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I learned the importance of history at an early age — my father, the late Horace Mann Bond, taught at several black colleges and universities.
He showed me that knowing the past is critical to making sense of the present.
Klanwatch was formed in 1981 to help curb Klan and racist violence through litigation, education and monitoring. This is a history of hate in America — not the natural discord that characterizes a democracy, but the wild, irrational, killing hate that has led men and women throughout our history to extremes of violence against others simply because of their race, nationality, religion or lifestyle.
Since 1865, the Ku Klux Klan has provided a vehicle for this kind of hatred in America, and its members have been responsible for atrocities that are difficult for most people to even imagine.
It established Klanwatch in 1981 to monitor white supremacist activities throughout the United States.
Together, SPLC attorneys and Klanwatch investigators have won a number of major legal battles against Klan members for crimes they committed.
And then as rapidly as it had spread, the Klan faded into the history books.
After World War I, a new version of the Klan sputtered to life and within a few years brought many parts of the nation under its paralyzing grip of racism and bloodshed.
But it is important that we try to understand the villains as well as the heroes in our midst, if we are to continue building a nation where equality and democracy are preserved.
The Ku Klux Klan was an instrument of fear, and black people, Jews and even white civil rights workers knew that the fear was intended to control us, to keep things as they had been in the South through slavery, and after that ended, through Jim Crow. As we prepare for the 21st century, we need to prepare for the continued presence of the Klan.
This fear of the Klan was very real because, for a long time, the Klan had the power of Southern society on its side. It is a tribute to our laws that the Klan gradually was unmasked and its illegal activities checked. Unfortunately, malice and bigotry aren’t limited by dates on a calendar.
They are deeper than the events of the turbulent 1960s, the parades and cross burnings and lynching’s of the 1920s, beyond even the Reconstruction era and the Civil War.
The story begins, really, on the frontier, where successive generations of Americans learned hard lessons about survival.
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Now, of course, I turn on my television set and see people in Klan robes or military uniforms again handing out hate literature on the town square. This report was produced by the Southern Poverty Law center’s Klanwatch Project.