Created By: PaulieRomanovNovember 11, 2012 Last Edited By: PaulieRomanovNovember 15, 2012
Troped

Ku Klux Klan

Scary Racist Southerners With Guns

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FOREWARD: This is a highly controversial subject, so remember to use the Rule Of Cautious Editing Judgment.

America's oldest terrorist organization and one of the most famous hate groups in the world, the Ku Klux Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee as a vigilante group shortly after the Civil War. The members were mostly Confederate veterans, and were originally a vigilante organization targeting "carpetbaggers" and Northern con-men during Reconstruction, but quickly turned their violence towards newly freed blacks. Terrorizing blacks and Northerners, the KKK became a dire threat to Reconstruction, but was put down in the 1870's, only to resurface in the 1910's.

The new Klan was formed as a response to immigrants from Eastern Europe, most of whom were either Catholic or Jewish, although they still continued their violence towards African-Americans. In the 1920's, the KKK had over 4,000,000 members in the United States and pulled in a lot of political influence, but waned in both power and numbers during the Great Depression and World War II, only to resurge in the 1950's and 1960's to fight the Civil Rights movement.

In the 1970's, the Ku Klux Klan decentralized and broke off into various splinter groups. The hatred towards Catholics has died off in most Klan groups (save for a few), but the hatred towards black people, Jews, and immigrants remain. With changing dynamics, these immigrants are now mostly Latino instead of Eastern European, and now Muslims, Liberals, and LGBT individuals are added to the list of people hated by the various KKK splinter groups.

There are four distinct Klans, each with their own history.

  • The First Klan (1865-1872): The earliest Klan group, founded by Confederate veterans as a vigilante group that quickly became a hate group and America's first terrorist organization. Early Installment Weirdness is in effect for this group, as much of the imagery associated with the KKK (white robes, conical hats, the Confederate Flag) is largely absent. The First Klan did wear masks and hoods to conceal their identity though, and the title of Grand Wizard (the chief leader of the Klan) originated here.

  • The Second Klan (1915-1944): The most powerful and arguably most well-known iteration of the Ku Klux Klan, the Second Klan was founded as a response to the waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe, most of whom were either Catholic or Jewish, as well as inspiration from the film "The Birth of a Nation" which glorified the First Klan. Membership in the 1920's reached over 4,000,000, but the Second Klan declined during World War II, before dying out in 1944. A lot of the common images of the Klan such as conical hats, white robes, and burning crosses started here.

  • The Third Klan (1945-1970's): The Third Klan was formed to combat the Civil Rights Movement, gaining power in the 50's and 60's. It was also the last fully unified Ku Klux Klan. Hatred towards Jews and Catholics continued, but the main focus once again shifted to black people. Sometime around the mid-1970's, after the success of Civil Rights legislation and increasing pressure from the FBI and local police, the KKK fizzled out and splintered into various smaller groups. By 1980, there was no unified Klan.

  • The Fourth Klan (1970's-Present Day): The current Klan, or more accurately, Klans. This generation of the Ku Klux Klan is different from any previous generation, namely due to lack of unity, close connections with Neo-Nazis, and loosening of membership restrictions (The First and Second Klans only considered Anglo-Saxon Protestants and occasionally Scottish and Irish Protestants to be "white", while most modern Klan groups will allow any white supremacist to join, and many Klan groups such as the Imperial Klans of America even accept Catholics) as well as a shift in the direction of their violence. The lynchings and cross-burnings have been largely replaced with brutal beatings of innocent people and other hate crimes. Over 32 groups claim to be Ku Klux Klan orders.

Traditionally, the KKK has been associated with the South, but the Second Klan was a nation-wide organization (New Jersey had many issues regarding the KKK's political influence in the 1920's) and more modern Klan groups are focused mainly in the Midwest as well as the South, with some chapters in Europe and reports of Klan groups as far away as South Africa and Russia.

Related tropes are Those Wacky Nazis, White Gang Bangers, and Rebels With Repeaters.

