NEGROS IN THE KU KLUX KLAN
by Caveat Lector
Excerpt: Chapter 8 – The Odyssey of John Wilkes Booth
“Not many people in either the North or South knew that right after the end of the Civil War we recruited twenty-thousand Negro KKK members. They were the most intelligent and reliable blacks we could find. Our theory was that Negroes would take orders easier from other Negroes. They weren’t burning crosses or flogging, they were giving counsel and even financial help to the freed, but bewildered slaves. They kept busy knocking stupid ideas out of Negro heads put there by unscrupulous Carpetbaggers.”
Compare the statement from the book with the article written below.
Negro Members of the KKK
My first source of Negro Klan membership is the book, “The Ku Klux Spirit”, by J.A. Rogers, noted Negro historian of the 1920’s. The Ku Klux Spirit was first published in 1923, by Messenger Publishing Co. It was republished in 1980, by Black Classic Press. On page 34 of his book we find the amazing passage: “A fact not generally known is that there were thousands of Negro Klansmen. These were used as spies on other Negroes and on Northern Whites.”
Very interesting. In the 1920’s, there were plenty of original Klansmen still living as well as many other people of both races who lived during the Reconstruction Era. J.A. Rogers would have been able to interview many. Why would a Black historian make such a thing up? And if he did make it up there would have been plenty of people who would have objected. His book would not have survived to this day. Yet, it did.
My second source is a book written by a Carpetbagger, Albion Winegar Tourgee (1838-1905). In 1880 he published his book, “A Fool’s Errand”, (New York: Fords, Howard and Hubert). It was republished in 1989 by Louisiana State University Press as, “The Invisible Empire”. On page 79 of his book we find the passage: “There were no Colored men in the band (of Klansmen) that night. Their hands were not covered. I could see their boots and pants, and I could judge from their hands and feet. Most of them were genteel people, besides being white people. I could also have told by their language if there had been any Colored people among them. Their language was that of white men, and cultivated men.”
OK, why claim that no Colored men were riding with the Klan that night unless the witness had seen Colored men with the Klan on another occasion? The men were in their robes since the witness had to look at their uncovered hands to see that no Colored men were among them. If he’s not telling the truth, why would a Carpetbagger, of all people, ever make such a thing up?
My third source is, “Ku Klux Klan, It’s Origins, Growth, and Disbandment”, by J.C. Lester (one of the six original founders of the first Ku Klux Klan) and D.L. Wilson (another early Klansman). The book was first published in 1884. (I have an original copy). Reprints of this book are available from us for $7.00. The book was re-printed in 1905. In that edition, Walter L. Fleming, Ph.D., added an introduction. Again in 1905, there were still plenty of original Klansmen and others who had lived during the Reconstruction Era. In the introduction we find Fleming’s statement: “Many of the genuine Unionists later joined in the movement (the KKK), and there were some few Negro members, I have been told.”
Now here we are told that there were “some few Negro members”. Above we were told that there “were thousands of Negro Klansmen.” But that is relative. When one considers that the original KKK had over 400,000 members “some few Negro members” could have totaled several thousand!
My fourth source is an more modern book, “Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography”, by Jack Hurst. On page 305 we find this interesting quote: “…(the Klan was) reorganized to oppose radical proponents (the Radical Republicans) of what it perceived to be Black domination, NOT to scourge Blacks themselves. Although it has been written that Ku Klux Klan ranks were open only to the more than 100,000 honorably discharged ex-Confederate veterans, the hierarchy in some areas and some instances seems to have accepted and even recruited Blacks, provided they went along with Conservative-Democratic political philosophy. In Memphis of late 1868, sixty-five Blacks organized a “Colored Democratic Club” under the watchful eye of Klansman-editor Gallaway – – who according to an account in the Appeal, “made a motion on behalf of the White men present, that they give employment and protection to Colored democrats.”
So, the Klan not only accepted and recruited Blacks in some areas, but a Klan leader made a motion that White men give employment and protection to Colored democrats. That in itself speaks volumes. Yes, volumes of ignored facts of Klan, Negro, and American history.
