“Joel Augustus Rogers (September 6, 1880 or 1883 – March 26, 1966) was a JamaicanAmerican author, journalist, and historian who contributed to the history of Africa and the African diaspora, especially the history of African Americans in the United States. His research spanned the academic fields of history, sociology and anthropology. He challenged prevailing ideas about race, demonstrated the connections between civilizations, and traced African achievements. He was one of the greatest popularizers of African history in the 20th century”  Encyclopedia Wikipedia

Joel A. Rogers, The Ku Klux (Klan) Spirit (Black Classic Press: Baltimore, Maryland), originally published in 1923 by The Messenger Publishing Co. (A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owens), republished 1980:

“Foreward: What would the success of the Ku Klux Klan mean to the nation? A study of the psychology of the present Ku Klux Klan will show that it is in every detail what the old Klan was. So are its aims and methods. The sole difference between the two is that the present one is more extensive in its operations. The activities of the first Klan were directed mainly at one group of American citizens; the second, at several groups. Hence the most accurate prediction as to what the success of the present Klan would mean to the nation is, without doubt, to be found in a knowledge of the workings of the old Klan. An added reason for a knowledge of the old Klan is that such knowledge will serve as a mirror for those now opposing the present Klan, many of whom contend that the old Klan accomplished much good, and that it was its opponents who were really the menace. Many of the opponents of the old Klan, however, were among the foremost and most patriotic Americans of their day. Since history repeats itself may not Americans of a future day similarlyregard the opponents of the present Klan, however, well-meaning those opponents may be?

“The reason generally given for the origin of the Ku Klux Klan is that it came into being in order to protect the white people of the Southern states against rascally Northern whites and Negroes in the period immediately following the Civil War. The reason right or wrong, would appear to be justified, because it is that given in the majority of the popular sources of information. For instance, Woodrow Wilson, in his History of the American People, Vol. V, says of the Klan ‘The white men of the South were aroused by the instinct of self –preservation to rid themselves by fair means or foul of the intolerable burden of government by the votes of ignorant Negroes and conducted in the interest of adventurers.’ The Encyclopedia Britannica says: ‘The object was to protect the whites during the disorder that followed the Civil War, and to oppose the policy of the North toward the South.’ Henry P. Fry, who took a leading part in the exposure of the present Klan by the New York World in 1921, says in his book, ‘The Modern Ku Klux Klan”” ‘They were organized as a matter of necessity for the purpose of policinga section of the country where political madness and hatred ruled supreme.’ Thomas B. Gregory, former Attorney General of the United States, in an address to the Texas Bar Association in 1906, said: ‘Did the end aimed at and accomplished by the Ku Klux Klan justify the movement? The opinion of the speaker is that the movement was fully justified, though he, of course does not approve of the crimes and excesses incident to it.’

“During the expose by the New York World of the present Klan it was asserted repeatedly by correspondents and others opposed to the present Klan that the reason for the formation of the original Klan was a just and worthy one. This also is the view of the majority of American historians. Henrik Van Loon, author of “The History of Mankind,” says in the New York Evening Post, September 2, 1922, in “America for Little Historians”: ‘With the Negro voters and their unprincipled friends the Northern carpetbaggers in control of political affairs there was no chance for the better white elements in the South to accomplish anything in the way of building up their fallen fortunes. Their only hope was in some way to deprive the Negroes of their votes and thus make way for a white majority. As they could not do this legally in the face of the Fifteenth Amendment they set about it in another way.’ Frank Tannenbaum in the “Century Magazine,” April 1923 says: ‘The original Ku Klux Klan was a reflex of the vindictiveness of Northern politicians and of the unscrupulous carpetbagger who swooped down upon the South as a vulture upon a wounded and stricken victim. It was a desperate act of self assertion and self defense. It was an attempt to rescue for the South the remnants of a civilization that was being subverted by coarse hands.’

