The Fourth Wave of The Klan

Patriot Front, Proud Boys, MAGA, and More: A Rose By Any Other Name…

William Spivey
7 min readJul 4, 2022

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July 3, 2022 Boston, MA

At any previous peak of Klan activity, they were de-centralized. Soon after they were founded in 1865 in Tennessee, there were multiple groups, indistinguishable from each other; the Knights of the White Camelia, the White League, the Ku Klux Klan, and others. There have been three previous waves of Klan activity, each stronger than the previous one, all in reaction to advancement in some way of Black Americans. We are now in the Fourth Wave. While there are dozens of currently active groups named Klan, the main groups have different names like Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, and Oath Keepers. Though some would resent being linked to the Klan which they consider low class, they are the Klan, and all they represent just the same.

The First Wave began in Pulaski, Tennessee when six former Confederate soldiers sat around drinking on Christmas Eve and thought up the Klan. The thought of formerly enslaved people running around free annoyed them, but states had already passed Black Codes that did all they could to reinvent enslavement so they weren’t that mad. It took Congress passing the first of the Reconstruction Acts and states passing the Fourteenth Amendment that pissed people off. By the time the Fifteenth Amendment passed and Black people got the right to vote, the Klan was everywhere.

You might think the Klan only flourished in the South, but you’d be wrong. After the Civil War, everywhere people spread the Klan went with them. Oregon, California, Minnesota, New York, and elsewhere. The early Klan had shame enough to hide their faces behind hoods, They met in secret and came out only at night. Their goal was not only terror but anonymity. They knew they were wrong but also unlikely to be prosecuted by law enforcement. In many cases, they were law enforcement on their day jobs.

The First Klan was strongest from 1865–1872. They assassinated Black leaders and terrorized Black people generally. Lynching and rapes were commonplace. Later iterations of the Klan would spread their hatred to Catholics, Jews, immigrants, and anyone not straight or white; but the First Klan was a reaction to the freeing of Black people and Reconstruction. They were focused.

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