Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as The Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically expressed through terrorism. Since the mid-20th century, the KKK has also been anti-communist. The current manifestation is splintered into several chapters and is classified as a hate group.
The first Klan flourished in the South in the 1860s, then died out by the early 1870s. Their iconic white costumes consisted of robes, masks, and conical hats, and were designed to be outlandish and terrifying. The second KKK flourished nationwide in the early and mid 1920s, and adopted the same costumes and code words as the first Klan, while introducing cross burnings. The third KKK emerged after World War II and was associated with opposing the civil rights movement and progress among minorities. All incarnations of the Klan have well-established records of engaging in terrorism, though historians debate how widely the tactic was supported by the membership of the second KKK.
The first Klan was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee by veterans of the Confederate Army. Although it never had an organizational structure above the local level, similar groups across the South adopted the name and methods. Klan groups spread throughout the South as an insurgent movement during the Reconstruction era in the United States As a secret vigilante group, the Klan focused its anger reacted against Radical Republicans and sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against black and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871 the federal government passed the Force Acts, which were used to prosecute Klan crimes. Prosecution of Klan crimes and enforcement of the Force Acts suppressed Klan activity. In 1874 and later, however, newly organized and openly active paramilitary organizations, such as the White League and the Red Shirts, started a fresh round of violence aimed at suppressing Republican voting and running Republicans out of office. These contributed to segregationist white Democrats regaining political power in all the Southern states by 1877.