Every year, murders, arsons, bombings and assaults are committed by people who have no ties to an organized group, but who share their extreme hatred.I learned the importance of history at an early age — my father, the late Horace Mann Bond, taught at several black colleges and universities.Since 1865, the Ku Klux Klan has provided a vehicle for this kind of hatred in America, and its members have been responsible for atrocities that are difficult for most people to even imagine.

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He showed me that knowing the past is critical to making sense of the present.

The historical essays in this magazine explain the roots of racism and prejudice which sustain the Ku Klux Klan.

After World War I, a new version of the Klan sputtered to life and within a few years brought many parts of the nation under its paralyzing grip of racism and bloodshed.

Then, having grown to be a major force for the second time, the Klan again receded into the background.

Little more than a year after it was founded, the secret society thundered across the war-torn South, sabotaging Reconstruction governments and imposing a reign of terror and violence that lasted three or four years.

And then as rapidly as it had spread, the Klan faded into the history books.

This fear of the Klan was very real because, for a long time, the Klan had the power of Southern society on its side. It is a tribute to our laws that the Klan gradually was unmasked and its illegal activities checked. Unfortunately, malice and bigotry aren’t limited by dates on a calendar.

Now, of course, I turn on my television set and see people in Klan robes or military uniforms again handing out hate literature on the town square. This report was produced by the Southern Poverty Law center’s Klanwatch Project.

How did the Ku Klux Klan — one of the nation’s first terrorist groups — so instantly seize the South in the aftermath of the Civil War? How could it have risen so rapidly to power in the 1920s and then so rapidly have lost that power?