Six Confederate veterans founded the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee in December 1865. Originally, the Klan existed as a fraternal organization for southern white males, but quickly became a major instrument used to overthrow the Republican governments of the South during Reconstruction. The Klan became notorious for maintaining white supremacy through the use of violence and intimidation. During the 1920s, the Klan expanded into a national movement. After World War I, the organization put greater emphasis on violence and was no longer solely anti-black, but also anti- foreigner, anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic.
A Milwaukee chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was organized in 1920. Early Milwaukee Klan meetings were held in a hall over a local theater, and by 1924 the local chapter had 4,400 members and a clubhouse at 2424 Cedar Street (now West Kilbourn Avenue). The cities of Madison, Racine, Kenosha, and Oshkosh also had Ku Klux Klan chapters. Throughout the 1920s, the Wisconsin chapters of the Ku Klux Klan were a major problem for both blacks and whites. Cross burnings were a common occurrence across the state for several years and many state and municipal officials gained office because of Klan backing. During the 1930s, Klan membership in Wisconsin declined drastically.
On August 9, 1966, the two-story brick building that housed the headquarters of the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was bombed. Just after 2:00 a.m. a homemade bomb was set off in a milk chute at the back door. No one was in the office at the time and there were no injuries. The bomb managed to rip a door off and shatter all the windows on the first floor. Several members of Wisconsin and Illinois Ku Klux Klan chapters were later arrested for the bombing and charged with damaging property with explosives. The bombing would prove to be one of the major catalysts in the eventual development of the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council‘s aggressive security unit known as the Commandos. EM