What is the Ku Klux Klan Act?

AuthorRyan, Melissa

Most Americans have probably never heard of the Enforcement Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act. But this law, the basis for every suit covered in this article, is widely cited in civil rights litigation.

Congress passed the Enforcement Act at the request of President Ulysses S. Grant. It was the last of the three Reconstruction-era Enforcement Acts enacted in 1870 and 1871 to give the federal government power to combat violence against Black Americans' voting rights.

The act, according to the Office of the Historian and the Clerk of the House of Representatives' Office of Art and Archives, was "designed to eliminate extralegal violence and protect the civil and political rights of four million freed slaves." At the time, the Ku Klux Klan was operating as a paramilitary organization, openly terrorizing Black people, members of Congress, and other government officials in an attempt to keep Reconstruction-era reforms from taking hold in the South.

The bill authorized the President to intervene in former Confederate states that "attempted to deny 'any person or any class of...

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