That is all I have for documentation that there were Negro members of the original Ku Klux Klan. But, that in itself, is enough to prove their existence! The only thing to do now is to discover more documentation of what may very well be the least known chapter in Black American history. I said before that Americans do not know their own history. In time I will add this to my web page, but how many of you know that there were millions of White slaves (not bonded servants, but true slaves for life) in this country? That there were free Negroes who owned slaves? That there were free Negroes who fought gallantly for the Confederate States? That the Confederate Army did not discriminate against, or pay unequally its Negro soldiers? This and more, in time will be added. But for now, back to the Klan.
When the Klan was revived in 1915 it was originally just for Protestant White men. In time the Klan added the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, teenager and children’s groups, groups for the foreign born and Colored men.
Concerning the Colored Klansmen of the 20th century my first source is, “Women of the Klan, Racism and Gender in the 1920’s”, by Kathleen M. Blee. (1991, University of California Press). On page 169, we find the passage, ” Even more strangely, the Klan tried to organize an order of Black Protestants, a Klan “Colored division” in Indiana and other states. Despite promises that the new order would have “all the rights of membership” of the White Klan, much preparation went into ensuring that the values of white supremacy would be preserved as the Klan expanded its racial base. The group was to wear red robes, white capes, and blue masks and was prohibited from being seen in public with White Klansmen or handling any membership funds.”
Well, if any of you ever find such a red, white, and blue robe in an antique shop or old trunk somewhere it would be as significant an historical find as discovering an original Klan robe. Likewise with any photos of the Colored Klansmen, newspapers articles, or anything else pertaining to them. Let me know if you do. (I think I’ll make a couple reproductions of their robes for display.) It is presently unknown just how far the Colored Man’s Klan went or how long they lasted. When the men’s Klan had to disband in 1944, the separate Women of the Ku Klux Klan organization did not. They changed their name to the Women’s Christian Patriotic Association and continued up to the 1960’s. Could this order of Black Protestants have changed its name and still be with us to this day with its origins unknown to historians as well as its own present members?
Now to further add to this my next source of information is from the KKK, itself. In their book, “K.K.K. Friend or Foe: Which?”, by attorney Blaine Mast and published in 1924 a chapter is dedicated to discussing the KKK and its relationship to the Black population. In this chapter we see the passage:
“The KKK claims that there is no good reason why the Colored people may not form a Ku Klux Klan of their own, and, as far as the writer knows, such an institution may exist in America. Indeed, we were credibly informed that some months ago a Klan gathering took place in an adjoining state, which was attended by some 20 colored men, for a general invitation had been extended. Those Negroes were so favorably impressed with what a distinguished speaker said, and with the general character and demeanor of the meeting, that they approached the speaker and others in authority and inquired if it were not possible for the Colored people to form a Klan of their own race. If they could get permission to organize they were anxious to do so and hoped for assistance from the officers of the KKK. So, in this particular instance, at least, some Colored men had no fear in associating with Klansmen.”
The chapter then went on to outline the ground work for such a Black Klan. It is of interest that in the same book, another chapter is dedicated to discussing the possible formation of a Jewish branch of the Ku Klux Klan. A reprint of this book is available from us for $7.00.
We have recently made a new historical find concerning Negroes in the KKK that you will find surprising. It appears that in some cases Whites and Blacks belonged to the same local chapters of the Ku Klux Klan. Our source of information is from the book: Hard Times by Studs Terkel (1970, New York). The book is about the conditions in this country during the Great Depression. On page 239 we read:
“The Ku Klux was formed on behalf of people that wanted a decent living, both black and white. Half the coal camp was colored. It wasn’t anti-colored. The black people had the same responsibilities as the white. Their lawn was just as green as the white man’s. They got the same rate of pay. There was two colored who belonged to it. I remember those two coming around my father and asking questions about it. They joined. The pastor of our community church was a colored man. He was Ku Klux. It was the only protection the working man had. ……. One time a Negro slapped a white boy. They didn’t give him any warning. They whipped him and ran him out of town. If a white man slapped a colored kid, they’d have dome the same thing. They didn’t go in for beating up Negroes because they were Negroes. What they did was keep the community decent to live in. What they did object to was obscenity and drinking.”