Following the American Civil War, decommissioned Confederate soldiers in Pulaski, Tennessee established the Ku Klux Klan in 1865 as a fraternal social club. The group quickly became violent, and had already begun to dissolve in 1871 under pressure from the federal government. In 1915, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation romanticized the Klan, portraying their violence towards African Americans as justifiable and necessary to restore order in a chaotic South. The enormous popularity of the film sparked a Klan revival in the 1920s, and by 1925, four million Americans claimed membership.
But bad press and power struggles tore the group apart again in the 1930s.Having been dormant for decades, the Ku Klux Klan reemerged in the U.S. after the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision, gaining momentum in the U.S. as the Civil Rights Movement grew. That the Klan would rise once again wasn’t surprising, but where the reincarnation took place was.
North Carolina was long considered the most progressive southern state; its image was being burnished weekly on CBS by the enormously popular “The Andy Griffith Show.” In 1963, North Carolina salesman Bob Jones chartered what would become the largest Klan group in the country. Tapping into the fears and resentments of low-income whites who believed that a changing America would leave them behind, Jones took his message across the state, establishing Klaverns and signing up hundreds of members. Under Jones’ leadership, membership grew to some ten thousand members, earning the Tarheel State a new nickname: “Klansville, U.S.A.”