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According to The Cyclopædia of Fraternities (1907), "Beginning in April, 1867, there was a gradual transformation ...The members had conjured up a veritable Frankenstein. As a secret vigilante group, the Klan targeted freedmen and their allies; it sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against black and white Republicans.
Reflecting the social tensions pitting urban versus rural America, it spread to every state and was prominent in many cities.
as a fraternal social club inspired at least in part by the then largely defunct Sons of Malta.
It borrowed parts of the initiation ceremony from that group, with the same purpose: "ludicrous initiations, the baffling of public curiosity, and the amusement for members were the only objects of the Klan", according to Albert Stevens in 1907.
They have focused on opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, often using violence and murder to suppress activists.
It is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.