A new online project at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond tracks the growth of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States between 1915 and 1940. The Klan first emerged after the Civil War but quickly faded as southern legislators were able to reestablish means other than violence to maintain racial segregation following the end of Reconstruction.
But the Klan reemerged in the early part of the twentieth century. At its height in the 1920s, there were more than 2,000 local chapters of the Klan with as many as 8 million members.
The new project allows visitors to the site to see a map which shows how the Klan grew and spread across the country. John Kneebone, an associate professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University, says that “this map shows you just can’t say ‘Oh, it was those crazy people in the South.’ The KKK was in the mainstream. Everywhere there was population, there was the Klan.”
Professor Kneebone notes that his research includes only those chapters that he was able to identify from Klan literature and local newspapers. There may have been many more chapters that chose to keep their organizations secret.