Ku Klux Klan

Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest founded the original Ku Klux Klan following the War between the States in order to protect the widows and orphans of the Confederate dead. He named the group "Kuklos Klan," a mixture of Greek and Scottish meaning "family circle." Branches of the group sprang up across the South, and many white Southerners, frustrated over Federal Reconstruction policies, used the cover of the Klan to lash out against the occupying federal soldiers or against blacks who were benefitting from Reconstruction's open racial policies. Unable to control the increasing violence, Forrest formally disbanded the Klan in 1869, and the federal government crushed the residual chapters by 1871.

Inspired by D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, which romanticized the Klan's clandestine exploits, William J. Simmons restarted the Klan in 1915, staging a dramatic kick off atop of Stone Mountain, the future site of the Confederate Memorial Carving. Simmons, who called himself a Colonel although he had never received the military rank, burned a cross atop of the mountain and started to solicit membership in the reborn Klan. This new version of the Klan prospered, bringing in thousands of members, including the first chief sculptor of the carving, Gutzon Borglum and the owner of the mountain, Samuel Venable. Because of their deep involvement with the early carving, Klansmen, along with the United Daughters of the Confederacy were able to influence the ideology of the carving, and they strongly supported the UDC's vision of an explicit Confederate memorial.

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