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South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials: 1871-72

The South Carolina Klan

The Klan was particularly active in South Carolina. For various reasons, it began to decline there in late 1868, but it was revived after the Republicans, supported by the state's black majority, won the October 1870 election. The terrorism was worst in the northern part of South Carolina, especially in Spartansburg, Union, and York counties. For example, in Spartansburg County between the election and July 1871, four people were killed and over 200 were beaten, whipped, wounded by gunfire, or had their ears cut off by Klan members.

Until 1870, the crimes committed by the KKK and its members were violations of state and local, but not federal, law. Then, on March 30, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which granted blacks the right to vote, was ratified after a long and bitter national debate. Equally important, it gave the federal government the power to protect that right with appropriate legislation. On May 31, 1870, the Enforcement Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Ulysses S. Grant. The law dealt mostly with the bribery and intimidation of voters, but it also made it a federal offense for two or more persons to conspire to deprive someone of any right of citizenship or to punish that person for exercising those rights.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials: 1871-72 - The South Carolina Klan, The Ku Klux Klan Act, The Trials Begin, Suggestions For Further Reading