The Ku Klux Klan was dead

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tags: KKK, Ku Klux Klan

In 1915, more than 40 years after President Ulysses S. Grant annihilated the Ku Klux Klan, a group of white men in white bedsheets paraded down Peachtree Street in Atlanta to attend a movie premiere, firing rifles into the air.

Their leader: William J. Simmons, a theatrical local preacher who a month earlier, after Thanksgiving supper, had bussed 15 racist men up Stone Mountain, made several declarations about purity and honor, then set flames to a cross, reigniting the KKK.

“The rites incident to the founding of the order were most interesting and the occasion will be remembered long by the participants,” the Atlanta Constitution reported in a story headlined, “KLAN IS ESTABLISHED WITH IMPRESSIVENESS.”

Simmons led his men down Peachtree to celebrate the opening of D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” Hollywood’s first big-budget, blockbuster movie that many still consider a masterpiece despite its subject matter. It depicted life after the Civil War in a way that glorified Klansmen who supposedly saved the South, using violence to protect whites from, among other things, packs of black rapists.

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