The History behind the Ku Klux Klan’s (KKK) hooded robes
While it is true that the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) reached their height of popularity in the mid 1920′s with around 6 million members, the beginnings of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) actually started some 55 years earlier in the mid 1860′s in Tennessee. Created following the Civil War by confederate soldiers to intimidate blacks and attempt to restrict their political and economic rights, the Ku Klux Klan used the hooded robe and hood perpetuate this intimidation and fear. Initially, in those early beginnings for the KKK, the hoods were not pointed, nor were they flat, however the purpose remained the same throughout the entire history of the KKK.
Members of the KKK wore long white robes and cone shaped hoods which they also used to dress their horses in to increase the intimidation factor. In addition to being effective for intimidation, speculation has it that the hoods and robes provided a level of anonymity to members of the KKK.
The membership included businessmen and men of the cloth, police officers and high ranking officials. Fearing their reputations may be tarnished by open support for white supremacy and the KKK, these members could conceal their identities by wearing the KKK hoods during rallies and other activities. Seeking to re-establish white supremacy using threats of violence and terrorist activities, the actions of the KKK often fell on the wrong side of the law. Combined with the questionable history of the KKK, members felt forced to hide their identity for fear of losing their job, business or even their livelihood. Hooded robes therefore were an essential part of their attire.
The origins of the well known white conical hood for the KKK, can be traced to what is known as the second period of the KKK in the 1920′s. Subsequent uprisings in interest for the KKK resulted in different colours of robes becoming more prevalent. These differing colours were used to identify the different ranks within the organisation. It is however the white robe that remains the iconic image of the KKK.
Even today, in modern times, the wearing of a white hood is still synonymous with racist white supremacy beliefs and even in the smallest corners of the globe, the wearing of a white hood will draw the attention of the media on an irregular basis. In Scotland in 2006 a minor league football club was thrust into the spotlight when a section of its supporters donned the white hood as an intimidatory tactic against a coloured player in the opposing team. In 2011 a Utah school found itself under investigation when a high school student allegedly wore what looked like a Ku Klux Klan hood. On television the popular cartoon programme South Park has had more than once scene with KKK connotations. In one episode the residents of South Park wear the KKK robes and pointed hoods as they try to scare of the ‘rich people’, shown in the cartoon as exclusively black. The KKK link is further expressed in this episode by the burning of the letter “T” – which is known to be a reference to the cross being recognised as T for Time, as in ‘Time to Leave”.
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