The Scots who founded the Ku Klux Klan to ‘serenade girls’

November 1922:  A midnight meeting of the American white supremicist movement, the Ku Klux Klan.  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
November 1922: A midnight meeting of the American white supremicist movement, the Ku Klux Klan. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
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SCOTS who founded the America’s oldest race hate group originally only intended to sing songs and serenade girls, according to a new documentary on Scotland’s part in the Ku Klux Klan.

The Ku Klux Klan was formed in the 1860s by six former Confederate officers of Scottish and Irish descent, after they returned from the Civil War. The fraternal society the set up in Pulaski, Tennessee, later became the most feared racist hate group in America.

Speaking on “Scotland and the Klan”, to be shown on BBC Two Scotland on Tuesday [OCT 4], Pulaski historian Bob Wamble tells presenter Neil Oliver: “They were all confederate soldiers who had just come home and just didn’t have anything better to do than to form an organisation, just for amusement.

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“They played their musical instruments, sang songs and went out and serenaded the girls. They were out hunting all the pretty girls in Pulaski.

“In its very first stages, that’s all it was.”

Scots archaeologist and historian Oliver said he had often celebrated the disproportionate impact Scots have had on the history of other countries, but in the documentary he investigates a darker legacy and the links between racism today in the American Deep South and the Scots who first occupied it.

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Throughout the 18th century, hundreds of thousands of Scots emigrated to America. Many who resented being cleared from their land after the failed Jacobite rebellions or by aristocratic landowners embraced the opportunity that the arrival of cotton gave to become slave masters and wealthy plantation owners.

When their world was threatened, the southern states opted for Civil War rather than give up their slaves.

Following their defeat, six former officers, bored and fearful of the future now that black men had the vote, formed a fraternal society, and clan became Klan.

In the hour long film, Oliver travels more than 2000 miles across the southern States of America, exploring how the effects of early Scottish immigration may have had an enduring impact on the area’s race relations today.

Scotland and the Klan is on BBC Two Scotland, Tuesday 4 October at 9pm.

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