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It grew rapidly nationwide at a time of prosperity.Reflecting the social tensions pitting urban versus rural America, it spread to every state and was prominent in many cities.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.

The third and current manifestation of the KKK emerged after World War II, in the form of localized and isolated groups that use the KKK name.The second Klan was a formal fraternal organization, with a national and state structure.During the resurgence of the second Klan during the 1920s, its publicity was handled by the Southern Publicity Association—within the first six months of the Associations national recruitment campaign, Klan membership had increased by 85,000.It seriously weakened the black political establishment through its use of assassinations and threats of violence; it drove some people out of politics.On the other hand, it caused a sharp backlash, with passage of federal laws that historian Eric Foner says were a success in terms of "restoring order, reinvigorating the morale of Southern Republicans, and enabling blacks to exercise their rights as citizens".

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