As one of the most well-known hate groups in recent history, the Ku Klux Klan has appeared a lot in fiction, usually as villains.

Film
  • The Birth Of A Nation was one of the earliest films ever, and portrayed the KKK as heroes.
  • The Klan appears in O Brother Where Art Thou? as enemies midway through the movie, as Everett, Pete, and Delmar must rescue their friend Tommy from the Klan.
  • Featured prominently in Mississipi Burning.
  • Appear as comedic villains in Blazing Saddles.
  • In Forrest Gump, Gump says he was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
  • In the Samuel L. Jackson remake of Shaft, a black man named Trey was dining in a mainly "upper class" restaurant and was racially harassed by a Jerkass white diner named Wade. After ignoring the first few public insults, Trey walks over to Wade's table, cuts two holes in his cloth napkin, and puts it on top of Wade's head, where it resembles a KKK hood, to the laughter of some of the onlookers.
  • Bad Boys II has Mike and Marcus shooting it out with a chapter of the Klan in the movie's first major shootout

Literature
  • Appear in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Five Orange Pips.
  • A minor enlisted character in Crusade is described as a "Kard-Karrying Klansman", and is noted to have put on shows in blackface on our Earth. He ends up being lynched by USS Walker's other enlisted men after raping a Lemurian female.
  • The 1905 novel "The Clansman" which inspired The Birth Of A Nation

Live-Action TV
  • An episode of the History Channel series Gangland featured the Imperial Klans of America
  • On Boardwalk Empire the Klan are a problem for Nucky Thompson because he gets a lot of his political support from the black community and the black gangster Chalky White is one of Nucky's main associates. In season one when one of Chalky's people is lynched, Nucky allows him to torture a Klan leader for information. In season two, the Klan has its revenge when they attack Chalky's liquor warehouse and kill four of Chalky's men. When Chalky kills one of the Klansmen in self defense, Nucky has to pull a lot of strings so Chalky is not tried and executed for murder. However, the Klan has little power in Atlantic City so they are never too serious a problem for Nucky.

Music
  • The Ramones' hit song "The KKK Took My Baby Away"

Western Animation
  • Appear several times in South Park, most notably in "Chef Goes Nanners" and Cartman's ghost costume in "Pinkeye" resembles a KKK robe, much to Chef's dismay.
  • The KKK is often mocked in Family Guy as well.
Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • November 11, 2012
    reub2000
    • The Five Orange Pips features a client who unwittingly inherited secrets belonging to the KKK. Holmes figures out the Klan's game, but is unable to save his client's life.
  • November 11, 2012
    JonnyB
    In Forrest Gump, Gump says he was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
  • November 11, 2012
    Lawman592
    Music
  • November 11, 2012
    StarSword
    Literature
    • A minor enlisted character in Crusade is described as a "Kard-Karrying Klansman", and is noted to have put on shows in blackface on our Earth. He ends up being lynched by USS Walker's other enlisted men after raping a Lemurian female.
  • November 11, 2012
    shimaspawn
    This would probably be better separated into Useful Notes and a page on how they are portrayed in media. You have a great Useful Notes page here, but not much of a trope.
  • November 11, 2012
    DRCEQ
    Yeah. Great for Useful notes, but more examples are needed for media. This ykttw would be the best place to accumulate them. I'll try to add and elaborate on what is already mentioned later.
  • November 11, 2012
    PaulieRomanov
    Sounds reasonable, I intend this to be a Useful Notes page with media examples.
  • November 11, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    Bad Boys II has Mike and Marcus shooting it out with a chapter of the Klan in the movie's first major shootout.
  • November 12, 2012
    Waterlily
    Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry is about a black family in the 1930s and they have several encounters with the KKK.
  • November 12, 2012
    Bisected8
    • The Superman radio series notably had a story arc where The Man of Steel himself took them on. It's credited with hamstringing a revival by making them seem rather silly (since it used accurate terminology).
  • November 12, 2012
    arromdee
    The Superman radio series doing this is a commonly spread exaggeration. He did fight villains who were a Captain Ersatz of the Klan, but the stories didn't use real Klan passwords or terms.
  • November 12, 2012
    Bisected8
    I know we aren't wikipedia, but do you have a citation for that? Every source I can find (including wikipedia) says a guy called Stetson Kennedy infiltrated them and gave the producers the various codewords and such, which were actually used.