Joel A. Rogers then asked the question: “Are the above statements regarding the origin of the Ku Klux Klan grounded on the recorded facts of American history?” He then indicated:

“The history of the Ku Klux Klan is to a great extent that of the South in the decade following the Civil War. When the Civil War ended in April, 1865, the North pardoned all who had fought against the Union. Instead of an indemnity, it asked of the Confederate leaders onlyan oath of obedience to the Constitution. In the matter of reconstructing themselves, it gave the defeated states a free hand, stipulating only that the process accord with the Thirteenth Amendment, which had abolished slavery, and which had passed Congress three months before. When reconstruction had been accomplished on these lines the states were to appear before Congress to apply for readmission to the Union. When the Southern representatives appeared, however, some of them as early as December of the same year, Congress not only promptly rejected them, but decided to give the Southerners a free hand no longer. What caused Congress to make this decision.

“The Black Code”: “Congress had refused readmission because of certain laws that had been made by these states contrary to the Thirteenth Amendment, which had been ratified by all of them, except Mississippi. Some of these laws applied to the freedmen directly: others included the whites, but in intent affected the freedmen only. In Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, for instance, a white person could declare a Negro ‘stubborn’ and ‘refractory.’ The latter would then be brought before a justice of the peace before whom his word counted for nothing, and fined fifty dollars. In default of payment he was to be ‘hired,’ that is, sold at public auction for a period of six months to anyone desiring labor. [Footnote: “Laws of Alabama, Dec. 1865, No. 112. Sec. 4, Laws of Mississippi, Nov., 1865, Chap. VI. Laws of Florida, 1865, Chap. 1467, No. 4, Sec. 1.”]

“James G. Blaine, a member of that Congress, a speaker of the House, and a candidate for the presidency, says in his ‘Twenty Years of Congress,” page 94: ‘No fair man could fail to see that the whole effect, and presumably the direct intent of this law was to reduce the helpless Negro to slavery for half the year—a punishment that could be repeated whenever desired, a punishment sure to be desired for the portion of each recurring year when his labor was specially valuable in connection with the cotton crop, while for the remainder of the time he might shift for himself. By this detestable process the ‘master’ had the labor of the ‘servant’ for a mere pittance; and even that pittance did not go to the servant, but was paid into the treasury of the county, and thus relieved the white men from their proper share of taxation.’

“In Mississippi, by the provisions of the Black Code, as these enactments were known, all Negroes were called upon to provide comfortable homes for themselves and families within twenty days or be sold for the remainder of the year. The freedmen, is will be recalled, had been discharged penniless, and most of them had been evicted from their homes, which was the property of their former masters. The punishment could be repeated at will at the expiration of the sentence, virtually making the victim a slave for life. In Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, sheriffs were ordered to report all minors under eighteen years of age whose parents were considered unable to provide a decent home for them. These minors were to be bound to employers of labor for a period of six years, with the provision that ‘former owner of said minor shall have the preference.’ Anyone, parents included, caught enticing away a minor was to be fined $500, and be sold if unable to pay. Negroes who met in any assembly were likely to have their gathering declared ‘disorderly’ and be fined fifty dollars each. In South Carolina Negroes were forbidden to follow any occupation, except field labor. “No person of color,’ ran the law, ‘shall pursue or practice the art, trade, or business of an artisan, mechanic or shopkeeper, or any othr employment, or business (besides that of husbandry, or that of servant under contract for service of labor) on his own account and for his own, or in partnership with a white person until he shall have obtained a license therefor from the Judge of the District Court, which shall be good for one year … and upon payment by the applicant to the Clerk of the District Court of one hundred dollars. …’ (Statutes at large, S. Carolina, 1865, Vol. XIII, p. 269.)

