Continuing the same trajectory as years past, the number of active Ku Klux Klan hate groups again declined in 2022. The decline can be attributed to infighting that has long been a hallmark of the Klan, as well as the comparatively greater appeal of newer racist groups that feature more contemporary tactics and rhetoric that is focused online and on younger audiences.
There were very few Klan events of note in 2022, and there were 22 flyering incidents, which was the same amount in 2021. However, the subsequent news coverage they received helped maintain the false perception that the Klan is a dominant white supremacist group in America.
Longtime themes of Klan rhetoric – including the need to “take back the country” – continued to permeate Klan propaganda in 2022. While there were Klan rallies throughout 2022, they were small, remote and operated by individual Klan organizations with little cross coordination or overlap between other groups.
Election denialism has played a role in Klan mainstream relevancy and messaging revolving around the country being lost to “undesirables.” Former Grand Dragon David Duke’s radio show continues to falsely promote that millions of votes were stolen in the 2020 election. The Klan activity is mostly confined to flyering and spreading propaganda online, most of which is spread on alt-tech platforms like MeWe and the neo-Nazi forum Stormfront. Old Glory Knights in Tennessee and the Loyal White Knights of North Carolina and Virginia were recorded as having contributed to most of the flyering in 2022, while the United Klan Nation was most active on Telegram. Stormfront remains a popular outlet for Klansmen with some updated daily channels focusing on recruitment and propaganda.
KKK activity will likely remain stagnant or continue to decline in 2023. Platforms like Stormfront that are not very publicly accessible will likely be where much Klan activity remains, and Klan events are likely to remain equally insulated. Contemporary white supremacy movements will continue to eclipse the Klan in terms of recruitment, propaganda, events, and overall success and many within the movement view the Klan as defunct or out of touch.
In 1865, at the conclusion of the Civil War, six Confederate veterans gathered in Pulaski, Tennessee, to create the Ku Klux Klan, a vigilante group mobilizing a campaign of violence and terror against the African American people that benefits from the progress of Reconstruction. As the group gained members from all strata of Southern white society, they used violent intimidation to prevent Black Americans – and any white people who supported Reconstruction – from voting and holding political office.
In an effort to maintain white hegemonic control of government, the Klan, joined by other white Southerners, engaged in a violent campaign of deadly voter intimidation during the 1868 presidential election. From Arkansas to Georgia, thousands of Black people were killed. Similar campaigns of lynchings, tar-and-featherings, rapes and other violent attacks on those challenging white supremacy became a hallmark of the Klan.
The first leader or “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan was Nathan Bedford Forrest, a well-known Confederate general. Within the structure of the Klan, he directed a hierarchy of members with outlandish titles, such as “imperial wizard” and “exalted cyclops.” Hooded costumes, violent “night rides” and the notion that the group made up an “invisible empire” conferred a mystique that only added to the Klan’s infamy.
After a short but violent period, the “first era” Klan disbanded when it became evident that Jim Crow laws would secure white supremacy across the country. However, the legacy of the original Klan, and the figureheads of the Confederacy before it, have been enshrined across the country in the “Cult of the Lost Cause.” Only in recent years – after gaining significant attention through large counterprotests and after deadly attacks from far-right extremists – have these statues started being removed and public spaces renamed. On July 9, 2020, Tennessee’s State Capitol Commission voted to remove the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state capitol building. It was subsequently removed on July 23, 2021, and placed in the Tennessee State Museum.
In 1915, the Ku Klux Klan was revived by white Protestants near Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to the group’s anti-Black ideological core, this second iteration of the Klan also opposed Catholic and Jewish immigrants. A growing fear of communism and immigration broadened the Klan’s base throughout the South and into the Midwest, with a particular stronghold in Indiana. By 1925, when its followers staged a march in Washington, D.C., the Klan had as many as 4 million members and, in some states, considerable political power. A series of sex scandals, internal battles over power and newspaper exposés quickly reduced the group’s influence.