    Straight Dope seems to think it's true, and if it wasn't they'd probably know it (collectively)....
  • November 12, 2012
    SharleeD
    • The Humanis Policlub from the Shadowrun game is essentially the Fifth Klan of that game-setting.
  • November 12, 2012
    EdnaWalker
    The hate-group was originally called "The Knights of The White Camelia."
  • November 12, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Please add "This will go in Useful Notes" or something like that at the top of the description. Definitely not a trope.
  • November 12, 2012
    NimmerStill
    They are some of the main antagonists in A Time To Kill (Film and Literature).
  • November 12, 2012
    elwoz
    Literature: the father of one of the protagonists in Fool On The Hill was in the (Third) Klan, and brought his son into the children's auxiliary, which is described as not that different from the Cub Scouts ... from the perspective of a ten-year-old. Looking back, the college-age protagonist considers it a permanent stain on his character.

    (Waugh. Can anyone phrase that better?)
  • November 12, 2012
    SKJAM
    • Among the many criminals recruited into the outlaw army of the bad guys in Blazing Saddles are a number of Klansmen.
  • November 13, 2012
    Chabal2
    • Klansmen show up in Preacher. Except for one (who gets taken out by Groin Attack), they're as far from the Aryan superman image as possible, as noted by Jesse ("Why are the champions of the white race always its worse representatives? YOU! Where the fuck is your chin!?"). Other brilliant moments include setting up a burning cross on the sheriff's lawn (Jesse pisses out the fire), getting their meeting interrupted by the sheriff's black assistant sniping the leader's hood, and dumping said leader in the black ghetto, still wearing the robes. But even they aren't the worst: that would be Odin Quincannon, a Depraved Dwarf who thinks about hating niggers so much his fellow Klansmen think it's excessive.
  • November 13, 2012
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat>

    Useful Notes pages should not have media examples. Split this into two. The media portrayal, and the Useful Notes page. Do not try to smush them into one hybrid page.
  • November 14, 2012
    Prfnoff
    ^That rule, of course, has been violated repeatedly by people eager to shift pages into Useful Notes.
  • November 14, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Film

    In the Samuel L. Jackson remake of Shaft, a black man named Trey was dining in a mainly "upper class" restaurant and was racially harassed by a Jerkass white diner named Wade. After ignoring the first few public insults, Trey walks over to Wade's table, cuts two holes in his cloth napkin, and puts it on top of Wade's head, where it resembles a KKK hood, to the laughter of some of the onlookers.
  • November 14, 2012
    SharleeD
    • The raunchy high school boys from the second Porky's film scheme to get even with some corrupt politicians and Klan members.
  • November 15, 2012
    PaulieRomanov
    To the mods, I will make a Useful Notes page separate from the media portrayal. I did not know there was a restriction on media examples for Useful Notes.

    Sorry about that
  • November 15, 2012
    Prfnoff
    In the EC Comics story "Under Cover!" (Shock SuspenStories #6), a reporter who witnesses a Klan lynching finds himself their next target.
  • November 15, 2012
    nielas
    • On Boardwalk Empire the Klan are a problem for Nucky Thompson because he gets a lot of his political support from the black community and the black gangster Chalky White is one of Nucky's main associates. In season one when one of Chalky's people is lynched, Nucky allows him to torture a Klan leader for information. In season two, the Klan has its revenge when they attack Chalky's liquor warehouse and kill four of Chalky's men. When Chalky kills one of the Klansmen in self defense, Nucky has to pull a lot of strings so Chalky is not tried and executed for murder. However, the Klan has little power in Atlantic City so they are never too serious a problem for Nucky.
  • November 15, 2012
    Jaqen
    Literature: The Klansman original book led to the movie Birth Of A Nation

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