Ku Klux KlanEdit
While convalescing in 1915 after being hit by an automobile, Simmons decided to rebuild the Klan, which he had seen depicted in the newly released film The Birth of a Nation directed by D.W. Griffith. He obtained a copy of the Reconstruction Klan's "Prescript," and used it to write his own prospectus for a reincarnation of the organization. He delayed his plans until the media-inspired lynching of Leo Frank, the convicted murderer of Mary Phagan, whose death sentence had been commuted after the failure of appeals to life imprisonment by the outgoing governor. Frank's trial became a flash point for anti-Semitic feeling in Georgia. Frank was taken from prison and hanged by a mob who lynched him on August 16, 1915. The lynch mob called themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan.
On October 16, 1915 they climbed Stone Mountain and burned a giant cross that was visible throughout the city. The imagery of the burning cross, which had not been used by the original Klan, had been introduced by Griffith in The Birth of a Nation. The film, in turn, had derived the image from the works of Thomas Dixon, Jr., upon which the film was based. He had been inspired by the historical practices of Scottish clans, who had burned crosses as a method of signalling from one hilltop to the next. The image also occurs in Lady of the Lake, a long poem by Walter Scott.
As the nucleus of his revived Klan, Simmons organized a group of men including many of the Knights of Mary Phagan, in addition to two elderly men who had been members of the original Klan. Fifteen of them went to the Stone Mountain with Simmons on Thanksgiving Night of 1915 to burn a cross and inaugurate the new Klan. Simmons' later account of the founding included a dramatic story of "a temperature far below freezing," although weather records showed that the temperature had never fallen below 45 degrees that night on Stone Mountain. Simmons declared himself the Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
In the first years of the new Klan, a few thousand members enrolled but eventually it became more popular and hundreds of thousands of new members pledged allegiance, particularly in industrial cities of the Midwest. Initially portraying itself as another fraternal organization, the Klan was opposed to the new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, who were mostly Jews and Roman Catholics, as well as Blacks, essentially anybody else who was not a native-born Anglo-Saxon or Celtic Protestant