The KKK distributed recruitment fliers in Tallassee, Alabama, a week before Independence Day, looking for “intelligent, awake, aware, Christian White people to stand up for our race, our heritage, and our American way of life.”
After dark during the last weekend in June, fliers in plastic bags weighted down with rocks were thrown from an SUV onto the driveways of white residents of Tallassee, a city of about 5000 people located 30 miles northeast of Montgomery. Fliers were also found in mailboxes and attached to cars and doors.
In response to dozens of complaints from residents, Tallassee police chief Jimmy Rodgers said police officers removed nearly 200 fliers from residents’ yards. Those responsible could face criminal littering charges.
Imperial Wizard Frank Ancona of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan confirmed that a local chapter of his Potosi, Missouri-based organization distributed the fliers as part of a national recruitment effort. He said the organization received an “80 percent positive” response from Tallassee residents who called to request more information about the KKK.
A group of former Confederate soldiers established the first chapter of the Ku Klux Klan on December 24, 1865, in Pulaski, Tennessee. It became America’s first domestic terrorist group and was devoted to white supremacy and to ending Reconstruction in the South. Functioning from its inception as a political paramilitary arm of the Democratic party, the Klan engaged in a campaign of terror, violence, and murder, targeting African Americans and whites who supported Republican policies. It is estimated that, between 1866 and mid-1867, the KKK was responsible for 197 murders and 548 aggravated assaults in North and South Carolina alone.
Reconstruction-era KKK terror went largely unopposed by local authorities. In 1871, the United States Congress passed the Force Bill, which allowed for prosecution of Klan members in federal court and dramatically slowed Klan activity. By the early 1870s, the Klan had all but disappeared.
The KKK underwent a massive resurgence in the first few decades of the 20th century, due in large part to the film Birth of a Nation, which glorified the group’s 19th-century activities. In the first half of the 20th century, Klan membership became a core qualification for public office in Southern states. Many influential national figures were Klansmen at some point in their lives, including Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and former United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.
Today the Klan is estimated to have only about 3000 active members, down from a high of more than 2,000,000 members in the 1920s. Although recent recruitment activities have been reported in Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said “this does not signal a resurgence in the Klan.”