The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is the name of three different right-wing extremist movements in the United States that have advocated extremist positions such as white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-immigration, anti-Catholicism, and anti-Semitism. Historically, the KKK used terrorism against groups or individuals whom they opposed. The movements called for the ‘purification’ of American society.
The first Klan came to be in the Southern United States in the late 1960s. This Klan sought to overthrow the Republican state governments in the South during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War by using violence against African American leaders. The KKK was suppressed around 1871 through federal law enforcement.
The second coming of the KKK came in 1915 and spread nation-wide in the early and mid-1920s. This Klan was rooted in local Protestant communities and opposed Catholics and Jews. This edition stressed its opposition to the Catholic Church during a time of high immigration from mostly Catholic nations of southern and eastern Europe. This organization adopted the white costume and started burning crosses and parading as intimidation.
The third and current incarnation of the KKK emerged after 1950 and they focused on opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, often using violence and murder to suppress activists. It is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Klan currently has between 3,000-6,000 members.