During the winter of 1865 to 1866 in Pulaski, Tennessee, six former confederate army officers gave their society a name adapted from the Greek word "Kuklos", meaning "circle". The Ku Klux Klan began as a prankish social organization, but soon became a very serious organization which has changed the world. Itís activities soon were directed against the Republican Reconstruction governments. The group had become a permanent part of history forever.
Most people are familiar with the Ku Klux Klan as a secret and exclusively white group that terrorized former African American slaves following the Civil War. The "second" KKK in the 1920ís was a mass movement of between 2 to 6 million members.
In Atlanta, in 1915, the Klan of the WW 1 era allowed membership to white, native-born Protestant males, (otherwise know as 100% Americans). They were required to swear oaths to secrecy, obedience, fidelity, and klanishness. The "second" KKK was viewed as a response to growing demands for rights by women, African Americans, and the young.
Discoverers found minutes from the 1920ís Klan chapter of more than 3 hundred members of the La Grande, Oregon KKK records. The documents are the only complete set of Klan minutes ever to be discovered. The minutes provide a detailed account of the Klanís proceedings for more than 18 months. They say they offer a unique perspective into the rank and file of one of the largest mass movements in the U.S. history.
The documents include summaries of Klavern discussions and gossip as well as vital information on new recruits. They also included a list of names of all the 326 members of the La Grande chapter.
Three hundred miles east of Portland, in the Grande Ronde Valley of Oregonís Blue Mountains, La Grande served as a maintenance center for the Union Pacific Railroad. It was a huge agricultural and lumber distribution point. Close to 1,600 residents in a town of less than 8,000 were foreign-born or had at least one immigrant parent.
Nearly 37% of people in the Klan in La Grande worked for the Union Pacific Railroad. Ninety per-cent of the KKK members fell into upper working-class or lower middle-class categories. The KKK viewed foreigners and people of color with suspicion. They would call them "japs", "coons", "wops", and "chinks". However, 1920 census records listed only 15 African Americans in La Grande and 46 people of Chinese ancestry in all of the county. The larger Roman Catholic population was of far more interest to La Grande Klansmen. J.L. McPherson, a local dentist, lectured Klansmen on trading only with the "right" businesses. A member of the Klan made of list of "100% American" merchants and read it at every meeting. La Grandeís KKK also served as a job protection association for Protestant employees of the Union Pacific Railroad.
In the fall of 1922 Klansmen fired a Catholic school teacher for no distinct reason.
The teacherís supporters drafted a petition demanding she get her job back. When Klansmen took over a majority of school board seats in June, 1923 elections, the new panel selected on e of their own, a local knight, as district clerk and chose a site for the construction of an additional school.
Early in 1923, someone complained of the refusal of an Irish-American teacher to read two student essays on the Klan. They stated, "We will someday give her an education on Americanism, if you donít like the hand thatís feeding you, then go back to Ireland where you belong."
In the late 50ís and early 60ís, Medgar Evers was a black leader in a struggle to gain equal rights for blacks in his home state. He made campaigns to register black voters and organized boycotts of firms that practiced racial discrimination. On June 12th, 1963, Evers was killed by a gunman in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. A member of the Ku Klux Klan, Byron De La Beckwith, was tried several times for the murder of Evers, but was not convicted until February, 1994. At that time Beckwith was 73 years old, and was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1964, civil rights activists helped create Freedom Summer, an effort to focus national attention on Mississippiís racism. The main goal of the project