A Ku Klux Klan rally at the S.C. State House in July 2015 was a reminder for many of the continuing effects of the state’s long history of racism and pushback against equal rights for blacks and whites.
The influence of the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina noticeably waned in the 1990s after the state’s largest group, the Christian Knights, was connected to a 1995 church burning and lost $21.5 million in a civil suit brought by the church.
Similar lawsuits crippled other Klan groups across the South.
Nationwide Klan membership peaked in 1925 at about 4 million members and was estimated at 40,000 in 1965, when Klan activity picked up during the Civil Rights movement.
The Klan wasn’t the only organized racism movement to protest equal rights efforts.
Segregationist white Citizens Councils were formed to fight integration throughout the South after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. More than 50,000 South Carolinians belonged to citizens councils in the 1950s.
In Orangeburg, for instance, a white Citizens Council formed in reaction to a petition to integrate schools there. Petitioners were fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes and sued. The council organized a boycott of businesses whose owners petitioned for school integration, hoping to put enough pressure on them to force them to relent their efforts.
About this series: The inaugural edition of The State newspaper was published Feb. 18, 1891. In anticipation of the 125th anniversary, the Palmetto section and this section at thestate.com are recounting each day how The State covered newsmakers and events vital to South Carolina’s history.