The Klan arose a third time during the 1960s to oppose the civil rights movement and attempt to preserve segregation as the Chief Justice Earl Warren-led U.S. Supreme Court substantiated civil rights in multiple rulings. Bombings, murders and other attacks by the Klan took a great many lives. Murders committed by Klansmen during the civil rights era include four young African American girls killed in 1963 while preparing for Sunday services at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the 1964 murder in Mississippi of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.
Throughout the second and third eras of the Klan, many Black Americans left Southern states in the Great Migration. While those who moved North were seeking economic prosperity and social opportunities, they were also hoping to escape the racial terror centered around the Klan’s ideological stronghold in the South. With over 6 million Black Americans taking part in this migration, the demographics of the country shifted dramatically.
With the conclusion of the Vietnam War in 1975 and the subsequent return of American soldiers, several key figures arose within the Klan. Louis Beam, upon his return from Vietnam, joined the Alabama-based United Klans of America. His teachings on “leaderless resistance” and early adaptation to technological advances helped bridge neo-Nazi and Klan groups into the organized white power movement. Similarly, David Duke – founder of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1975 – maintained a distinctly antisemitic hatred that closed ideological gaps with neo-Nazis.
Through a series of court cases aimed at bankrupting the Klan and closing the group’s paramilitary training camps, the organization has been greatly weakened. Internal fighting and government infiltrations have led to a seemingly endless series of splits, resulting in smaller, less organized Klan chapters. Given the Klan’s insistence on remaining an “invisible empire,” it is nearly impossible to estimate how many active members there are today. However, it is fair to assume that the infighting, rigid traditions and the uncouth image of the Klan are not attracting significant new membership.
2022 KKK hate groups
American Christian Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Christian Revival Center Harrison
East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire
Honorable Sacred Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Pelham, North Carolina
Old Glory Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Santa Fe, Tennessee
United Klan Nation
White Christian Brotherhood of the Ku Klux Klan
White Christian Brotherhood of the Ku Klux Klan
AKIA: A password meaning “A Klansman I Am,” often seen on decals and bumper stickers.
Alien: A person who does not belong to the Klan.
AYAK?: A password meaning “Are You a Klansman?”
CA BARK: A password meaning “Constantly Applied By All Real Klansmen.”
CLASP: A password meaning “Clannish Loyalty A Sacred Principle.”
Genii: The collective name for the national officers. Also known as the Kloncilium, or the advisory board to the Imperial Wizard.
Hydras: The Real officers, with the exception of the Grand Dragon.
Imperial Giant: Former Imperial Wizard.
Imperial Wizard: The overall, or national, head of a Klan, which it sometimes compares to the president of the United States.
Inner Circle: Small group of four or five members who plan and carry out “action.” Its members and activities are not disclosed to the general membership.
Invisible Empire: A Ku Klux Klan’s overall geographical jurisdiction, which it compares to the United States although none exist in every state.
Kalendar: Klan calendar, which dates events from both the origin and its 1915 rebirth Anno Klan, and means “in the year of the Klan,” and is usually written “AK.”
Kardinal Kullors: White, crimson, gold and black. Secondary Kullors are grey, green and blue. The Imperial Wizard’s Kullor is Skipper Blue.
K.B.I.: Klan Bureau of Investigation.
KIGY!: A password meaning “Klansman, I greet you!”
Klankfraft: The practices and beliefs of the Klan.
Klanton: The jurisdiction of a Klavern.
Klavern: A local unit or club; also called “den.”
Kleagle: An organizer whose main function is to recruit new members. In some Klans, he gets a percentage of the initiation fees.
Klectokon: Initiation fee.
Klepeer: Delegate elected to Imperial Klonvokation.
Klonkave: Secret Klavern meeting.
Klonverse: Province convention.
Kloran: Official book of Klan rituals.
Klorero: Realm convention.
SAN BOG: A password meaning “Strangers Are Near, Be On Guard.”
Terrors: The Exalted Cyclops’ officers.