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John Hope Franklin, Historian, on
Opposition to freedmen's education

John Hope Franklin Can you talk about who the Klan is in this period, and the danger or the threat that black schools [probably] show to these people?

Franklin : There was no lacking of opposition to the establishment and maintenance of schools for the freedmen. People who had subscribed to the view that blacks were inferior, they were childlike, they were irresponsible, could not believe that energy and resources should be expended on the training of people who could not absorb the training anyway. And as the organizations of the Christian Commission, the Freedmen’s Bureau, the American Missionary Association persisted in their efforts to train blacks, and as blacks themselves joined in the training of them, the theory of black inferiority began to break down, and it needed to be supported. And so you get the organization of groups that will undertake to do that. Now, what they are doing is not only seeking to prevent education; they are seeking to prevent any kind of improvement or rise of freedmen to a position of equality and so forth. After all, there’s talk about their becoming voters and full citizens, especially in 1866 and 1867. And you’ve got to put a stop to this. And so whites began to organize to prevent the existence of this. And in Pulaski, Tennessee, for example, they organized some of the first strong oppositions to this. And the Ku Klux Klan will come into existence. But they will not only be the Klan as such. The Klan becomes a kind of symbol of opposition which will find its expression in White Brotherhood, the Order of the Camellias, and various other groups that will be flying under the banner, the general banner of the Klan, but which will have their own programs of opposition. And this opposition will take the form not merely of terrorizing, that is, trying to frighten blacks into retaining a place of subordination, but it will take the form of intimidation of every conceivable kind, including, of course, whippings and then finally lynchings. So that the Klan will undertake to destroy the whole program of education and of rehabilitation generally on the part of blacks.

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