The Ku Klux Klan has its origins in the aftermath of Reconstruction in the South; with their economy left ravaged and their leadership left uncertain, Southerners sought a scapegoat for their newly disadvantaged plight. The recently emancipated slave proved to be just that---and in 1866 in Polaski, Tennessee the Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, was formed. Whites used the formation of the KKK as a means of regaining a sense of control over a South that became characterized by blacks entering state legislatures and seeking voter enfranchisement. It can therefore be said that "the Klan's principle purpose was clearly to smash African American political activity, thereby blunting their effort to influence the political and legal systems" (Waldrep, XV). There were also other factors that contributed to the success during its early days and to its subsequent revival in the early 1920s.
The Post-Reconstruction Era.
The post- Civil War time period, or Reconstruction as it is commonly known, was the beginning of a new era in Southern history. The Radical Republican Congress placed the South under military rule; non-Southerners known as scallywags and carpetbaggers gained access to state house positions. In 1868, the thirteenth amendment was passed freeing all bondsmen from enslavement, followed by the 14th amendment in 1869, which made them official citizens of the United States and the 15th amendment in 1870, which gave them the right to vote. Shortly after the passage of said laws, blacks attempted to use their right to vote to their advantage, gaining positions of political power and beginning efforts to gain a more equal position in post-war society. This, however, was very short lived. By this time, white Southerners had begun to feel as though they had lost all power and control over their own affairs. Thus began the formation of vigilante secret societies, formed as allegiances among the whites who shared these feelings of defenselessness.