PULASKI, TN - JULY 11: A member of the Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Clan participates in the 11th Annual Nathan Bedford Forrest Birthday march July 11, 2009 in Pulaski, Tennessee. With a poor economy and the first African-American president in office, there has been a rise in extremist activity in many parts of America. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2008 the number of hate groups rose to 926, up 4 percent from 2007, and 54 percent since 2000. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War and played a role in the postwar establishment of the first Ku Klux Klan organization opposing the reconstruction era in the South. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt – Getty Images
By Francesca Trianni
April 17, 2014

It’s been decades since the Ku Klux Klan held mainstream status, but a recent deadly rampage at a Jewish community center and living community near Kansas City served as a reminder that the nation’s best-known white-supremacy organization has not completely disappeared.

Today’s Klan lacks national leadership, but it counts between 5,000 and 8,000 members. That’s a fraction of its peak membership, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups. Splintered groups that identify with the Klan’s rhetoric are organizing outreach initiatives by launching radio stations, distributing fliers and leaving behind the iconic white hoods for business suits.

On the heels of a white-supremacist with long-standing KKK ties being charged with a hate crime, TIME’s Josh Sanburn explains the legacy and the national presence of the Ku Klux Klan today.


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