The world of American radicalism has changed greatly over the past century. Organizations ranging from the Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1866 to more recently organized groups like the Militia Movement, only about ten years old show the transitions in American radicalism, and the different states it has endured.
It is believed that the first incarnate of the racist right, as a political position started during the French Revolution with the myth of a Jewish conspiracy. Over many years this spread into the 20th century gaining popularity in the 1920’s. This was an added inspiration for the Ku Klux Klan, and added to their anti-black and anti-catholic agendas.
The Ku Klux Klan was started by six young men who organized a fraternal club where they would wear costumes and ride around after dark. They soon realized they were instilling fear into the community, but predominantly in the areas where the former slaves were living. Seeing this effect they quickly gained members, and within a year they began to structure rules for their organization. Inciting terror was their first goal, but it didn’t take long for them to act out further by harassment, arson and even murder of not just Blacks, but also Northern teachers, judges, politicians, or anyone they felt went against their code.
From 1915 until 1924 the Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a huge growth in membership. At one point they claimed more then 100,000 members, and at one point 40,000 of them marched in Washington D.C. during a Democratic National Convention. The Klan was so influential that it actually attracted new allies and members from the political body, primarily in the Mid-West. As the Klan grew it became increasingly violent and uncontrollable. This went against the image they were trying to present of “Law and Order.” Shortly after, in 1929 the Ku Klux Klan dissolved into many dozens of smaller, local groups.
Though currently suffering its greatest decline since the 1940s, with its three most prominent national units of the era: the United Clans of America, the Invisible Empire Knights of the KKK and the Knights of the KKK, either defunct or factionalized, America’s oldest hate group, the codes of the Ku Klux Klan continues to operate on a local level, in some instances still engaging in illegal acts of violence and intimidation.
The Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was formed in 1985 by Virgil Griffin and based in Mount Holly, North Carolina. The Christian Knights are active in North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. A suspect in two June 1995 arsons of predominately Black South Carolina churches, part of an apparent epidemic of church arsons occurring throughout the country since January 1995 carried a card identifying him as a member of the Christian Knights.
The Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are a breakaway faction from the now-defunct Invisible Empire Knights of the KKK; the Keystone Knights was founded by Barry Black in 1992 and is based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The Keystone Knights publishes an anti-Jewish, anti-Black newsletter called The Keystone American.
The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Texas Realm and the Knights of the White Camellia, a Texas Klan group led by Charles Lee, along with the Texas chapter of Thom Robb’s Knights of the KKK, has been linked to a number of incidents of racial intimidation and harassment in Vidor, Texas. These incidents, which occurred in 1992 and 1993, involved efforts to prevent the desegregation of an all white federally assisted housing project in Vidor. Among the reported acts of intimidation was the threat to blow up a housing unit to prevent its integration; residents of the project additionally alleged that the White Camellia Knights carried automatic weapons on a bus they drove through the housing complex and that one Klan member offered white children $50 to beat up African-American children. The Texas Commission on Human Rights has brought a civil suit against both Klan groups in response to these incidents.
The left over factions of the Ku Klux Klan are not the only group that is still actively pursuing it endeavors to instill its’ initiatives in the United States. Other radical groups consist of the afore mentioned Militia Movement, the Aryan Nation, and the National Alliance. In fact, according to a project called The Klanwatch, which began monitoring hate related crimes in 1981, there are over 700 hate groups in the nation.
The Aryan Nation is a group that is interested in “preserving the Aryan race” and claims to be proactively doing this for over 25 years. They are operating by dispersing literature and leaflets to anyone of the Aryan race that will take them. They seem to be particularly preoccupied with the “Jewish Problem,” not that that is where the movement stops. They publish anti-Mexican immigration flyers that not only go in the face of undocumented citizens, but also those who have legally immigrated. Their anti-black agenda is somewhat more concealed on their Web site; however by claiming America belongs to Aryans they overtly impose their position on African Americas too.
The National Alliance was founded 1974 by William Pierce and is an Aryan only group that basis its beliefs on the natural hierarchy of life. They follow the postulation that the hierarchy which they belong to is evolutionary. They state through evolutionary history, philosophy, and psychology that the Aryan race is superior. As part of their mission they state:
In spiritually healthier times our ancestors took as theirs those parts of the world suited by climate and terrain to our race: in particular, all of Europe and the temperate zones of the Americas, not to mention Australia and the southern tip of Africa. This was our living area and our breeding area, and it must be so again. After the sickness of “multiculturalism,” which is destroying America, Britain, and every other Aryan nation in which it is being promoted, has been swept away, we must again have a racially clean area of the earth for the further development of our people. We must have White schools, White residential neighborhoods and recreation areas, White workplaces, White farms and countryside. We must have no non-Whites in our living space, and we must have open space around us for expansion.
It is their goal to do whatever is necessary to reach this point. They call to the government for help by reforming as an Aryan only government and have made plans to change the educational system aside from the obvious segregation. In a book titled, “The Turner Diaries,” written by the founder under the pen name Andrew MacDonald, he calls for the violent overthrowing of the federal government and the systematic killing of the Jews and non-whites to replace the current America with an all Aryan population. The National Alliance produces White power music through Resistance Records, and has also been linked to many hate crimes and terrorist threats.
Not all American radicalism groups are bastions of racially based hate crimes. For instance, the Militia Movement is an anti-government and conspiracy oriented organization. They are a younger organization, founded sometime in 1993. The idea of a militia is not a new one though; originally the idea of militia is over 100 years old. A militia is defined as an army composed of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers. They are a right-wing paramilitary group with the objective to, “take the country back.” Due to the conviction of their conspiracy theories, they believe the government is in league with the, “New World Order” creating a one-world socialist government using the United Nations as its’ foremost imposition of rule. They feel the United Nations socialist impositions have already taken over most of the world, and in order to protect the sovereignty of the United States the must fight at any cost.
A group of radical members of a Michigan militia planned to bomb a large number of targets in Michigan, including a federal building and an I.R.S. building; they constructed a variety of pipe bombs and even discussed assassinating various government officials. By 1995 nearly every state has some form of militia or another. So much attention was given to the militia after the Oklahoma bombing which killed 150 people; many people who were not formally aware of such organizations became so. This drove the number of recruits up and at the same time called to the F.B.I. for investigation. Under investigation many illegal firearms were confiscated, and resulted in major militia arrest. By 1996 many radical militants left the organizations due to lack of backup from other militias during standoffs with the government, and many “less hard-core” militants left because of the amount of arrests being made. Though many of the militias have disappeared, they have not done so evenly across the United States. Because of this there has been a resurgence of militia activity in areas like: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. As long as the Militia Movement is active in any form it is likely that their anti-government activities will continue.
Over time the world of American radicalism has changed substantially, and has taken many forms. Some are directly confronted by the government, while others are protected in part from the government and the 1st amendment. American radicalism is instituted due to a set of convictions, and though many seem to fade with time, many more new groups appear in new forms and with new missions. Ultimately if the is enough support to opposition of one sort or another, radicalism with continue to thrive in the United States.