December 24th, 1865

Confederate Veterans Establish the Ku Klux Klan

On December 24, 1865, a group of former Confederate soldiers established what would become the first chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, in Pulaski, Tennessee. Named for the Greek word “kyklos,” which means circle, the KKK became America’s first domestic terrorist group and was devoted to white supremacy and to ending Reconstruction in the South. The Klan’s first leader, called a Grand Wizard, was former Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

During Reconstruction, the KKK's political activity was closely tied to the goals of Southern Democrats. To support this agenda, the Klan engaged in a campaign of terror, violence, and murder, targeting African Americans as well as whites who supported Republican policies. Writing in 1935, black scholar W.E.B. DuBois described Klan attacks as “armed guerilla warfare,” and 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. The Klan persists today but is estimated to have only about 3000 active members, down from a high of more than 2,000,000 members in the 1920s.


December 24th, 1835

Georgia Lawmakers Prohibit the Entry of the Creek Nation

On December 24, 1835, Georgia's legislature voted to block the entrance of any Creek Native American into the state unless he or she was escorted by a white person and was there to handle legal matters. The act prohibited the people of Georgia from trading with Native Americans and from hiring Native Americans to work on cotton plantations.

This legislation added to a larger national effort to remove the Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee Nations from the American South by reinforcing earlier laws that attempted to limit Native American residency to west of the frontier. In 1832, the federal government and the Creek Nation signed the Treaty of Cusseta, which divided Creek lands into smaller allotments in Georgia and Alabama. Creeks were then forced to sell their individual allotments and move west or remain in the South and abide by local laws.

The passage of the 1835 act further fueled ongoing conflict over land between Creeks and white Southerners. This led to the Second Creek War of 1836, which resulted in the transference of all Creek territory east of the Mississippi River to the United States. By the 1840s, no Native American tribes retained a sizeable presence in the South, except for a small number of Seminoles who resisted removal in Florida.