That is to say, a freedman, regardless of ability, was not only compelled to follow field labor, but must sell his labor to a white person. To work for himself, he was compelled to pay for the privilege. ‘ “

Joel A. Rogers continued the section with details about Mississippi, indicating: “In Mississippi no Negro could lease or rent land. Chap. IV, Sec. 1, of the laws of Nov., 1865, said: ‘ … the provisions of this section shall not be so construed as to allow any freedman, free negro, or mulatto to rent or lease lands or tenements, except in incorporated towns or cities, in which places, the corporate authorities shall control the same.’ … And so on with the Black Codes of the other states. The laws of many of the townships were even more drastic. These laws, it will be seen, were enacted either in 1865, or early in 1866. [Footnote: “Laws of Alabama, Feb. 1866, No. 120. Laws of Louisiana, 1865, Nos. 16 and 19. Laws of Mississippi, Nov. 1865 Chap. V. Laws of Florida, 1865, Chap. 1470, Sec. 2, No. 4, Rept. No. 261, 43rd Congress, 2nd Session.]”

“South Placed Under Military Rule”: “Congress now saw no hope for the restoration of order in the South and on March 4, 1867, it passed the Reconstruction Act, over the veto of the President, placing the refractory states under martial law. They were divided into five military districts, and were each to be ruled by a Major-General of the Union Army until ‘said rebel states shall have formed a constitutional government in conformity with the Constitution of the United States.’ This step, it would appear, should have been the one taken at the start.”

There followed sections, “Second Period of Reconstruction: The South Again Fails to Keep Its Word,” “Origin of the Ku Klux Klan Proper,” “Extent of the Invisible Empire,” “Tactics of the Klan When Ghosts Ceased to Frighten,” and “Psychic Factors of Reconstruction: Reaction of the Slaveholders to the Loss of Their Slaves.”   … “The members of the Confederacy, on its disbandment in April, 1865, immediately began to join and to form secret societies to oppose Northerners and to keep the Negroes in what was considered their place. Many of these secret societies had been in existence long before the war. One of these, the Paddle Patrol, or patter-rollers, as the slaves called it, had been formed to keep the slaves in check and to oppose the abolitionists. By September, 1865, these secret organizations existed by the hundreds.

Joel A. Rogers than placed the following paragraph in italics:

It is important to remember the year, 1865. The majority of historians assert that the purpose of these societies was to prevent Negro domination at the polls and ‘carpet bag’ rule. As was seen the Fourteenth Amendment did not become law until 1868, and the Fifteenth until 1870. The Thirteenth Amendment itself was not ratified until December 1865, nor did the Civil Rights Bill become law until April, 1866.

Joel A. Rogers then stated:

“How, then, could these klans have been formed for that purpose, at that time, when the freedmen could not vote, but was unarmed? As was mentioned in the introduction, the Encyclopedia Britannica itself gives the date of the formation of the KuKlux Klan ass 1865. In the Ku Klux Klan inquiry by Congress, in 1871, it developed that these secret societies had begun their outrages immediately after the war and that Negro suffrage had but served to intensify them. … “

In the Section: “Conduct of the Freedmen Immediately After the Close of the Civil War,” Rogers indicated:

“ … But the strongest testimony regarding the conduct of the Negroes came from their enemies as the following from the sworn testimony of Gen. Gordon, second in command of the Ku Klux:

‘Gen. Gordon … ‘One of the things which I mentioned and which Gen. Clanton also mentioned was the behavior of the Negroes during the war, the fact which when almost the entire white population old enough to bear arms was in the army, and large plantations were left to be managed by the women and children, not a single insurrection had occurred, not a life had been taken, and that, too, when the Federal armies were marching through the country with freedom, so to speak, on their banners.’   Question: ‘Scarcely an outrage occurred on the part of the Negroes at that time?’ Gen. Gordon: ‘Scarcely an outrage. When I made that speech at Montgomery I may say, without intending to compliment myself, that when I referred to the handsome behavior of the Negro during our absence in the army and his protection of our families at that time, my remarks were heartily responded to, and with great feeling by every man in the convention.’ Question: ‘Do you mean the colored men responded to them?’ Answer: ‘No, sir, I mean the white men in that convention.’ [Footnote: “U.S. Ku Klux Reports, Vol. VI, p. 320”]


About Harold L Carter

Bachelor of Science, Columbia University Masters degree, Ohio State University Undergraduate National Officer, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eastern Asst Vice President, when a student at Columbia University Profile Photograph: Mom & Me, when I was a graduate student
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