Birth of the Second KKK

On Thanksgiving Day, 1915, sixteen men ascended the side of Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta, Georgia, in the pitch dark.  Each man carried a boulder which he placed on the mountain’s summit, forming a crude stone alter.  They placed a wooden cross admidst the rocks.  Also laid on the alter were a Bible and an American flag carried in the Mexican War.  Suddenly one man stepped forward, struck a match, and lit the cross on fire.  These fifteen men silently basked in the fiery glow of the burning cross, and solemnly swore allegiance to the Invisible Empire.  On that night, after a half-century of dormancy, the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was reborn (Wade, 1987).

This new Klan was the brainchild of William Joseph Simmons, a Methodist circuit pastor turned professional fraternal organizer.  Modeled a military-style hierarchy, with unique titles for each position, Simmons named himself Imperial Wizard, or chief executive.  Moving down the hierarchy was the Grand Goblin, head of one of the nine country-wide regions; King Kleagle, head of several local units; Kleagles, or Klan salesmen; and the Exalted Cyclops, head of a local unit.  Local units were known as Klaverns.  Other position titles, secret handshakes, acronymic greetings, and unusual nomenclature completed the Invisible Empire’s secret language.

To make this new Klan alluring and attractive,  Simmons advertised a picture of a robed Klansman on horseback with the words “the World’s Great Secret, Social, Patriotic, Fraternal, Beneficiary Order” written next to it.  It’s secrecy was enhanced by the Klan regalia — white robes and hoods.

Images of Klan regalia were undeniably deliberate choices, as many people living during the 1920s still had family members who would have had personal memories of the original KKK.


Price, R. G. 2004.  Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.  Retrieved from


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