pulaski is located in south central tennesee about half way between franklin tennessee and huntsville alabama. pulaski is the county seat of giles county tennessee. pulaski is named after kazimierz pulaski a revolutionary war hero. pulaski was involved in a couple of minor skirmishes during the civil and was the execution site of confederate courier sam davis. pulaski's courthouse square is listed on the national register of historic places. pulaski is best known as the birth place of the klu klux klan in 1865. there is really not too much to see and do in pulaski but it is worth a stop for serious students of civil war and southern history.
pulaski tennessee is best known as the birth place of the klu klux Klan. the klan began as a social group founded by a small group of confederate veterans. in the begining the klan was a benigh group that played pranks on local blacks. at night they would dress up like "ghosts" of fallen confederate solders and try to scare superstitious blacks. the first president of the klu klux klan was brian a. scates and a early member was confederate general george w. gordon. in the decade after the civil war republicans instituted "radical reconstruction" in the south which was in a form of social and economic punishment for the civil war. freed slaves were given the right to vote and bear arms. white citizens of the south opposed these changes in that in many areas of the south blacks outnumbered whites. freedmen bureaus were set up all over the south in order to increase republican political power. carpetbaggers (northern profiteers) and scalawags (southern republicans) were generally hated in the post civil war south. the klan used this general frustration and fear to gain power. during the 1870's and 1880's there were numerous race riots and lynchings of blacks in the southern states. after the end of "radical reconstruction" and the passage of "jim crow" laws in the south restricting black voting rights the klan's membership began to decline. politically the south was now controlled by segrationist dixiecrats (southern democrats) and the klan no longer served a purpose in the south. by the turn of the 20 th century the klan had virtually disappeared.
by the turn of the 20 th century the klu klux klan had almost disappeared in the south. the rebirth of the new klan began with the d.w. griffith's silent film "birth of a nation" based on the novel "the leopard's spots" by thomas dixon jr. the film was about the civil war and the decade of radical reconstruction. in the film the klan was portrayed as the heros. "birth of a nation" became hollywood's first "blockbuster" movie. hundreds of thousands of people saw the movie and even president woodrow wilson endorsed the film. in 1915 william j. simmons founded the new klan. the new klan was completely different than the old klan. the new klan also targeted jews, catholics, mexicans, unions, and communists as well as blacks. the new klan also had a huge following in the midwest states as well as the south. by 1924 there were 6,000,000 klan members in the united states. the new klan was now a political force and many elected officials in the south and midwest were klan members. klan membership declined during WW II and in the 1950's and 1960's klan membership was limited to the deep south. because of the civil rights murders of the 1960's the general public in the u.s. denounced the klan. today there are only 6,000 members in the u.s. out of a population of over 300 million. currently most klan organizations consist of ultra right wing hate groups that are anti-immigration and anti-black.
an interesting book about the history of the klu klux klan is wyn craig wade's "the fiery cross" pub: simon and schuster