One of the strangest aberrations in American life since the war is the growth of the Ku Klux Klan. In the North that organization, when considered at all, has been thought of as a colossal buffoonery, a matter unworthy of the time or thought of intelligent folk; and, indeed, for the average American, with his common sense and his appreciation of the ridiculous, any other attitude would seem unlikely. But because in certain sections of the country, notably the South and Southwest, the attitude of numbers of people has been quite the reverse, and the consequences of that attitude evil and seriously dangerous, a consideration of the purposes of the Klan and of its effect, intentional or otherwise, is worthy of the attention of the country’s best citizens.
The present Ku Klux Klan should not be confused with the secret order of that name, which a disorganized system of justice in the South during Reconstruction days in a measure justified. The original Klan disbanded when its purpose had been served. The new order has appropriated, without leave or license, the name, the disguises, the mummery of the old, — intended as childish but effective means of terrifying the imaginative and newly emancipated negro, — without appropriating either its aims or its ideals. This theft was designed to advertise the upstart organization; in this it has been successful. Among Southerners a romantic tradition of patriotism and terrible justice hallows the memory of the old Klan. Thoughtless enthusiasts have joined the new because of that tradition. Among the negroes the vey name is still a thing of nightmare terror, and such an attitude of mind perfectly suited the plans of the founder of the new order.