Either of two racist terrorist organizations in the U.S. The first was organized by veterans of the Confederate army, first as a social club and then as a secret means of resisting Reconstruction and restoring white domination over newly enfranchised blacks. Dressed in white robes and sheets, Klansmen whipped and killed freedmen and their white supporters in nighttime raids (see lynching). It had largely accomplished its goals by the 1870s before gradually fading away. The second KKK arose in 1915, partly out of nostalgia for the Old South and partly out of fear of the rise of communism in Russia and the changing ethnic character of U.S. society. It counted Catholics, Jews, foreigners, and labour unions among its enemies. Its membership peaked in the 1920s at more than four million, but during the Great Depression the organization gradually declined. It became active again during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, attacking blacks and white civil rights workers with bombings, whippings, and shootings. By the end of the 20th century, growing racial tolerance had reduced its numbers to a few thousand.
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