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The Ku Klux Klan
During Reconstruction

1.  Newspaper report from the Shelby County Guide (Columbiana), December 3, 1868, of Klan activities in central Alabama:

Movements of the Mystic Klan

A reliable correspondent writes as follows to a friend in Memphis from Florence, Alabama:

About a week ago Saturday night the Ku Klux came into town to regulate matters. They were here from eleven p.m. to three o'clock a.m — five hundred in all. They shot one very bad negro, putting six balls through his head. Many heard the noise, but did not know what was going on. They also hung three or four negroes nearly dead, and whipped others severely in order to make them tell them about their nightly meetings, and what their object was in holding the same; also, as to who their leaders were. They made a clean breast of the whole matter, telling everything. The strongest thing about these Kuklux was that they did not hesitate to unmask themselves when asked to do so; and out of the whole party none were identified. —Every one who saw them says their horses were more beautiful than, and far superior to, any in the country round about. They spoke but little but always to a purpose. They went to several stores and knocked; the doors were opened at once. They then called for rope, and at each place a coil was rolled out to them. They cut it in suitable length to hang a man with. No one asked for money and they offered none. They did not disturb any one else, nor did they take any thing except some few Enfield rifles which were found in possession of some very bad negroes. —They called on the revenue officer and passed a few remarks with him. What transpired is not known, but it has made a great improvement in his conversation. The visitants advent has been productive of much good and benefit to the community, though all regret such steps should have to be resorted to, every one says "give us peace," and really I believe them to be truly sincere.

2.  On July 11, 1870 Klansmen lynched Canadian Methodist minister William Luke in Cross Plains, or Patona, Calhoun County. Luke's offense, in the eyes of the Klansmen, was having instructed black freedmen in reading and writing, thereby "stirring them up" to insubordination. Before they hanged him, the Klansmen acceded to Luke's request to write a farewell letter to his family. After the murder, the farewell note gained wide currency in Northern newspapers.

My Dear Wife:

I die tonight. It has been so determined by those who think I deserve it. God only knows I feel myself entirely innocent of the charge. I have only sought to educate the negro. I little thought when leaving you that we should thus part forever so distant from each other. But God's will be done. He will be to you a husband better than I have been, and a father to our six little ones. . . .

Your loving husband,


Letter quoted in Gene L. Howard, Death at Cross Plains: A Reconstruction Alabama Tragedy (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1984), p. 91. Used by permission of the University of Alabama Press.