The story of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction is well known. Most southern states felt repercussions from Klan influence and violence. Lisa Cardyn explores Klan violence on a level that is often overlooked: the sexual nature of Klan violence. Cardyn states that, “…klansmen frequently chose victims’ breasts and genitals as special targets of their enmity.” (Cardyn 2002, 708) Klansmen often chose these areas to add to the humiliation of the victim. Attacking these areas also asserted “white dominance” over the race they were attempting to control. Women that were subjected to whippings were also made to undress before the whipping, which adds to the sexual overtones.
Francis B. Simkins wrote an article in The Journal of Negro History about Klan activity in South Carolina. He states that the most violent Klan attacks took place in Spartenburg, South Carolina. Klansmen in this area used whipping and abuse to threaten freedmen and supporters of the Republican Party. One account states that a white man (who was a supporter of the Republican Party) and a black man were taken out of their home at night, made to beat and whip each other, and also made to do lewd acts to each other. This supports Cardyn’s argument that Klan violence was driven by sexual overtones to assert white dominance. (Simkins 1927, 622) The violence of the Klan is extreme and brutal, and it will be an ongoing task for historians to explore the underlying causes of the violence.
Cardyn, Lisa. “Sexualized Racism/Gendered Violence: Outraging the Body Politic in the Reconstruction South.” Michigan Law Review 100, no. 4 (2002): 708.
Simkins, Francis B. “The Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina, 1868-1871.”The Journal of Negro History 12, no. 4 (1927): 622.
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