Memphis, the Ku Klux Klan, and Base Ball

With the growth of Ku Klux Klan terrorist cells in 1868, Tennessee’s Republican government began to crack down on the secret group. And on April 6, 1868, the Memphis police department conducted a sensational, breakthrough raid upon a supposed meeting of the Klan. In a house near Beale St., they discovered about twenty young men in the company of several highly incriminating items, including a Klan constitution, a number of black masks with eyeholes, and a human skull. Those present variously claimed to be members of the Pride of the South Base Ball Club, a glee club, and a phrenology club. The Memphis Public Ledger pushed the base ball alibi heavily, but for the record, the POTSBBC themselves vehemently denied any involvement.

The accounts of this raid and its aftermath (see also this one from Brownlow’s Knoxville Whig) are fascinating to read, not just for the baseball connection, but for the bizarre incompetence of this morbidly comical Klan cell. On the one hand, its members do seem to have been serious about the business of political assassinations. But on the other, the members sold each other out at the first opportunity, and violated their own most sacred oaths before the ink on their constitution was even dry!


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