These well-intentioned ideals would evolve into hate groups, whose mission was to control elected offices through the intimidation of voters and election fraud.built on violence. Taking the law into their own hands, they pledged to protect their property, life, and well-being in the face of inadequate government institutions and a legal system that they viewed as hostile. Groups, such as the KKK, would soon succumb to a power hungry leadership that was driven by ethnic fanaticism and racial hatred. Their priority would soon shift from regulating the social order to white supremacy. Since the Civil War, white supremacists and their organizations have openly denied constitutional rights to minority citizens, instilled fear, and advocated extreme violence, and now occupy legitimate positions within the highest ranks of the American political and social system.
The KKK emerged after the Civil War as the most powerful, and well organized, white supremacist group of that era. Confederate soldiers, returning home from the war, were driven into a prolonged period of forced inactivity. Lacking capital for agriculture, and denied participation in business or the professions, a group of young men formed the KKK in Pulaski Tennessee in June 1866 as a social group to share ideas and promote their local economy (Wilson & Lester, 1884, p399). The KKK spread quickly throughout the South with an escalating membership that was propelled by bitter feelings of swelling resentment towards the freed slaves that lingered after the war's end. Using intimidation and violence, the KKK's primary goal was to control political offices in the South by preventing African-Americans and their sympathizers from expressing their recently acquired constitutional right to vote. The KKK was infamous for its 'Midnight Rides', in which they would ride through the countryside, masked, and violently attack their opposition with beatings, arson, and lynchings. Their membership and ritual were highly secretive, which not only added to their mystique and fear, but also gave them an additional layer of protection from public scrutiny (Wilson & Lester, 1884, p.400). Though membership lists were not kept, and few official records were maintained, it is estimated that by the 1920s Klansmen and their sympathizers numbered in the millions (McClymer, 2001). The power of the KKK's membership fueled the racial discord of the 1920s and made it possible to elect KKK candidates to some of the highest political offices in the country.
The peak membership of the 1920s would dissipate as the KKK, and other white power groups, experienced a steady decline in membership due to social pressures and public perceptions. The KKK suffered a series of financial setbacks, such as a federal tax judgement that prohibited them from forming a national chapter, and lawsuits that deprived the national KKK from the right to own property. Over time, the members migrated to approximately 300 different organizations, which have 25,000 hard-core ideological activists that support the white supremacist movement (Carlie, 2002).1 These organizations have tended to act less violently, though they have continued to preach an agenda that includes violent revolution. This accompanies a conflicting philosophy that includes biblical scripture and Christian